With half of their schedule complete, the Chicago Cubs are on pace to lose 98 games. Even if they play .500 baseball in the second half, they won't get back in contention.
With that said, general manager Jim Hendry has worked the last three days with his top advisers, looking for a direction that he can point them to with the trade deadline coming up July 31.
In those meetings were scouts Gary Hughes, Ken Kravec, David Littlefield and Greg Maddux. All have been in town for three days.
Hughes and Maddux will do special assignments for Hendry during this period, going to different places to look at major and minor league talent on other teams.
Littlefield will concentrate on the National League and Kravec on the AL.
Hendry said Wednesday there will be no fire sale, but that doesn't mean he won't listen to offers for just about any player outside of Starlin Castro.
The one player who would bring back the most in the way of good talent would be Aramis Ramirez. The veteran third baseman has played his best baseball over the last month and has started to drive in runs. Ramirez told ESPNChicago.com on May 16 that he would not waive his no-trade clause if the team showed interest in trying to trade him.
But at that time, Ramirez did use the term "right now" when asked about vetoing a trade. The very private Cubs veteran is most concerned about uprooting his wife and young family. But by early August, his family will head back to the Dominican Republic when his children start fall classes. At that time, Ramirez may change his mind.
The Cubs infielder may be attracted to teams like Detroit, San Francisco and Cleveland as the pennant races heat up. The Giants, who have the most dominant pitching in the NL along with Philadelphia, are in dire need of offensive help. They can easily move Pablo Sandoval to first in order to accommodate a move for Ramirez.
The Indians and Tigers are getting little production at third. According to an MLB source, the Tigers have been looking at Ramirez over the past couple of months.
Ramirez, like Derrek Lee in 2010, may turn down certain deals before finally agreeing. Lee said 'no' to deals to Washington and the Angels last July before giving his blessing on a trade to Atlanta during the waiver period last August.
People should keep in mind Hendry will not move a contract for movement's sake. If Ramirez is traded near the deadline, he'll still be owed $5 million, as well as a $2 million buyout for 2010 -- or the team would have to pick up a $16 million option.
He also receives a $1 million relocation bonus if he's traded before his 2011 contract expires.