Jumbled up' standings have the Cubs front office taking a wait-and-see approach

Cubs GM Carter Hawkins is hoping to be in the position to buy at the trade deadline, but the next few weeks will be pivotal in shaping the team's direction.
Chicago Cubs Introduce Dansby Swanson
Chicago Cubs Introduce Dansby Swanson / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Had the Cubs come back from London at .500 - with a sweep of the struggling Cardinals the latest feather in their cap - the team would've been flying high heading into this week's series against Philadelphia.

Instead, Sunday's loss to St. Louis - followed by back-to-back losses to the Phillies at home - have Chicago 4 1/2 games out in the NL Central and 6 1/2 out of a wild card spot. This is a critical stretch in the schedule for a team that's been up and down all season long, with Thursday's finale against Philly followed by series against Cleveland, Milwaukee and the Yankees before heading into the break.

This next week-plus could determine which path the front office decides to pursue at the trade deadline. Will they add, knowing a weak NL Central is very winnable? Or will it be a third-straight sell-off in the middle of the season? It's still too soon to tell, according to president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer.

"I expect this to be a late deadline for everybody because everything’s jumbled up. So I expect that we’re going to be towards the end for a lot of teams.
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Jed Hoyer on Cubs' plans

Marcus Stroman will throw on Thursday - which will determine whether or not he'll make his scheduled start this weekend after leaving Sunday's outing against St. Louis with a blister. Losing their Cy Young candidate, for any stretch, would be a tough blow for a team desperately trying to claw its way back over .500.

Rookie Jared Young, who got a cup of coffee with the big league team last summer, returned after a strong start to the year at Iowa - and hit his first MLB home run in Wednesday's loss. Hopefully he can at least provide some stability at first base, where Matt Mervis struggled before getting sent back down to Triple-A, Eric Hosmer failed to last even two months and Trey Mancini has battled defensive issues.

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A left-handed bat, bullpen help - and perhaps more first base depth - is on the team's shopping list should they wind up buying. For now, though, the players control their own destiry: winning and closing the first half on a high note would make the Cubs' direction clear: buy at the deadline.