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With the team five games under .500 at this advanced stage of the season, with no sign that the offense will be turning it on any time soon, and with objectively better teams ahead of them in the standings in the Central, the time has come for serious questions about the Chicago Cubs’ plans for the next two months.

Will they be buyers to try and get back to a competitive level necessary to actually make a run in the Central? Will they pack it in and sell off what they can for prospects? Right now, it’s simply not clear.

A wave of prospects are starting to show at the big-league level in the first season of new ownership, and with several key veterans in the final years of their contracts, a lackluster finish to the Cubs’ nine-game road trip could signal the start of serious trade talks.

That could put several veteran Cubs in the thick of the rumor mill by the end of the month — even some with no-trade clauses.

Already, first baseman Derrek Lee, who has a full no-trade clause, has been mentioned in at least one Boston-based rumor suggesting the Cubs would be willing to deal him in the final year of his contract. Lefty pitcher Ted Lilly, who has a very limited trade restriction in his contract, also is in the final year of his deal.

And righty Carlos Silva, with another year at $11.5 million after this one, suddenly may be very tradeable as he rides a 7-0 start toward a possible All-Star appearance.

Sources say the Lee rumor is unfounded and that there has been very little activity over the last week or two — even in the form of teams asking about Cubs players — and nothing in the works.

General manager Jim Hendry wouldn’t comment on the subject of trade talks or any speculation about the Cubs’ break points….

It’s not certain whether Lee, who has a good relationship with Hendry, would waive his no-trade clause if the Cubs decide to become sellers — as Houston’s Lance Berkman recently said he would. Lee declined to discuss it Wednesday….

”I have a sense that we can play better. I think we’ve seen that,” said Hendry, underscoring the front- office mind-set. ”And we’ve played pretty well against the good teams when we’re clicking.

”I think we’re good enough to be a contending club. I don’t feel we should be under .500 [at this point]. … That being said, sooner or later, you’ve got to do it.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

To me, that sounds like a guy who’s ready to listen to offers, but isn’t ready to make a move. With a few more ill-timed losses, however, he’ll probably be ready.

In addition to Lee, Lilly and Silva, if the Cubs became sellers, they’d look to move Xavier Nady and (chuckles) John Grabow. They could also consider dealing guys like Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Baker, and Ryan Theriot – each of whom is under some measure of future control, but as a complementary player, may not be a necessary part of plans going forward.

  • wax_eagle

    Ace,

    where would you see the cubs adding a bat if they decided to buy? The Infield is pretty jammed and they already have a serious traffic jam in the outfield. Hendry has painted himself into a corner a bit as to his ability to bring in an impact bat at the deadline.

    I hate to admit it, but with the expriing contracts and promsing guys a year away its an appealing time to be a seller.

  • gurg

    I’m all for it. Let’s get young. Bring in some new player and management blood and keep changing the culture of the franchise like started with the sale of the team.

  • Willis

    Agree with selling if the team can. This season has gone to hell and there is no real sign that they can turn it. If you can garner prospects for Lee or Lilly, pull the trigger. I love them both and am huge fans of both of them, but it’s time to look to the future. The window for this core is closed. Face the music Hendry and trade away.

    And, believe it or not, I say keep Silva. I know his trade value is probably very high, but he has been the only bright spot this year other than maybe Marmol.

    • Jeff

      I know they are struggling, but I don’t know how you can say there are no signs of turning it around. They have gotten pretty good starting pitching, Marshall and Marmol have been solid, Fukudome, Byrd, Colvin, Fontenot, and to some extent Castro have all had pretty good years to this point. Honestly, if not for Grabow and some other bullpen flunkies and our 3-4 hitters hitting like Todd Hundley, we would be right there in the central race.

  • Willis

    Wow a Todd Hundly bomb, nicely done. You are right, but, the heart of this team is Rami and Lee. When the likes of Byrd and Soriano are carrying it, you are in trouble. I am not trying to be a pessimist, but just saying we are 1/3 through and the heart is not beating. The swings bother me for both, just neither seems comfortable at the plate. And yes Grabow did his fair share of damage, but it would really be a true 180 to turn this ship offensively. I think the pitching (4 runs or less) will be there nearly every night, but the bad managerial decisions and lack of timely hitting kills it. PED era is over, you have to manufacture runs, and this team isn’t built for it, or simply won’t do that.

  • Jeff

    I agree 100%, I am just trying to be optimistic, it’s the Cubs fan in me coming out. I have always thought the Cubs were a better team when they were manufacturing runs and not waiting for three run homers all the time. The problem is that Aram and DLee have had all kinds of opportunities with runners in scoring position during a close game and that has been a difference that would have been at least enough to put the team at .500 or better.

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