With trade deadline coming fast, Theo can be a dealmaker


With trade deadline coming fast, Theo can be a dealmaker

Less than two weeks remain until the July 31 trade deadline, and this is where Theo Epstein will earn his money. The Cubs president could shape pennant races in both leagues, and infuse the system with the impact talent his front office is always talking about.

The first question is whether Ryan Dempster will make it to his next scheduled start Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. From there, seismic changes could hit this team.

Epstein said he has no idea just how many players could be in play.

We have to assess every situation, Epstein said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. If there are moves we can make that put us in a better situation going forward, well make em. But were not going to make moves just for the sake of making moves. They have to leave us in a better position for the future.

An industry source projected the Cubs could get two solid (maybe not spectacular) prospects for Dempster, who has a 1.86 ERA and has thrown 33 consecutive scoreless innings (with a trip to the disabled list for a sore lat muscle in between).

An opportunity with the Los Angeles Dodgers is said to appeal to Dempster, whos positioned to become a free agent at seasons end. He has no-trade rights which shouldnt prevent a deal and any contender already knows the hard competitive edge and leadership skills hed bring into a clubhouse.

The extra wild cards have widened the playoff field, leaving the Cubs as one of the few teams that have already sharped their focus for July 31.

Would-be contenders like the Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers are stuck in the middle, still trying to figure out their strategy. The New York Yankees are the only team that really appears to be pulling away in their division, and they play in the brutal American League East.

Its always good to have the market dynamic on your side, more buyers than sellers, Epstein said. Its always nice to have leverage on your side. Well see. The trade markets still developing. As you get closer to the deadline, teams real desires and intensity of those wishes become clear.

Thats the picture one major-league official painted for how and when the Cubs might deal Matt Garza. An overly aggressive owner, a desperate general manager or a game-changing injury could force someone to meet the asking price. Theres no rush or obligation to trade Garza, who remains under club control through 2013.

Even with Dempster and Garza, the Cubs are facing a pitching deficit. It compelled them to take seven consecutive pitchers in the June draft after using the No. 6 overall pick on high school outfielder Albert Almora. Thirteen of their top 20 selections were pitchers.

In certain deals, I think it is (what were looking for), Epstein said. You can express a preference for pitching. But if youre dealing with a club that has better position-player prospects or you feel position players in a certain system are a safer bet or offer higher upside I dont think its smart to pigeonhole yourself to one situation.

As a whole not specifically regarding these potential deals that are upcoming we need to add a lot of pitching to the system. Its not enough to have like a handful or one or two. You need to have waves and waves of pitching coming through your system, and we dont have that. We hardly even have one wave coming. So we need to build a lot of pitching depth.

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

Theo Epstein brushes aside rumors: 'There's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs'

No, the Cubs are not currently talking to the Baltimore Orioles about bringing Manny Machado to the North Side of Chicago.

So says Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations who met with the media at Wrigley Field ahead of Friday's series opener with the San Francisco Giants.

Epstein vehemently shot down the notion of trade talks and specified the major diffence between trade rumors and trade talks, while refusing to comment on Machado in particular.

"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," Epstein said. "I would never talk about that in a million years. The simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks involving the Cubs.

"There's a real disparity between the noise and the reality and unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. And that's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now.

"We have more than enough ability to win the division, win the World Series and we really need to focus on our roster and getting the most out of our ability and finding some consistency. Constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now."

The Cubs have presented a united front publicly in support of Addison Russell, whose name has been the one bandied about most as a potential leading piece in any move for Machado.

After all, the Cubs have won a World Series and never finished worse than an NLCS berth with Russell as their shortstop and he's only 24 with positive signs of progression offensively.

Trading away 3.5 years of control of Russell for 3-4 months of Machado is the type of bold, go-for-it move the Cubs did in 2016 when their championship drought was well over 100 years.

Now, the championship drought is only one season old and the window of contention is expected to remain open until through at least the 2021 season.

Epstein likes to point out that every season is sacred, but at what cost? The Cubs front office is still very much focused on the future beyond 2018.

"Everybody's talking about making trades in May — the first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are," Epstein said. "What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club gonna be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook? What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?

"All those things. It's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kinds of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out exactly who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their level and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."

So there's no chance we could see the Cubs once again jump the market and make an early deal like they did last year for Jose Quintana or five years ago for Jake Arrieta? Will they definitely wait another five weeks until July to make a move?

"It's just the natural order of things," Epstein said. "We wouldn't be opposed to doing something, but that's not the case right now. It's not happening."

New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

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New Trier's Duke Olges gives Northwestern verbal commitment

New Trier junior three-star ranked athlete Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) gave Northwestern his verbal commitment last Sunday yet waited until Friday morning to make his decision public via his Twitter page.

Olges, who was recruited by the Wildcats as a defensive tackle, felt pressure to make a decision since the Wildcats already had one defensive tackle verbal commitment in Clear Springs Texas Jason Gold while another defensive tackle with an offer was making an on campus visit later that day.

“I didn’t know if it was the right decision, to be honest. It was impulse more than anything,” Olges told's publisher Louis Vaccher. “But what comforted me is after having a couple days to think about it, I felt a sigh of relief. It would have hurt me too much to let that scholarship go. As much as I wanted to go and visit other schools, losing that scholarship would have hurt more than anything else.”

Olges is now the 10th known verbal commitment in the Wildcats Class of 2019  and the second in state pledge along with Bolingbrook junior DB Cameron Mitchell. 

Olges, who was holding 26 scholarship offers this spring, was planning to make summer visits to Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia and Duke before giving the Wildcats his verbal commitment.