Numerous teams scouting the Cubs

In addition to Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, Paul Maholm is generating some interest on the trade market. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

CHICAGO -- The list of scouts in attendance at Chicago Cubs games continues to grow as baseball’s July 31 trade deadline approaches.

While many reports have the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves emerging at the leading contenders to land the services of Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, the St. Louis Cardinals, according to a major league source, have jumped into the picture in recent days. Dempster has 10-5 rights that allow him to block any trade. Dempster, that same source said, has not yet been asked if he would accept a particular deal.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has a very clear idea what the Cubs are looking for in exchange for any veterans they unload.

“As a whole and not specifically regarding these potential deals that are upcoming, we need to add a lot of pitching,” Epstein said Wednesday. “It is not enough to have just a handful (of pitching prospects). We need waves and waves of pitching coming through the system, and we do not have that.”

The Cubs also are looking for quality third-base prospects and would not turn down a top-flight catcher or center fielder either. But pitching likely will be expected back for any trade involving Garza or Dempster.

The Tigers and the Dodgers, scouting sources said, have gone back and forth trying to decide whether to bid on Dempster or Garza. Detroit has had a top scout at both pitchers’ past three starts. The organization is expected to be well represented this weekend in St. Louis as well.

Many teams -- like the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals -- have two scouts looking at the Cubs right now. The Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, sources indicated, are very interested in Garza. Both organizations have good young farm systems.

Interest in Cubs’ starters goes past Dempster and Garza. Left-hander Paul Maholm is a solid starter who a scouting source indicated is getting looks from the Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates -- his previous club.

As far as Chicago’s position players go, numerous teams are interested in Geovany Soto, according to a major league source. Soto is playing his best baseball of the season and would likely be available for the right package. Soto was almost traded to Pittsburgh last July before the Cubs backed out at the last minute. The Angels may be looking to upgrade the offense behind the plate and make a pitch for Soto.

“This is an opportunity,” Epstein said of the trading deadline. “We want to make sure we make the most of it.”