While not on the order of Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm is a valuable trade piece, should the Cubs be interested in moving him. Not only is Maholm in the best stretch of his season – four straight excellent starts, and his ERA is getting ready to dip under 4.00 – but he (1) is a lefty, and (2) costs just $4.75 million this year (with a $6.5 million team option for 2013).

In other words, Maholm has been a good lefty, and is affordable. Why wouldn’t teams have interest?

And, although we haven’t heard much about it, teams almost certainly do have interest.

For example, reports Paul Sullivan, the Pirates have interest in their former starter. In fact, they’ve had a top scout trailing the Cubs for some time, and they would like to pick up a veteran pitcher. Considering the cost, Maholm might interest them more than, for example, Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza.

Sullivan mentions two AAA pitchers who could interest the Cubs, Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens. Both are 24-year-old lefties putting up good numbers this year in the minors, and could become decent back-end options in the near future. Neither has the upside of a top prospect, but they are certainly interesting players of the kind you wouldn’t mind getting for Maholm. Coming into 2012, each fell just outside the Pirates’ top 10 (a good system).

If the Cubs could get both of those guys for Maholm, they’d be very hard-pressed to say no.

And, for his part, Maholm doesn’t exactly sound torn up about the possibility of being dangled as trade bait.

“If your name is out there, obviously somebody wants you,” Maholm told Sullivan. “That’s not a terrible thing. Obviously I signed here to play here and to win here, so whatever happens in the next 10 to 12 days, I think everyone in the clubhouse is professional enough to deal with it.”

Given that he just signed this past offseason, you can understand why Maholm may not have the same heart pangs about being traded as might, for example, Ryan Dempster.

While you could understand the Cubs hanging onto Maholm, given his relatively affordable team option for next year, and his recent stretch of success (and the fact that *someone* has to pitch for the Cubs in 2013), there’s just no reason for them not to shop a guy who has value, and who might not have a long-term future with the Cubs.

I talked about Maholm’s trade value a few weeks ago (I do think it’s gone up since then), and I still think the return on him would be far behind that for Matt Garza, and a fair bit behind that for Ryan Dempster. But I do think it could be notable – a solidly top 10 prospect in an average system? A couple guys in the top 15? I don’t see why not.

As for the Pirates, specifically, Maholm’s final two starts before the trade deadline come against the Pirates, so they have a unique (small, but unique) incentive to pull off a trade for Maholm, and soon.

  • Dan

    I understand the need to rebuild the organization. IF the Cubs lose Garza, Dempster and Maholm they will probably get some great prospects. However, in 2013, are they going to field a minor league team at Wrigley, full of guys just getting their feet wet in the bigs?! The front office is doing great, just wondering if they are being too aggressive. They still need to put bodies in the seats. I am probably over analyzing the situation, but I hope they can keep some good vets to build around.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Probably will be a young team getting its feet wet. But we all know that the product on the field is only part of the attraction to Wrigley — they will still draw plenty of people, though obviously less than if the hometown team were chasing the pennant.

    • Beer Baron

      Don’t forget the Cubs picked up Maholm as a free agent in the off season, and there very likely will be comparable guys available next year that they can sign as “stop gap” starters. I don’t think they’ll go after the big-time free agents next year, but guys like Maholm or DeJesus will be available at relatively reasonable prices and they won’t deter the rebuilding process. At best, Maholm would be on the team for one more year after this so to me if they can get a/some decent prospect(s) — guys who realistically could contribute to the major league roster by 2014 and then be under team control for the next 5 years — I say go for it.

      • Njriv

        I’m hoping they at least go for Anibal Sanchez.

        • kubphan82

          Brandon McCarthy would be my top priority…
          Anibel Sanchez would be considered..
          Shaun Marcum would get a look, but inevitably sign for more than his worth.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I have a suspicion that Sanchez is going to get A LOT of money.

          • ETS

            McCarthy’s health could be an issue, but he is def near the top of my list.

