CHICAGO -- June means two important things for the Chicago Cubs these days: the amateur draft and trade season. The former takes place Thursday, when the Cubs pick No. 4 overall before the team turns its attention to the July 31 trade deadline.
Over the next two months there will be trade rumors aplenty, especially in regard to starters Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. Hammel threw another gem on Saturday in beating the Milwaukee Brewers, and Samardzija pitched a rare clunker in a loss Sunday. Both should be highly sought after.
"There's a lot of talk going on," Samardzija said after the shortest stint (three innings) of his career on Sunday. "That's just part of the job. Whatever is on the outside doesn't matter. You have a job to do every fifth day. You assess it like that. You don't make any excuses for it."
Samardzija will try to tune out the inevitable talk about where he might be pitching by August. Hammel had a similar sentiment on Saturday.
"I know my own value, and my value is right here with the Cubs," Hammel said. "That's the way I see it. I'm not going to play into the whole trade talk. It can happen to anybody."
Both understand the Cubs landscape enough to know there isn't much they can do about it. The rebuild means moving the two best starters the Cubs employ at the moment. Right or wrong it looks to be the plan this summer.
But does Cubs brass understand how devastating the losses of those two players will be? Forget about the fan base. Savvy fans might actually be behind the moves to get more youthful pitching, undoubtedly what the Cubs are looking for. The problems might come from the locker room itself. These are two highly liked and charismatic players. Trading Matt Garza and Scott Feldman last season was one thing, moving Hammel and especially Samardzija is a whole other thing. The Cubs might have a revolt on their hands.
Already, one of the team's favorites, Anthony Rizzo, has spoken out. In a surprising and refreshing rant on Friday, Rizzo was critical of the starts and stops of the Wrigley Field renovation project. He may as well be talking about the on-field renovation as well. And he's on the record about another controversial topic: the prospects.
"The biggest learning period is up here," he said in spring training. "There's no reason to ever take your time in the minor leagues. It's the worst place. Why would anyone want to take their time?"
He said that last line in a half-joking manner, but there's little doubt Rizzo and others want to see some of the heralded Cubs prospects make their way to Wrigley Field soon.
If the Cubs want to keep the energy of their rebuilding going in the right direction and keep the clubhouse sane after Hammel and Samardzija are traded, they'll call up Kris Bryant and Javier Baez for the last third or at least quarter of the season. Bryant is leading the Southern League at Double-A Tennessee in every offensive category save for steals. Baez is finally starting to look like the hitter who was launching mammoth home runs in spring training. If both continue playing well, they should be in Chicago.
"We talk in here (the clubhouse) about those guys down there," shortstop Starlin Castro said over the weekend.
Castro said he's texted with Baez after a rough start to the season in Triple-A and knows he's come out of his early slump. He also believes Manny Ramirez, signed last week as a player/coach at Triple-A, can help.
"He looks crazy but he's not," Castro joked of Ramirez.
As for Bryant, the time to move him to Triple-A is coming. Even if the Cubs want to leave him in one place awhile longer -- general manager Jed Hoyer said as much recently -- they can always bring him to the major leagues later in the summer and bypass Iowa altogether, although they've said no one is skipping any levels.
"It happens for a lot of players," Castro said of bypassing Triple-A. "Would be fun for them and for anyone that can be here (the majors) before Triple-A."
Castro famously skipped it and did well until some struggles last season. Cubs brass say they want their players to deal with failure in the minor leagues so they don't have to go through it as much in Chicago. And they have a way out of their own mantra that players need to dominate their respective level before moving up: They never said how long they have to dominate. So they can leave Bryant where he is if they want. But a promotion of some sort has to be coming.
In any case, Baez had his struggles over the first six weeks of the season and maybe Bryant simply isn't going to struggle down there. Or at least not for very long. He's shown a unique ability to learn and adjust quickly.
"Conversations are always being had," manager Rick Renteria said of possible promotions. "We all have to be on the same page ... We're just happy that the kids we have down there are building confidence."
By the time Hammel and Samardzija are pitching for other teams, Baez and Bryant should be building confidence in the major leagues. Prospect George Springer is bashing for the Houston Astros while Oscar Tavares got the call-up for the St. Louis Cardinals this past weekend. Contending team or cellar dweller, when a player is ready, he's ready. Let Baez and Bryant take their licks -- together -- at Wrigley Field in the final months of 2014 so they don't have to as much in 2015. There's also less pressure if they come up together. That's no small thing.
"The future is uncertain for everyone," Samardzija said. "All I can do is go out and prove in good times and bad times I'm a pretty important guy to have around here and want that to go on for a long time."
That future is also uncertain for their prospects, and if Samardzija is moved there will be more than a void on the mound for the Cubs. Their best players will be affected by it along with the locker room and the overall rebuild.
"You can't get frustrated," Samardzija said.
That might be a tough sell to the fans and other Cubs.