CHICAGO – With two days remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs are still in a holding pattern.
The Cubs' two best trade chips, Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, have proved difficult to move over the past week. Dempster has trade veto rights and Garza has been dealing with a sore arm.
The constant rumors and uncertainty surrounding Tuesday's 3 p.m. CST deadline has been hard on the Cubs. Manager Dale Sveum was asked if he is anxious for Wednesday to arrive.
"Tuesday at 3 o'clock will be fine too," he said, "not that I know the time or anything."
The expectation around baseball is that Dempster still gets traded by Tuesday. Teams that he had been linked to previously, like the Dodgers and Braves, are still in play, but others are expected to emerge as the deadline nears.
The sense is that the Cubs' leverage will improve as Tuesday's 3 p.m. CST deadline draws closer. Since it has become widely known that Dempster's No. 1 destination is Los Angeles, the Dodgers' offers have reportedly been well below what the Cubs are willing to accept.
As the game of chicken played by baseball general manager's intensifies while the clock starts ticking louder, the Cubs are expected to eventually jump on a deal they like.
Helping the Cubs on the Dempster front is that with every deal that goes down for a starting pitcher, it's one less option remaining for teams interested in adding an arm.
Dempster is still more highly regarded by National League teams since there is a sense that his arsenal of pitches wouldn't play as well in the American League.
More question marks actually surround Garza, who was previously believed to be the pitcher that would bring the better return package. Helping Garza's value is the fact that he still has one more full season before he reaches his first year of free agency.
Garza's sore right triceps has improved steadily since suffering a cramp last weekend at St. Louis, but teams still won't be able to see him pitch before the deadline. Garza is set for a bullpen session Monday afternoon and if he isn't traded, he would possibly return to action on the next road trip against the Dodgers, a team that had shown interest in acquiring him.
While Garza's sore arm has hurt the Cubs' trade leverage, what is helping it is the fact that the team is less inclined to settle for anything short of maximum return. Garza would still have solid value in the offseason, especially if he pitches well in the second half.
Pitchers aren't the only trade chips that have earned the Cubs calls from other clubs. Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker all have value to contenders looking to plug roster deficiencies either in the starting lineup or on the bench for the stretch drive.