            • Puma0821

              How bout Liriano? Why does no one mention him? Seems to me he should be on the top of that list and he is still decently young.

    • EQ76

      who knows what next year will bring.. I can’t imagine our front office not making any moves next off season though.. i’m sure we could have a vet or two in the rotation.. heck, it seems more and more likely that re-signing Dempster is a real possibility the more we hear about it. Demp, Shark, Wood isn’t a terrible start to a rotation.

      • willis

        Wood is not good.

        • ETS

          Care to back that comment?

          • willis

            Yes, I’m a genius. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Does that work? I’m just airing out my frustrations with him. He may end up being ok, I don’t buy it, but maybe. But he certainly doesn’t strike me as a rotation piece a team can build around. Maybe as a 5, but nothing higher.

            He’s been rocked two times in a row…just obliterated. I don’t expect that to change. It could, and I’d be happy if it did, but I’ve never liked him as a pitcher and he hasn’t shown me much to change my opinion. He had a good stretch this year, but it is bookended by a terrible spring/early part of the year and what we have seen the last couple weeks. We’ll see.

            • ETS

              He’s pretty young yet and left handed. I could think to many examples you could point to who weren’t blowing people away at his age, but are dominate 3-5 years later.

              • willis

                Fair enough. I just am not a fan nor believe he’ll be a top 3 starter for a decent rotation. If the Cubs penciled him right now as a #5 for the future, I’d be ok with that. I just hate hearing people thinking he is a big building block to build with for this organization.

                • ETS

                  Also fair.

        • MightyBear

          He will be. He’s young. Only 25. Pitchers tend to peak at 27-32.

    • Gcheezpuff

      I’d guess they’ll have a similar off season as this past year. They”ll sign a bunch of stop gap low cost veterans with the hope of bounce back years so they can have players to trade at the deadline again. Basically buying time for the farm to develop.

    • scorecardpaul

      Dan, you said this…
      I am probably over analyzing the situation, but I hope they can keep some good vets to build around.
      Who did you have in mind, and please tell us the reason why??
      I hope we trade all of our veterans for younger players. I don’t think we have any veterans worth hanging onto. I am only hoping to have a chance in a few years??

    • JP

      I don’t know if I could characterize the cubs as being too aggressive seeing the only thing we’ve traded at this point is cash considerations. I think we may have held on to our hand (Garza, Demp) until it’s too late to get max value. Can’t say I would’ve done anything different but I feel we’re better off at this point to hang on to both of them and hope for a nice comp draft picks.

    • cubmig

      I don’t think Theo&Co is taking the actions it is without knowing that the team they field just might be kids “getting their feet wet” in the bigs. The effects of their moves may be reflected in the attendance, but even that may be part of what they expect will they will have to deal with to accomplish what they want to do in Chicago. The “fire sale” sign they’ve hung out leaves no other implications or consequences. These look to be transition years. We should not expect to see anything beyond a team being molded into a well oiled machine that can win. It’ll be process before product. I hope they’ve thought this whole thing through inside and out a thousand times over, because I hate the waiting it asks of us. It’s all I’ve been doing since 1945.

  • Pat

    I could see one top fifteen maybe, but I seriously doubt two. Not because of value necessarily (I haven’t really looked into the numbers there), but because this is a guy the Pirates let walk this last offseason without making an offer. I think it would look bad for the front office if they traded two decent pieces for a guy they could have had for only money (and not all that much) in the first place.

  • ETS

    Paul Maholm continues to draw interest. I love the cubs trade situation this year. We are the pitching equivalent of a used car salesman. Oh you want flashy, expensive and quality? How about Matt Garza? You want something a bit more practical but very reliable? Ryan Dempster is for you. You want cheap, fuel efficient and reliable? Paul Maholm! Everything must go!!!

  • B_Scwared

    I’m expecting a whole lot of moves like DeJesus and Maholm next year. Short term deals for decent money to make the team somewhat respectable in the near term while the prospects and younger players develop for the long term. Those players will then have modest value at next year’s deadline as well, and the cycle will continue for at least another year.

