CHICAGO -- With nearly a quarter of the season complete, it's time to start thinking about who has potential trade value for the Chicago Cubs. The next quarter of the year will see an increase of scouts around the Cubs as contending teams look for veteran help.
We know Jeff Samardzija, Friday's starter against the Milwaukee Brewers, will be highly sought after, as it's just a matter of whether he brings back an A-plus or A-minus type prospect. Scouts say how he pitches in July will make that decision, considering his second halves the past two seasons haven't been great. They want to make sure his arm is as lively as it can be at that point in the year if teams are going to give up a top guy in their farm system.
Recently, general manager Jed Hoyer indicated trade talks won't start up again until next month, so there's still time for plenty of things to change, but let's examine three other players who could be on the move.
He had his worst outing as a Cub on Thursday against the Cardinals, lasting only 5 ⅓ innings while giving up five runs. But it only raised his ERA to 3.06. He's been solid so far and being healthy is reason No. 1.
"Today was probably the best physically I felt all year," Hammel said after the game. "Obviously, the way the game works, it just doesn't work out sometimes."
At times, Hammel has been electric -- like when he struck out the side in the first inning Thursday -- but he's given up some hard-hit balls and a few home runs. The good news is he's kept walks to a minimum, despite two that came back to bite him in the second inning Thursday.
"It's a kiss of death to strike out the side in the first inning as a starting pitcher," Hammel joked. "Everyone knows that."
His WHIP is still just 0.91 after walking two and giving up five hits. Teams are going to love that kind of control. He's a big, physical presence who can fit nicely in the middle to back end of a contending team's rotation. He can fetch the Cubs a B-plus/A-minus type prospect if things keep going in the right direction. That was no sure thing when he was signed last offseason.
There's little doubt he'll finish the season in another city unless he struggles so mightily that no one comes calling. After last season's career-high 21 home runs, he looked to be a good fit from the left side for a number of teams. And he still might be. But after grounding out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning Thursday, his batting average fell to .198. And he has no home runs.
"Getting on base is more important," Schierholtz said. "Those [home runs] will come. I've been feeling better lately. ... I came in [Thursday] with a chance to tie the game up. In that situation, I expect to succeed. When it doesn't work out your way, it's obviously frustrating."
Schierholtz has been having better at-bats lately -- one produced a triple recently -- so maybe he is getting closer to coming out of it. And if teams think he can simply get back to last season's production, there will be some interest. Either way, the Cubs are looking at a C-plus kind of prospect in return for his services.
Yes, Veras is back after a stint on the disabled list. He faced one batter Thursday and induced a double-play grounder. That's a huge step in the right direction, even if he threw just a few pitches. They got over the plate for light contact. He needed that.
"It's a good start," Veras said Friday morning. "I got my fastball over the plate and down and got a ground ball."
Manager Rick Renteria said he'll continue to "find spots" for Veras to build confidence. It remains to be seen if he'll get a chance to close again.
More than likely he will. Veras was traded midseason last year by the Houston Astros to the Detroit Tigers for a decent prospect in outfielder Danry Vasquez, but at that time, he had 19 saves and a 2.93 ERA. It's a far cry from his 14.21 mark going into Friday's game.
He will be looked at closely over the next quarter of the season, considering he's a veteran who was recently in a pennant race. Command has been his big problem. If he gets that back then he becomes a commodity to trade, though the Cubs won't get a huge return unless he's closing again and piling up the saves.