Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer spent the first half of July focusing on two things: getting a good haul for starting pitcher Matt Garza, and unloading the remainder of Alfonso Soriano‘s monstrous contract.
Check, and check.
So what’s next for these two deadline gurus? Apparently, making a deal that involves right fielder Nate Schierholtz, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Schierholtz, who is in his first year as a Cub, has performed above expectations for manager Dale Sveum. The 29 year-old has been on a tear through the season’s first half, hitting .281 with 14 home runs and 43 runs batted in – both of which set new single-season highs for the outfielder.
His dominance was on full display on Wednesday night, when he collected 5 RBIs in a 12-inning, 7-6 Cubs win at Arizona. His .536 slugging percentage and .340 on-base percentage are his highest full-season marks in his career.
So where will he end up?
Chicago’s National League Central rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates are said to be the party with the most interest in Schierholtz. According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Pirates have been scouting him for “more than a month,” in hopes of landing another potent bat for the final push to the postseason. However, Pittsburgh has also been linked to Chicago White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, as well.
The right field position has been a metaphorical black hole for the Pirates, at least offensively. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the team has relied heavily upon the trio of “Travis Snider, Jose Tabata, and Garrett Jones there and have gotten an aggregate .228/.291/.360 line.”
Epstein made this comment to Levine, concerning the upcoming Trade Deadline: “I think it is fair to say we have some players who can help other clubs. That would especially be true for players who are not under contract control next season.”
Rumors aplenty have tied Rios to the Texas Rangers, as well, who are desperately seeking to add an impact bat due to the continued injury problems of Lance Berkman, who is said to be contemplating retirement due to these issues.
Chicago is also said to be actively shopping their relief corps, namely closer Kevin Gregg, who has had a rejuvenating 2013 campaign, converting 19 save opportunities, which ranks tied for eleventh in the majors this season. The 35-year old has posted an ERA of 2.89 across 37 appearances, which has turned heads across the league.
Pittsburgh lost their dominant closer Jason Grilli to a forearm injury earlier this week, and need to fill the void of Mark Melancon, who has stepped into the closer role on an interim basis. It is expected Grilli will be out 3-4 weeks with the injury, meaning the team is heavily invested in the market for relievers at this time. The Pirates are said to be interested in the services of Gregg, especially due to the fact that the team has not only its first above-.500 season in over two decades set in its sights, but also a potential playoff berth, as well.