    I don’t see them making any huge signings because I don’t see the players that fit their expectations. Maybe Anibal Sanchez.

    If they make any big signings, I’d be curious if they pick up bad contracts intentionally through trade in a unique way add “assets”. Maybe they take someone like Vernon Wells, Juan Uribe or Heath Wells and their bad contracts along with decent prospects from their team, for crap prospects in our system. It gives those teams flexibility and utilizes our short-term “surplus” cash for prospects. We can then pay off those contracts and potentially trade those players again if they show any life.

    • stillmisskennyhubbs

      Please not Juan Uribe. If we do that, might as well get George Mitterwald or Jeromy Burnitz back — you know, guys who “swing hard in case the ball hits the bat.”

  • @cubsfantroy

    I really like Maholm (and much like Stewart) was someone that I was happy the Cubs had gotten in the off season. If it improves the Cubs, I am all for it, but I would rather they keep him on for a veteran presence at a very reasonable price.

    • willis

      Completely agree unless the offer is a steal. There are NO ready arms in the minors right now, and if you lose Demp, Garza, and Maholm…well that may be a 40 win team next season because of the lack of pitching. I don’t want to stomach that and neither should anyone else. You have to start somewhere when rebuilding. In the field there is Castro and Rizzo to build around, but there has to be an arm or two that is dependable as well.

      If the system were flush with fireballers that’s one thing. But the pitching cupboard, although getting better, is empty.

      • scorecardpaul

        In the field there is Castro and Rizzo to build around, but there has to be an arm or two that is dependable as well.

        If the system were flush with fireballers thatโ€™s one thing. But the pitching cupboard, although getting better, is empty.

        I think you argued my point better than I could have. We have 2 players, not much else. We are in a real bad situation, and a 70 win season next year is no better than a 40 win. Actually a 40 win season is better than a 70 win , because of draft etc. etc.

      • ETS

        How will be beat Houton and Colorado and SD for the #1 overall pick if we don’t trade those 3! (before you erupt, I’m half kidding here)

  • Wilbur

    Just one fan’s opinion, with starting pitching the key to success and with Cubs minor league pitching at the AA and AAA level so thin, I have no reservations with any trade that seriously addresses that void.

  • Spencer

    Is anyone interested in Chris Volstad?

  • donnie kessinger

    Volstad might want to try relief pitching…

    • Spencer

      Volstad might want to try soccer.

      • Brad

        I’m thinking he needs to pull an Ankiel and be our center fielder in 2018.

        • WNebCub

          his speed doesn’t equal center field…he profiles as more of a LF

      • @cubsfantroy

        LMAO. Best reply ever. about Volstad.

      • stillmisskennyhubbs

        Volstad could use some shelter from the storm of criticism. I can’t imagine anyone feels worse than he does about his slump. Everyone jumping on him is not going to help the situation.
        If he can’t work through his problems on the mound, he may need some time off and then get back to it in winter / instructional ball.
        I think his arm shows too much promise to simply dump him — or dump on him.

  • Jim L.

    The focus is on the future, not the present or near present (2013), I’ve waited too long for a front office with enough foresight to build a consistent winner, trade whoever can bring value to this organization.

  • Fastball

    We are in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t state. Sell off all our pitching or keep our pitching and try to put together a better team for another year until our good players come up. It’s a 50/50 on the heart strings. I suppose if we make trades for pitching that we just put those prospects in the bigs and let them develop in the Majors. Maybe they do okay. If they don’t right off we just remain patient with them as they gain some experience knowing that the light bulbs will come on at some point. You could even do that with Baez and Soler. Just let them play and not get all wigged out when they stumble at times. Might be time for that approach. At least we will have our best talent to watch on tv every night. I don’t know. Are we out anything if Jackson played CF and Baez played 3B and stuck Soler in RF or vice versa.

    • ColoCubFan

      Years of control over their contracts during their prime.

