CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein dissected his team's chances of making a trade before Friday's non-waiver deadline, though nothing seems imminent.
"If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players that will help us beyond this year," Epstein explained before the Cubs played the Colorado Rockies on Monday night. "If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental."
The Cubs have struggled at the plate for quite some time but they mostly want pitching right now -- and for the future. It's why they've kicked the tires in both the rental market as well as for players who are signed past this year or under team control for a while. The latter is a move usually reserved for the offseason, but with so much pitching inventory in baseball right now, it's not out of the realm of possibility the Cubs get someone for the longer term.
"We're working our way towards a resolution," Epstein said. "One way or another."
At least one report on Monday afternoon had the Cubs and San Diego Padres talking, presumably about James Shields, who the Cubs coveted late this past winter. But the Padres also have several pitchers under team control who won't cost as much as Shields in terms of dollars but would cost more in prospects. Tyson Ross and former Cub Andrew Cashner fit that description. All three would be a part of the rotation past this season. Ian Kennedy of the Padres would be a cheaper rental, as would Dan Haren of the Miami Marlins.
A trade could be completely dependent on the asking price coming down for both the rentals and longer-term acquisitions. Industry sources over the weekend indicated this might have set the Cubs behind other teams in the race for Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. A match for players didn't fit, and with rental Johnny Cueto bringing the Cincinnati Reds a decent haul, the Phillies will undoubtedly keep asking for top prospects.
"And if we do nothing it will be because we couldn't find anything rational that we could actually do," Epstein said.
Some might continue to wonder why the Cubs keep looking for pitching while they admittedly haven't hit well since late May. July has been particularly bad, highlighted by Hamels no-hitting them on Saturday as part of a stunning Phillies series sweep at Wrigley Field.
"It was a crappy weekend," Epstein said. "We all have to wear it. You put it into perspective and move on. It wasn't something that wasn't anticipated at some point. You knew that stretch was coming so you don't fret over it as much as you look forward to pulling yourself out of it."
And the Cubs aren't fretting about their offense because they're starting four talented rookies who are going through some growing pains. Kris Bryant is hitting .177 in July while Addison Russell is at .203 for the month. The Cubs believe they will come out of it -- and be better for it -- but benching them and making a trade isn't the answer. In fact it would be foolish.
"Breaking in the young players shouldn't be an excuse," Epstein said. "It's something we embrace. That's who we are right now."
It's why the focus on the future is on the mound. A rental would simply get them through the final couple of months, considering they don't have a reliable fifth starter. They'll just have to put up with their hitting woes until they come out of them.
"We really haven't hit as a team since the end of May," Epstein said. "Through some guts and great pitching we've kept our head above water. It all kind of came crashing down on us. I'm hoping we're nearing the end of this slump.
"The ups and downs come with any team. It's to be expected. It's important how you respond to it."