Keep or trade? Maholm gives Cubs options

The Cubs may want to keep Paul Maholm around long after the trade deadline. David Banks/US Presswire

CHICAGO -- If the Cubs took to the classified ads, they might just print something like this: FOR SALE: Left-handed pitcher, team friendly contract, probably hotter than anybody else on your staff.

Then again, they might consider staying as far from the classifieds as possible when it comes to Paul Maholm.

The lefty has been on somewhat of a wild ride of late. He had low value about a month ago, started looking like a solid trade piece in recent weeks and has suddenly emerged as a pitcher the Cubs might want to have stick around for a while.

Maholm is on what he considers one of the best runs in his career and put in the most impressive in a string of recent noteworthy starts Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.

After giving up one run over 6 2/3 innings, Maholm has now gone six consecutive starts of at least six innings where he has given up one run or less. In the long history of the Cubs, they have never had a lefty put together those kind of numbers in the modern era.

"He is arguably the best pitcher in the last month in all of baseball," manager Dale Sveum said.

So as the Cubs look to revamp their roster by Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline, they might have to make a tough call on Maholm. Do they deal him if the asking price is right, or do they plug him into the 2013 rotation at a reasonable $6.5 million club option?

"There's a reason I signed here," Maholm said. "I've always enjoyed playing here throughout my career. There's an option. I finished the year last year hurt. They gave me a chance to come in and prove that I was healthy, and I am. Hopefully we can turn this into a long-term thing. We'll see how everything unfolds and go from there."

If the Cubs elect to keep Maholm, or other clubs take a pass because the asking price is too high, they won't get an argument from Sveum.

"He's fairly young and not a lot of wear and tear innings wise from year to year," Sveum said. "People forget that the won-loss record wasn't all that great last year but he had a 3.6 ERA which, if you throw a 3.6 up there, you are in the top of the class with starting pitchers. He's a bona fide starter and this year you take away two starts and it's a pretty impressive resume this year as well."

With every pitch at his disposal Sunday at any point in the count, he played the best hitting team against left-handers into puppets. The Cardinals entered with a .284 team batting average against lefties, tops in baseball, and had the second most home runs against left-handers in the National League.

"I think in '08 I went 20-something starts with six-plus innings, but it wasn't with one run," Maholm said. "It was more runs, but I think at that point, that's probably the longest I've gone just consistently. I think I'm a little bit of a different pitcher now where I'm not out there saying I have to throw sinkers, I have to do this. It was just kinda ‘throw whatever's working.'"

Since June 29, everything has been working for Maholm.