CHICAGO -- With at least two potential trade options in the other dugout of Wrigley Field this weekend, Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer didn’t reveal anything we didn't already know as the Cubs played their first home game since the all-star break on Friday.
The Cubs are buyers and pitching depth is still their biggest need -- to go along with a veteran bench player who can spot start for some of the rookies when Joe Maddon wants to get them rest. Shorter outings by Kyle Hendricks, Clayton Richard and Dallas Beeler this week highlighted the need for hurlers, and the Cubs have openings.
"There’s a very long week to go," Hoyer said before the Cubs played the Philadelphia Phillies. "We wouldn’t be making this many calls and working hard as we are if we weren't trying to make moves before the (trade) deadline."
Hoyer wouldn't comment if a pitching "rental" was being discussed as much as a trade for a player signed past this season, but an industry source says the Cubs have always preferred the longer-term investment which dovetails with some of their public comments.
Phillies lefty Cole Hamels fits that description, as he's signed until at least 2019. He'll start against the Cubs on Saturday. Reliever Jonathan Papelbon also could be in play, though the Cubs have gotten healthy in their pen and already have picked up a few arms. They would prefer to part with quantity over quality, as their very best prospects are already in the majors or close to it.
The Phillies wanted Addison Russell over the winter but might have to settle for 3-4 other players, led by Javier Baez, if a deal is to be struck. The first pitching domino fell when Oakland traded Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros -- though that move didn't necessarily set the market.
"There is something to be said for breaking the ice," Hoyer said. "Every deal stands on its own."
At this point the Cubs could acquire anyone, from a rental like David Price to a longer-term investment such as James Shields or Hamels. They also might just add to the backend of their rotation, and Hoyer didn't dismiss August or minor-league deals. Bottom line: The Cubs are scouring the pitching market for the best deal to be had.
As for their offense, people might still wonder why a team batting .222 in July isn't looking for hitting.
"The real solutions are from within," Hoyer said.
That's the narrative the Cubs have been pushing all along and it continues to make sense -- though they will more than likely add a role player in the form of someone like utility man Ben Zobrist. Of course anyone can be benched, but the idea of changing the dynamic of your team this late in the game doesn't make sense. Dexter Fowler and Starlin Castro aren't going to become backups all of a sudden. That's the reality. So Hoyer is hopeful some veterans return to form and young players take another step.
One final thought by Hoyer about rumors at this time of year: Some are true, while many simply are not.
"People push their narratives out there for their own benefit," Hoyer said. "Sometimes there's a parallel universe of rumors out there."