For the first time in a few years, the Cubs are in a position to be sellers at the non-waiver trading deadline. Even an eternal optimist like me admits that barring an absolute miracle, this season is best left in the dust.
There have been people here who accuse me of wanting to quash any trade talk. Nothing could be further from the truth. This site is a place to discuss anything and everything relating to our favorite team.
What I've tried to do, with limited success, is to point out that the trading process isn't as simple as saying, "Well, this guy's going to be a free agent, he either won't be back or we shouldn't have him back, so let's cherrypick a team and a handful of prospects and be done with him!"
It's not that simple. As we found out yesterday when we learned that Derrek Lee had invoked his 10-and-5 rights to reject a couple of possible trades, making deals involves real people with real lives beyond baseball. Of course, we'd like to see the Cubs improve in future years, and I believe they will, whether it's by dealing right now or in the offseason. Incidentally, if you want to continue the Lee discussion, use this FanPost from yesterday; I don't want this post to become another rehash of the Lee story. The topic here is different.
Please also keep in mind that much of the Twitter and other talk you hear around this time is just that -- talk. Some of it may be sent out by teams' baseball people as disinformation. We know that Jim Hendry doesn't like negotiating in the media, and Kenny Williams suggested the same the other day. That's why I tend to look at most of this kind of thing with a real skeptical eye.
I'll admit that I am not well-versed enough in other teams' farm systems to suggest possible returns for Cubs players in trade. Most of the tradeable players aren't going to bring major league talent in return; such is the state of the Cubs right now. (I assume, though I have not heard specifics, that low-to-mid-level minor leaguers were to be the return in the proposed deal for Derrek Lee.)
So, follow me past the jump to see who I think could be tradeable by Saturday's deadline, and some of the teams that have expressed interest. Remember that apart from Ted Lilly, who almost certainly would not clear waivers, virtually the entire team would clear waivers after August 1 and could be traded during the month of August.
Ted Lilly, LHP: has been linked to several teams, including the Dodgers, Mets, Tigers, Phillies, Twins and Rays, although the Twins and Phillies are on Ted's no-trade list. Further, it appears he won't be going to the Phillies now that the Phillies and Astros are very close to a deal that would send Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia. I have made it well-known here that my own preference would be to keep Ted and offer him arbitration next winter. The Mets appear to be the team on that list with the biggest need for a starting pitcher and Ted might do well in Citi Field, a pitcher-friendly park. But the Mets are also fading out of contention.
Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS: Most of us would probably volunteer to drive Theriot to the airport to fly wherever he's traded, if he's traded. His baserunning mistakes, poor performance at the plate and mediocre fielding have made him a favorite whipping boy at this site. Further, his contract doesn't make him a very desirable player to keep around next season, when he will be 31, and the club wasn't happy when he took them to an actual arbitration hearing. The problem is that other teams know all of this, too. The Rockies have expressed interest and really, if he could just switch clubhouses this weekend, that'd be fine with me. The Cubs wouldn't need much more than a PTBNL and Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker could platoon at 2B the rest of the year (and probably give the Cubs better offensive production). MLBTR says the Padres have been "linked" to Theriot, but I have not seen this anywhere but there.
Mike Fontenot, infielder: had interest from the Yankees and Red Sox, but nothing happened. It's possible, given his (relatively) inexpensive contract, he could be sent to one of those teams before Saturday. A low-level minor leaguer would be the likely return.
Kosuke Fukudome, outfielder: The problem here is the nearly $19 million left on his contract. Some reports indicate the Cubs are willing to eat a significant portion of this money to move him; he really has little place on the remaining part of the 2010 season for the Cubs. He has started only eight games in July and has been reduced to an expensive pinch-hitter (something he's not very well suited for) and defensive replacement. That may be another issue for teams looking at him. I have suggested here that perhaps the Cubs could inquire of Japanese teams (including his old team the Chunichi Dragons) whether they might want him back next year; a deal that would pay him as much or more than he's got left on his USA contract might entice him to return to Japan for some sort of buyout from the Cubs. The Cubs did discuss sending him to the Red Sox earlier this year, but nothing came of that, and the Nationals also expressed interest.
Xavier Nady, 1B/OF: The Rangers were linked to Nady; they could use a platoon partner for Chris Davis, who really can't hit lefthanders at all (.217/.266/.400 career in 235 AB vs LHP). Nady has no role on this team and won't be back next year. I hope the Rangers make an offer to the Cubs for Nady.
Carlos Silva, RHP: No specific rumors have been attached to Silva, but you know the Cubs would like to move him if they could, given the dollars they owe him for next season. Silva pitched better in his last start after getting hit hard twice in a row. If he can do this again for a couple more outings, he might be dealable in August; he will almost certainly clear waivers.
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP: MLBTR reported interest in Gorzo, linking back to this Chris DeLuca article in the Sun-Times after Gorzelanny threw well against the Cardinals last weekend. The Cubs would be foolish to trade Gorzelanny, since he is cost-controlled for at least another year (he'll be due a raise in arbitration, but still would cost less than a free-agent acquisition) and can be a key contributor to the 2011 rotation.
Carlos Zambrano, RHP: the proverbial "elephant in the room", the Cubs have made it clear that they will trade Z if they can. They'd have to eat a significant part of the contract to do so, unless, somehow, they can make a swap for another expensive contract. My suggestion of shipping him to the White Sox for Jake Peavy was applauded by many Cubs fans, but that's likely unrealistic. Perhaps they could send him to the Mets for Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo (and ship Theriot there). Castillo's a free agent at the end of this season; Perez is a maddening player who has obvious talent that he's never quite harnessed. Maybe the change of scenery would help Perez, who turns 29 next month.
That's eight players -- nearly one-third of the 25-man roster (after Zambrano is activated tomorrow, with Brian Schlitter likely returned to Iowa). Obviously, not all these players will have forwarding addresses after Saturday. It's entirely possible that none of them will be traded; though you might think the trade market is "heating up" after the Dodgers' acquisition of Scott Podsednik last night and the apparently soon-to-be-consummated Roy Oswalt deal, neither of those means anything in terms of a Cubs deal. Jim Hendry will make a trade if it benefits the team going forward, and also if he can save the club some money. Otherwise, this season will limp to a close with the same players currently on the roster.
That ought to give you all enough to chew on today. Have at it.