After having a brief glimpse of hope that resulted from taking three out of four games from the Milwaukee Brewers last week, the Cubs have quickly snapped back to reality. After losing back-to-back series that featured poor fundamentals, questionable managing, and bad baseball in general there should be no question as to whether or not the Cubs are going to be sellers in regards to the trade deadline. Despite comments from general manager Jim Hendry that the Cubs could be buyers if they get within five games of the division, it is more likely that the Cubs will remain where they are in the standings and be viewed upon as sellers.
Entering play today the Cubs are 30-44, good enough for 5th place in the National League Central division–10 games behind the division leading Brewers. As for the Wild Card race, the Cubs can forget about that as they are currently 12 games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs have yet to win three straight games, so, it is safe to say that the Cubs will not go on run like the Chicago White Sox did last season and bounce back into contention.
At some point within the next two or three weeks–if they have not already–the Cubs upper management will gather together and determine a plan of action for the trading deadline. During these meetings, general manager Jim Hendry and chairman Tom Ricketts will discuss how much money Ricketts is willing to absorb in potential trades as well as what the plan is for some of the top prospects in the Cubs system. One result of these meetings could be the promotion of Brett Jackson to the major league level.
Who the Cubs intend to trade will be determined by how much money Ricketts is willing to absorb. The players the Cubs would like to trade–Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, and Kosuke Fukudome–hold contracts that make them hard to trade for one reason or another. We already gone into extensive discussions regarding Zambrano and even though he is willing to waive his no trade clause, Hendry will struggle to find a taker for the declining starting pitcher that is still owed a little over $30 Million for the next two seasons. Ramirez does not appear to be willing to waive his no trade clause, which seemingly ends all trade speculation. Fukudome still has a little over $7 million on his contract, too much for who many teams consider to be a platoon outfielder.
Believe it or not, the Cubs could trade Soriano. The catch would be that they would have to take back Barry Zito. The question would be whether or not both teams are willing to exchange their bad money for the other team’s bad money. The San Francisco Giants may not object to such a deal, as they have been desperately searching for a way to get from underneath the horrendous Zito contract. Granted, the Cubs are in the same position with Soriano. If Hendry is willing to take back Carlos Silva in a trade, Zito can not be much worse. But in all reality, this trade is not going to happen. Though if the Cubs plan on moving some of their bad contracts this season, these are the type of trades they will have to look for. Teams are unwilling to take on money in today’s baseball economy, meaning they would prefer to deal a bad contract for another bad contract.
However, I do not expect Ramirez, Zambrano, Soriano, or Fukudome to be traded at any point before the trade deadline. Though, Ramirez may be a waiver-trade candidate in the month of August. But lets focus on one deadline at a time. The candidates to be traded before the July 31 trade deadline are Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt, Kerry Wood, Carlos Pena, and potentially Geovany Soto.
Though, the biggest move I expect the Cubs to make before the deadline is a trade that sends Byrd to another team. Again, this is not a move that results from anything Byrd has done on the field, but instead, a move that sets the Cubs up for the future. By trading Byrd, the Cubs would be opening a spot in centerfield for Brett Jackson to play everyday at the major league level.
As we head into the later portions of June, and early July expect the Cubs to intensify trade discussions as they look to build towards the future.