theo epstein and jed hoyerChicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer hopes the Cubs’ play over the next couple months will give the organization reason to be buyers, at long last, rather than sellers this year (CSN, Tribune). Isn’t it nice to dream about that possibility? Isn’t it nicer to realize that the dream is probably closer to reality than fantasy?

As we get way ahead of ourselves and start thinking about where the Cubs could buy – should the needs remain the same in two months as they are today – the bullpen sticks out as an obvious need. Certainly the hope is that one or both of Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez are back and contributing by midseason, but you’d feel a whole lot better about things if the Cubs had another solid reliever in the mix. Again, that could change by late June – maybe Zac Rosscup keeps dominating, and/or James Russell comes up from Iowa and is the guy he was a couple years ago, and/or maybe Jason Motte and Gonzalez Germen break out, and/or maybe someone unexpected comes up and surprises (though each of the two most obvious guys – Armando Rivero and C.J. Edwards – are not having great starts to the year), and/or maybe the Cubs get a surprising contribution from a reclamation type.

It’s not the sexiest addition, but, as we sit here today, you’d have to agree that adding a sure-fire reliever looks like the most likely in-season move for the Cubs.

When it comes to sexy additions, it is, of course, possible that the Cubs could look to pick up a big-time starting pitcher. They did, after all, make a run at James Shields late in the offseason, even with all of their current starters in tow.

Right now, I don’t think we’re quite at the point where you’d say there’s a “need” at the back of the rotation, even as Kyle Hendricks has had some so-so starts. Tsuyoshi Wada is still lurking and just about ready for an opportunity if one became available soon, anyway. The rotation is an area that I think we just have to be patient and see more clearly what the needs are in a couple months. And if the right opportunity presents itself, the Cubs might jump.

In the meantime, Gordon Wittenmyer hears that the Cubs have remained in contact with the Phillies about Cole Hamels, someone who is going to be wildly popular this Summer if injuries around the league keep mounting. Mark Gonzales also mentions Hamels as a possible trade target for the Cubs. Hamels cannot block a trade to the Cubs, so that will be something to keep in mind. Still, given the volume of quality pitching available in free agency after this season, given that the Cubs are not going to trade their elite young talent (i.e., the top handful of guys) for a guy on a pricey contract, and given the Cubs’ surplus of next tier prospect talent (much of which is approaching 40-man roster decision time anyway), I still think the rental market is more likely to be the Cubs’ focus this Summer if a pitching need arises. You can’t keep all of the prospects, and utilizing some as assets to make a short-term “purchase” in a potentially competitive season is one of the best ways to use them.

On the positional side, there isn’t an obvious spot of need just yet (at least not one that’s not otherwise filled by a developing youngster), and, as we sit here today, that wouldn’t be the focus of trade efforts. The trades aren’t being made today, though, so we’ll see how the next couple months go.

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