SEATTLE – The annual summer sell-off is quickly becoming part of the new tradition under Cubs President Theo Epstein, who could begin dealing before the All-Star break.
“Judging by the amount of calls that are going on and the number of pieces we intend to have available and the number of opportunities that might present themselves for us to get better, yeah, I’d say [there’s a] 50-50 [chance],” Epstein said.
The Cubs are well out of contention in the National League playoff race at 35-45 after a 7-6 victory over the Mariners on Sunday.
They have been playing at about a .500 clip since May 5, though, which is about as much as anyone could expect of this team.
“We’ve played well as a team in spurts,” Epstein said. “If you wanted to sum up the first half, you could say it went really well for the first seven innings. We’ve really had a hard time closing out games.”
That was apparent again Sunday, when Edwin Jackson was cruising along with a 7-1 lead before tiring in the seventh, still up by four. Shawn Camp promptly let the Mariners back in the game, giving up a pair of home runs in a three-run eighth.
Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect ninth to preserve the win.
“It was real easy for a while,” manager Dale Sveum said. “But we all know that’s why we play nine innings.”
Too bad the games don’t end after seven.
“If it gets back to Little League days, we’ll be OK,” Sveum cracked.
Barring a rule change, the Cubs will have to play nine. How long this team will stay together is another matter.
Epstein might deal a handful of players by the end of July, and the most coveted is starting pitcher Matt Garza, who would land the best prospects in return. Gregg and starting pitcher Scott Feldman also are drawing interest, though neither would bring back anywhere near the return of Garza.
Teams are scouting the Cubs heavily, and will continue to do so until the July 31 trade deadline. The Red Sox have sent their main scout, former Cubs assistant to the general manager Gary Hughes, to follow the team on the West Coast portion of the current nine-game trip. The Cubs know the Red Sox system well and figure to be asking for two or three top prospects in return.
Alfonso Soriano, who has two home runs and three doubles on the trip, also is expected to draw some interest if he stays hot.
Most valuable pieces
• RHP Scott Feldman
• RHP Matt Garza
• RHP Kevin Gregg
• OF Alfonso Soriano