Nearly a month into the season and the Cubs have proven that they are no better than a .500 team. The Cubs have gone 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, and with a win today it will be 10-10 to start the season. Some would suggest that their record reeks of inconsistency, but instead I see it as being pretty consistent. But regardless of how you look at the Cubs unusual start, the bottomline is that the Cubs will not be among the top-tier of National League teams this season as expected. Instead they will be around the middle of the pack with an outside chance to make the postseason.
Teams like the Cubs are always in the spotlight once we get towards the trading deadline, as most would expect said team to make a move that gets them over the top. Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts is already on record of saying that the Cubs would be able to a add piece during the season if it meant getting closer to the postseason. No matter what the Cubs record is leading up to the trading deadline there is only when realistic option that they should do. That option would be to be sellers and not buyers.
Looking up and down the Cubs’ roster you will find a few high-priced veterans to go along with some young players. However, one thing you will not find is an opening at any position. Geovany Soto is cemented into the starting catcher’s role. Both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena have the potential power supply that the Cubs will not seek an upgrade during the season. Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney aren’t going anywhere as the Cubs like the two as their double-play tandem.
The outfield is where things get a little tricky. In left field there is Alfonso Soriano, who is probably more known for his bloated contract instead of his on the field production. Center field could be a potential opening as the Cubs may be willing to trade Marlon Byrd. But the reason they would be willing to trade Byrd is because top prospect Brett Jackson is bound to be in the majors at some point this season, meaning the opening will be filled by Jackson. Depending on what the Cubs do with Byrd after Jackson takes over the center field position, right field could be an area where the Cubs may look to improve. Neither Kosuke Fukudome nor Tyler Colvin have proven that they can be fixtures in a starting lineup. Which would leave the possibility open to improve that position down the road via trade.
Much like the position players, the Cubs pitching staff does not have any openings. With Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza at the top of the rotation the Cubs are not in need of a top end starting pitcher. The bottom half of the rotation–which features Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner when healthy–does not need any tweaking. With the setup men set in Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall, and Carlos Marmol as their closer, the Cubs bullpen is in a good position as well.
Despite the fact that the Cubs roster does not feature any holes in it, the Cubs are still a .500 team at best. That would give the Cubs only one option when it comes to trades during the season, and that is to be sellers.
Marlon Byrd could very well be the first piece to move. Byrd’s longevity with the Cubs depends on when Brett Jackson is ready for the majors. The sooner Jackson is ready, the sooner Byrd could end up on a new team. It is not likely that Byrd will yield a great return for the Cubs, but it works out, considering it creates an opening for Jackson.
The interesting case is Alfonso Soriano. Despite the fact that Soriano still has nearly 4 years and $72 million left on his contract, he could be an appealing asset to an American League team. At this point in the season, Soriano is on pace to hit 51 home runs and drive in 119. That type of pace could be enough to entice a team to try and work out a trade with the Cubs involving Soriano. Granted the Cubs will still have to absorb a majority of the contract. Again, I would not expect Soriano to yield too much of a return as the Cubs would just be excited to save at least a little portion of money by moving Soriano.
There has been speculation that Aramis Ramirez could be on the trading block this summer, but I do not anticipate that will happen. While Josh Vitters is off to an impressive start, the Cubs do not expect that he will be ready to be called up this season. Plus the Cubs are a business and have to appeal to their fans, an offense that is missing Aramis Ramirez may be enough to empty all the seats at Wrigley Field. while I do not expect the Cubs to trade Ramirez, I do not expect Ramirez to be back next season.
It is a given that the Cubs will try and trade Kosuke Fukudome at some point this season.
On the Cubs pitching staff there really is only three pitchers that could be considered possible trade options–Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Garza. With all that the Cubs gave up to get Garza, it is safe to say that he will be with the Cubs for at least the next three seasons. I find it nearly impossible that the Cubs will trade Ryan Dempster, considering how beloved he is by the Chicago community and all that he does from an organizational standpoint with the Cubs. Meaning the only option the Cubs have to trade from their pitching staff is Carlos Zambrano. But even that does not look likely as Zambrano has been emphatic up to this point that he will not waive his no trade clause.
The smart thing for the Cubs to do this season is to be sellers. The Cubs would be better suited for the future by doing so, instead of wasting talent in an effort to get better for a postseason run that would likely end up in an early exit for the Cubs.