  • Njriv

    I would love that return for a pitcher like Maholm.

  • Tim

    Watch Volstad turn into Justin Verlander

  • Aaron

    If the Cubs are trading current MLB starters for prospects, they will not be playing the prospects in the big club yet this year. They’re called prospects because they’re not ML ready, and we should never rush development in the minors and let a prospect through to the majors to develop there.

    We could trade a lot of guys for prospects and still back fill from the 40-man roster for this year until guys coming up are ready for ML pitching/batters. The system is still far too thin and weak right now.

    We all want the Cubs to be successful ASAP, but this may take a few years to build. One thing that is really encouraging: Theo & Co are doing this the right way, so that when we do make it to the postseason, or the WS, it won’t be a flash in the pan ordeal. They want the Cubs to win on a long-term basis, or perennially.

    That is worth the wait.

    • scorecardpaul

      Amen brother Amen

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Red Sox blog “Over the Monster” offered a load of bs saying Garza could be traded for RHP Daniel Bard, 1B-3B Travis Shaw, and OF Bryce Brentz. WAT A JOKE!!!!! Bard is a 27 year old arbitration eligible (expensive) awful starter (decent reliever = not much trade value). OF Bryce Brentz value has tanked, not having a good year, hes already 24 years old and not playing well at AA against tougher competition (we are kind of crowded in the OF for prospects anyways), Travis Shaw will have to play 1st base in future (wont have ability to play 3rd) that diminishes his value, and hes a good prospect but nothing special. WAT A JOKE!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Here’s a link: http://www.overthemonster.com/2012/7/23/3177288/matt-garza-boston-red-sox-chicago-cubs-trade-rumors

      That’s pretty much how fans are when proposing trades – Cubs fans do it, too. Overvalue your own, undervalue the other guys’. If you want to know what a fair trade looks like, take a proposed offer like that, and then compare it to one you’d find on a Cubs message board (Middlebrooks/Bradley/Barnes). Then, find something in the middle of the two, and you’ve got an actual, reasonable offer. Neither extreme is particularly useful otherwise.

      Separately, let me add: holy crap Boston fans have a really crummy opinion of Matt Garza. I assume that’s residual Rays hate, and I know he used to be a bit of a hot-head, but clearly they haven’t followed him in the last two years. He’s, like, the best teammate ever.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        Yes very true. Brett, I’m not going to lie I propose lopsided trades in favor of the cubs all the time lol. Its just funny when I take a step back from being a fan and then you realize the overvaluing and undervaluing of other guys. Good point

    • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      Take Brentz and Shaw out and insert Lavarnway and Barnes and then that might be a fair deal. Brentz is wildly overrated IMO.

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Haha uneducated Red Sox fans, they crack me up with these joke trade proposals. I mean I can’t blame them, nobody wants to think about giving up top prospects and fans are always going to propose lopsided trades.

  • Njriv

    @ajcbraves David O’ Brian:
    Also hearing #Braves closer to finalizing trade for a starting pitcher.

    • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

      Hmmm… Is Delgado and Bethancourt for Dempster and Johnson or Baker fair? Maybe throw in Castillo or Cleve if thats what it takes to get that deal done. Bethancourt = Future Star

      • Aaron

        Delgado isn’t too bad either… That’s two of their top prospects there.

        • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

          Agree 100%. I’d like to think Demp for Delgado straight up is fair. Then baker or Johnson and Castillo or Cleve for Bethancourt. Make that a package deal and it could make sense. Now let me admit this, this is all wishful thinking, in no way do I expect this deal to have even been discussed. I try to wish the best for my Cubbies.

    • Njriv

      Jon Heyman โ€@JonHeymanCBS:
      #braves appear close to getting dempster

      • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

        Possibly soon to be a big SQUEAL!?!?!

  • jim

    Fine story on maholm. Looks like the brainiacs might have overplayed their hand on garza tho

  • North Side Irish

    Jon Heyman โ€@JonHeymanCBS
    #braves appear close to getting dempster