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Despite offensive slump, Cubs still looking for pitching

CHICAGO -- Nothing has strategically changed for the Chicago Cubs front office this month despite an offensive slump that has the team ranked 13th in the National League with a .240 batting average and an ever-decreasing on-base percentage, which currently sits eighth in the NL at .316 heading into the final weekend before the all-star break.

With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching the Cubs are still focused on pitching, and the minor hamstring injury to hurler Jason Hammel only drives home that point even more. The Cubs admit it was a "scare."

"That's going to be our focus at the deadline," general manager Jed Hoyer said before Friday’s Cubs/White Sox game. "'Scare' is probably a good word. It makes you realize any pitcher can go down at any time. You have to have the depth to handle it."

The Cubs aren't sure if they have that depth. Dallas Beeler performed admirably in his start earlier this week, while Tsuyoshi Wada is working his way back once again, but is it enough? Probably not. And you have to keep in mind that no Cubs hurler outside of Jon Lester has ever thrown 200 innings in a season. The Cubs should be thrilled if a minor leg injury is the worst of what they suffer the rest of the way.

"Maybe Jason's injury underscores that," Hoyer said of the need for pitching.

But what about that struggling offense? The deadline isn't going to provide much help, according to Hoyer.

"That help is not going to come from the outside," he said. "We know we have some guys with track records that need to get back to where they belong. I think that will happen."

One veteran and one young player, in particular, can help the Cubs' cause more than others in the lineup. Dexter Fowler and Addison Russell are supposed to be the table setters. Russell’s on-base percentage has taken a nosedive so far this month, while Fowler has been under .300 for the past two.

"We have the pieces here to have a good offense," Hoyer said. "We have some guys struggling. We have to get back to scoring some runs."

If anything, an expanded roster in September might benefit the Cubs more than a trade. Could they realistically pick up a bat with more potential than Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez? Granted, there are no guarantees with either player, but we've seen what they can do to a baseball. All it takes is one hot streak. Plus, the Cubs aren't replacing any of their veterans in the lineup anyway. Despite a solid staff, pitching help is still the need.