McKnight: Cubs likely to focus on pitching trades
It's less than two weeks until the trading deadline. Thirteen days, to be exact. A handful of teams will still take some time to decide if they're sellers, just how much they're willing to sell, and whether the market is right to flip assets now or wait until the offseason.
This year, the Cubs won't be working through that kind of analysis. They can add.
It seems more and more likely, however, that anything this team adds will be of the middling variety. Major league average type of guys. The reigns will be pulled back just a bit and the Cubs will resist throwing top prospects at teams hoping for the hottest rental property.
No, they'll let the Dodgers go hard after Johnny Cueto.
If it's possible, the Cubs seem even more set on acquiring pitching than before the All-Star break. With Kyle Schwarber back in the big leagues, the Cubs have added their bat. They've also taken him out of any kind of trade talks.
In all likelihood, the Cubs are out of the Cole Hamels extravaganza, which may not even happen.
In years past, when the Cubs were looking to acquire assets through the free agent market they could later trade, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have added a certain type of pitcher. Essentially, because they were looking to buy low and sell high, they grabbed guys whose peripheral numbers indicated more success than perhaps his ERA would allow you to believe.
So, in the spirit of guessing along with the manager during a game, I've taken a look through the rosters of some decided "sellers" and tried to suss out who might fit the description. In the interest of space, I've boiled it down to starters with inflated ERAs but steady FIPs.
It's a tough market out there. No one wants Kyle Lohse's 6.17 ERA when it's tied to a 4.85 FIP. While the Brewers would love to shed what's left of his $11 million salary, I doubt anyone wants to pick up the tab.
The Marlins' Dan Haren could be interesting. With a 3.24 ERA married to a 4.14 FIP, Haren could be getting away with a bit. Mat Latos' name has come up as well. His 4.90 ERA and 3.50 FIP fit the bill, too. His last month (5 starts, 32.2 IP, 3.31 ERA) has been worlds better than his first two (9 starts, 42.2 IP, 6.12 ERA), but Latos comes with baggage.
Two more names pop up. Scott Kazmir's rebirth in Oakland has plenty of teams sniffing around. With at 2.49 ERA and a 3.18 FIP, he's not a case study here -- he's just plain good. The price might be doable.
The other name is a familiar one. Jeff Samardzija holds a 4.08 ERA and a 3.60 FIP in 19 starts with an awful White Sox defense behind him. While I don't think a reunion is likely, he fits the thesis.
While it would be entertaining to watch the Cubs make a splash, the more prudent route is restraint. This club has so much growing to do that pulling a big piece, or pieces, of the future would be hard to justify.
• Connor McKnight can be heard regularly on WGN 720-AM and is a cohost of The Beat, the station's sports talk show on the weekends. Follow him on Twitter @McKnight_WGN