We’re finally getting into the time of year when moves involving two teams, neither of whom is the Cubs, can have a dramatic impact on the Cubs’ efforts to make moves in July. Divining meaning from those kind of moves, and addressing the implications for the Cubs, is one of my favorite things to do (as you may recall from the Lukewarm Stoves back in November and December). So, you can expect to see a lot of that in the Lukewarm Stoves this month. Hope you are as into it as I am …

  • A couple deals – one completed, one pending – involving aging bats could have an impact on the Cubs’ trade market in the near term. In the first deal, yesterday, the Orioles successfully traded for 41-year-old bat (and bat only) Jim Thome, who really can still hit. To get a few months of Thome, the Orioles gave up their 18th (21-year-old pitcher Kyle Simon) and 21st (19-year-old catcher Gabriel Lino)┬áranked prospects (as of the beginning of the year), which seems like a pretty healthy haul. While the deal probably took away the Cubs’ best landing spot for Alfonso Soriano (the Orioles were about the only team said to be scouting Soriano), it does suggest that these rental type deals can still net a little bit of value. That’s good news, overall, for the Cubs, who are going to be selling some rentals in short order. (But, yeah, losing the Orioles as a landing spot for Soriano kind of sucks. Hey, Cleveland….)
  • The other deal that could impact the Cubs has Carlos Lee going from the Astros to the Dodgers for a pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ top 10 (Garrett Gould is the name you hear most), assuming the Astros include a whole lot of cash. It seems like a hell of a great return for the Astros, who’ll be doing cartwheels if they can pull it off. And the Cubs would probably be bumming, as they’d likely love to pair, for example, Ryan Dempster and someone like Bryan LaHair to the Dodgers for a healthy return. If Lee goes to the Dodgers, that kind of bigger deal goes away, and the Cubs would have to hope for maybe one good pitching prospect in exchange for Dempster. The hold-up in the Lee deal, though? Lee’s got a limited no-trade clause, which allows him to block a deal to the Dodgers (among a handful of other teams (he negotiated away his 10/5 no-trade rights a few years ago)). Buster Olney has reported that Lee has told the Astros he’s not going to waive his no-trade clause to accept this deal, but we’ll see what happens. Often, that’s just a guy’s way of saying, “I’ll waive the no-trade clause, but one of you two teams needs to wet my beak a little.” Obviously you’re rooting for this deal to fall through.

  • The Phillies are on the verge of becoming sellers, which could have dramatic effects on the Cubs’ selling plans – for example, it could put Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino on the market, both of whom would generally be more attractive than the pitchers/positional players the Cubs can offer. (You could argue that, overall, Matt Garza has more value in trade than a couple months of Cole Hamels, but I think it’s probably a lot closer than you might expect.) With Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay due to return to the Phillies soon, once again, you’ve got a rooting interest: Go, Phillies!
  • Speaking of Hamels, the Rangers are scouting both he and Brewers starter Zack Greinke. Each is a free agent at the end of the year, but each is probably a more attractive pitcher for 2012 than Garza or Ryan Dempster.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the Braves aren’t as adamant about not trading their top young pitchers this year if they think they can pick up someone like Matt Garza, and if they view Garza as a difference maker. Rosenthal mentions Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, and Mike Minor by name, though I’m not sure I’d include Minor with the first two, in terms of attractiveness to the Cubs.

  • As for Alfonso Soriano, Jon Heyman wonders why he seems so unpopular on the trade market given how well he’s playing. Obviously Soriano’s remaining contractual obligations are obscene ($18 million per year through 2014), but the Cubs are willing to eat plenty of cash to make it a more palatable deal. So, where’s the interest? Heyman suggests that the Tampa Bay Rays should be looking hard at Soriano.

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