CHICAGO -- As his team languishes in second place behind the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein insists a turnaround has to come from within -- not the trade market -- and he expects his best players to show up in the second half.
"Our biggest fixes are inside the clubhouse," Epstein said before Thursday's 11-2 loss to Milwaukee that left the Cubs 4 1/2 games back in the division. "This is largely the same club that won 200 games, averaged 100 wins over the last two years. There's not a player that we can realistically bring in from the outside that can spur us to play at that level.
"We're going to get to that point of playing to that level because of the guys that are here."
Epstein is mostly right about the roster composition, though 40 percent of the Cubs' current starting rotation wasn't on the team or in their current role last season.
Mike Montgomery, who didn't make it out of the third inning Thursday, saved Game 7 of the World Series last year, but he has been starting due to an injury to 2016 ERA leader Kyle Hendricks. Eddie Butler, meanwhile, is filling in for Brett Anderson, who took Jason Hammel's spot.
"Some years it's relatively easy to make small upgrades or big upgrades and some years it's virtually impossible," Epstein said. "You can get in trouble when you tell yourself you have to force something. You can't force anything."
"You can't put too much stock in rumors," Epstein said. "Every player out there on a team that isn't in first place will come up in rumors. Sometimes there is something to it, sometimes there's not."
The Cubs' starting rotation has a 4.52 ERA, which ranks seventh in the National League. Last year, the Cubs were first in that category.
"The talent rests inside our clubhouse, inside players who are wearing Cubs uniforms right now," Epstein said. "We'll do what we can to look to augment that, but there's not going to be a fundamental shift in the player personnel that we have.
"We like our club. We don't like how we've played to date."