Cubs GM Hoyer says trade talks on rise

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer isn’t even bothering with new and creative ways to say “None of your business,” as the most rumor-oriented time of the season gets into full swing.

So while other GMs play it coy with the media with the non-waiver trade deadline just over two weeks away, Hoyer obviously felt it was a little silly to beat around the bush, especially when everybody knows the Cubs are in sell mode.

“Yeah, we’ve fielded quite a few [calls],” Hoyer said Saturday. “A lot of teams check in with everybody so you get a lot of those. You’ll talk to every GM just to see what they are doing and what they are thinking. Even if you don’t have a direct fit with them you might have an indirect fit so teams try to be as diligent as possible to talk to everyone.”

Getting any more specific than that, however, wasn’t going to happen.

Hoyer said the All-Star break was quiet as front office types enjoyed the calm that comes before the storm. But late this week the calls started in earnest.

With major speculation centered on the Cubs trading Ryan Dempster before the deadline, there is the belief that his start on Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks could be his last in a Cubs uniform.

Hoyer said that Dempster has been a professional in every sense of the word since he arrived with the Cubs this winter. But his job isn’t about making long-term friends, it is finding talent that can help the team to become a serious long-term contender. So parting ways with guys like Dempster, and perhaps Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Bryan LaHair could become a reality.

It’s not a position he enjoys, but one that he has embraced.

“It’s not a position you want to be in,” Hoyer said. “Certainly there are ways you can improve the organization by being in that situation but it’s frustrating because that means your record isn’t that good. It also means the players that are being asked about are good players and neither one is a positive. When you are in this situation, you think you have to do the best thing you can for the organization and you hope you aren’t in this position very often.”

It could be a good year to be a seller. With one more wild card team added to the playoffs, it could increase the amount of teams buying and give the Cubs more trade options.

“People probably look at where they are differently depending on what they expected at the beginning of the year,” Hoyer said. “I think that is sort of like the draft stuff. We’ll see how that plays out at the deadline, we’ll see how that plays out in August. It is really jumbled. It’s definitely keeping a lot of teams in the race which was the intended purpose.”

Where the extra wild card could have more of an effect will be after the deadline when trades can be made after players slip through waivers or have been claimed and a deal is worked out with that club.

“It’s possible, but you have the variable of waivers,” Hoyer said. “If you take a guy into August and he gets claimed, now you have one team you can trade a player to and that makes it more difficult. Theoretically, yes, there could be more trades in August because more teams are in it, but it’s hard to make deals. Maybe that means that fewer players will get through waivers because more teams are actively blocking.”

Subtle changes mean a learning process takes place. It was the same with this year’s draft that had all-new signing restrictions and an earlier deadline of July 13 to get players under contract.

“Just going through this system for the first time I think every team would say [it was a learning experience], but I think we came through it really well,” Hoyer said. “It was enjoyable. Any time you have to do something new and think of the strategy involved, it’s always an intellectual challenge and I think we all enjoyed it. It was certainly a learning process and we’ll take what we learned this year and go forward for next year.”

For now, though, the challenge of the trade deadline approaches with Hoyer focused not only making deals to help toward the future, but to also keep a relatively decent product on the field as well.

“That’s where you sort of have to have that long view to make those moves,” Hoyer said. “But that’s why being in that position isn’t one you want to be in very often. You feel like, yes, you can make improvements for the long term but there is a reason there are teams calling, because there are good players. I think that is never a good feeling.”