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MLB Trade Deadline Approaches; What Will The Cubs Do?

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Derrek Lee: will he stay or will he go?
Derrek Lee: will he stay or will he go?

There is, of course, a difference between what they will do, what they should do, and what they can do at the MLB trading deadline, which this year will fall on a weekend, Saturday, July 31, only 16 days from now.

There have been posts here suggesting trading virtually every veteran player on this team; obviously, that's not realistic. Most teams who are sellers at the deadline are able to make one significant deal (and maybe a minor one as well); the same is usually true for teams who are buyers.

So while you (and Jim Hendry, if he's looking to cut payroll) would love to deal Derrek Lee, Xavier Nady, Ryan Theriot, Ted Lilly, Kosuke Fukudome and possibly Carlos Zambrano -- virtually all the team's large-money deals -- that's not realistic. Most likely, only one or two of those players won't be Cubs after July 31. This year, that window might even be stretched to August 31. It seems clear to me that when the Cubs, like all teams, put virtually their entire rosters on waivers after the non-waiver deadline passes, that essentially everyone who is waived will clear waivers and be available for trade through the month of August. Who's going to claim Fukudome's contract without giving something in return? Or Z's?

After the jump, a few thoughts on the players mentioned above, as well as a review of a new publication about the trade deadline.

Derrek Lee. Perhaps the most popular of current Cubs, he has been with the club longer than anyone except Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez. It seems clear that the Cubs are going to move on and find a new first baseman for 2011 and beyond; but who's going to trade for a soon-to-be 35-year-old first baseman having a bad year? D-Lee is hitting .233/.329/.366 and has 82 strikeouts (he's averaged about 110 per full season since he's been a Cub). The only team I could see possibly interested might be the Angels -- something Ken Rosenthal wrote about yesterday -- but I don't see this; the Angels seem to be getting along OK without Kendry Morales, and Rosenthal's reasoning: "First, he would probably be comfortable in Anaheim; he lives in California during the off-season" is specious -- Lee lives in Sacramento, not southern California. I think D-Lee finishes the year as a Cub.

Ted Lilly. Perhaps the most dealable of any of the current Cubs, given his free-agent status, his good first half (despite the pounding he took in his last start) and his lefthanded throwing arm. There are plenty of contending teams looking for starting pitching like this, including the Mets, Dodgers, White Sox and Twins, among others. I have gone on record as saying I'd like the Cubs to re-sign Ted and I'm sticking with that. They might be able to get some decent prospects, but I'd rather see them offer arbitration and take the draft pick if he declines; a two-year deal with a mutual option wouldn't be a bad idea. I'll rate it about 50/50 that Ted finishes the year as a Cub.

Kosuke Fukudome. Fukudome's $14 million payment for 2011 (and the approximately $6 million left for this year) likely makes him undealable. The Cubs have reportedly already had talks with the Red Sox about Dome, but could not reach a deal. The only way Fukudome gets dealt right now is if some team suffers an outfielder injury in the next couple of weeks and gets desperate. A more likely way for the Cubs to get out of the 2011 deal is to quietly find a way to get him back to Japan and make the same kind of money. The Mariners' Kenji Johjima did this a couple of years ago -- don't know if he did it on his own or had help from the Mariners -- and walked away from 16 million Seattle dollars to take a $21 million contract in Japan. If that doesn't happen, Fukudome's likely a Cub again next year.

Xavier Nady. Nady has reportedly attracted attention from the Texas Rangers. If such a deal can be made, do it now, Jim Hendry. Nady's value to the Cubs is little and he surely won't be back in 2011. A minor prospect would get this deal done for me. Nady could be the right-handed half of a first-base platoon in Texas; they don't need him to DH, where Vladimir Guerrero has done a very good job.

Ryan Theriot. The Cubs were reportedly upset that not only did Theriot file for an amount much higher than they were willing to give in arbitration, but that he wouldn't settle before a hearing, the first for a Cub since Mark Grace in 1993. Theriot should have settled, because he got the lower amount. He's popular among a certain segment of Cubs fans due to what we all term "scrappiness" and I don't have to tell you his flaws. Unfortunately, other teams know those flaws, too. If there's any way to deal him and the rest of his contract, the Cubs should do so. Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker could platoon at 2B the rest of the year and the Cubs have several choices at Iowa (Darwin Barney likely the best) for backup. While I think the Cubs should deal Theriot, the chances of this happening are probably pretty small. More likely, he'll simply be non-tendered after the season is over.

Carlos Zambrano. The proverbial elephant in the room, we don't even know if Z has finished his anger management course (it appears the answer is "not yet"). When he does, he'll have to get back into playing shape, which means he likely won't be playing when the deadline rolls around 16 days from now. It's very possible Z has made his last pitch for the Cubs, although it will take quite a bit of work from Hendry to make the (approximately) $45 million remaining on his contract disappear. I've suggested sending him to the Mets (whose GM, Omar Minaya, would probably love to have Z) for Oliver Perez, a swap of bad contracts. Even then, there's about $25 million worth of difference between the two deals. Or maybe Ozzie Guillen can talk Kenny Williams into taking the contract -- the Sox, with Jake Peavy out for the year, are looking for a starter. I don't think Z can return to the Cubs after what happened, no matter how many players have said they'd accept his apology. But it will take some serious work to get him traded, too.

Maybe Hendry will surprise us by trading someone else -- the Red Sox inquired about Mike Fontenot, for example -- but these six seem the likeliest to be dealt.

For more analysis of these and other teams' wants and needs, you can check out the View From The Bleachers 2010 Trade Deadline Primer. Joe Aiello from VFTB sent me a copy for review -- at first I expected something just about the Cubs (and it has that, with detailed analysis and grades for all Cubs players), but this 160-page book is a complete review of every team as we approach the deadline. It's well-researched and organized and has contributions from bloggers from every major league team (including SB Nation's Kyle Lobner from Brew Crew Ball and David Coleman from Crawfish Boxes). There's some trade deadline history as well. It costs $9.95 and is available for download from the link above.

The trading began earlier this month with the shipment of Cliff Lee to the Rangers and continued yesterday with the Braves/Blue Jays shortstop swap. This is shaping up to be a busy year, with many clubs like the Cubs wanting to shed contracts.