Cubs not sellers yet, but it's likely

CHICAGO -- Tied for last place entering the Crosstown Classic, the Chicago Cubs are starting to near the point of making tough decisions about their roster. The trade deadline is still over two months away, but the leg work of being a buyer or seller starts well before the end of July.

“It is still fairly early and you want to see these guys fight through it and hopefully get on a run,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said before the Cubs played the Chicago White Sox on Monday. “At some point there is a finite amount of time between now and July 31 and every week that goes by it gets closer.”

Even a run may not be enough to get the Cubs back in contention. Not in the Central division, where three teams are no worse than 11 games over .500 entering play on Monday. The St. Louis Cardinals sit atop the division at 33-17, that’s 13.5 games ahead of the Cubs. Hoyer said “50-60 games within the deadline” is the time teams start talking about their options.

“You always hold out hope you can string things together and make a run,” he said. “It’s really hard in this division, I’ll say that. You have three teams playing really well.”

It means a sell-off is more likely than not, just as the team did last year when it sent the likes of Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson packing. Get ready for Round 2.

“You always want to avoid it, but avoiding it is putting yourself in a situation, and the team to not be in that position, meaning you have to win a lot of ballgames to be a good enough team so you’re not selling off anybody,” manager Dale Sveum said.

By now you should know who the most likely candidates to be dealt are. But just in case, here are a few names and their odds of leaving. All are on the last year of their contract.

Matt Garza, 85%: Unless the Cubs are willing to give Garza the kind of security -- or more -- they gave Edwin Jackson then he’s as good as gone. If healthy he’s obviously worth more than Jackson and some team will pony up come the offseason. It probably won’t be the Cubs, and holding onto him without an extension would be foolish. Signing him to a long-term deal after just a couple months of healthy starts might be just as foolish. Trading him seems like the best option, though the Cubs will have to look to replace him as soon as they get rid of him.

David DeJesus, 80%: The Cubs love his approach at the plate, but with so many other younger left-handed outfielders roaming the organization -- even if they’re not top prospects -- he might not be needed. Plus, his value to a playoff contender should be high. He’s great in the clubhouse, can play any outfield position, still has some wheels and will battle at the plate both early and late in a game.

Scott Feldman, 75%: He’s not all that old (30), but more than likely he’s not in the Cubs' long-term plans. He came here to re-establish himself as a starter and so far he’s done that. If the Cubs wanted to sell high, trading Feldman sooner rather than later would be the way to go. His last start snapped a streak in which the Cubs won five in a row when he took the mound and his ERA is a sparkling 2.80.

Alfonso Soriano, 50%: That percentage has probably been steady over the last year with some peaks and valleys along the way. For a while it looked the Cubs had a deal with San Francisco last year, but Soriano vetoed it. He might be more willing this time around as the Cubs' rebuilding plan looks to be a long one. Soriano says he wants to win in Chicago, but with time running out in his career his only option might be elsewhere.

It’s still early and more names (read Carlos Marmol) will undoubtedly be added to that list but one thing is coming into focus whether Sveum wants to see it or not: the Cubs will be sellers.

“We’re not there yet and we’re not worried about that,” he said. “If it happens it happens. It’s not something I even think about.”