CHICAGO -- As the trading deadline approaches the Chicago Cubs are pondering a number of moves that could shape their future.
Numerous teams have called on the availability of left-handed reliever James Russell and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Although neither are star players, each can be a difference-maker in his own way. Schierholtz has been scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past 30 days. Russell was almost traded to the Atlanta Braves last week.
Any possible deal for Schierholtz was held up due to a sore shoulder he was dealing with for three weeks prior to the All-Star break. Pittsburgh began looking seriously at White Sox right fielder Alex Rios during that period. Since the break Schierholtz has been on fire. He has contributed two game-winning home runs as part of his recent productive week of work. Schierholtz is under contract for next season and is arbitration eligible. A short porch in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park right field stands would seem perfect for the lefty-hitting outfielder. He has a career high 14 home runs with more than a third of the season still to play.
Russell has been the ultimate workhorse for the Cubs over the last two years. His 77 appearances were second on the team to Shawn Camp’s 80 games in 2012. This year he is in the top tier of games appeared in with 54, putting him on pace for 83. Russell looked a bit fatigued when he gave up the game-tying three-run homer in the seventh inning of a 6-5 loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
“The velocities are fine, they are all normal,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He just can’t make that pitch and get that ball on the ground.”
Russell, who has appeared in 131 of the Cubs’ 266 games since the start of the 2012 season, has been paying attention as other relievers have been dealt in the last few days.
“Those things kind of open your eyes,” Russell said. “At the same time you get a little bit of relief. In the end I don’t feel like packing up all of my stuff and getting out of town. You kind of cross a team off your list every time you see a reliever traded.”
In recent days the Braves and Orioles have made deals for pitchers. Sources say that the Cincinnati Reds are looking to add a bullpen part and have inquired about Russell, who was actually born in Cincinnati when his father was the Reds closer in 1986.
A career Cub, the pitcher can see the upside to getting moved.
“I have never experienced a playoff run,” Russell said. “I think it would be the coolest thing in the world. I would still prefer to do all of that as a Cub.”