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.


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