We're just under six weeks away from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. At this point, many teams are still attempting to determine whether or not they're buyers or sellers, and the addition of a second Wild Card in each league has made that a longer process than it was in the past. However, ESPN's Buster Olney has spoken to rival evaluators who have said that the Cubs are "open for business" and ready to sell (ESPN Insider required and recommended).
The Cubs are 13 games below .500 and 17 games out of first place in the National League Central as of this morning, so their stance is a clear one. Nate Schierholtz, Kevin Gregg, Scott Feldman, David DeJesus (when healthy), Alfonso Soriano, James Russell and Matt Garza are the names that figure to be on the trading block as the Cubs field calls, writes Olney. His piece also includes much more info on potential matches for the Cubs and which divisions may be the first to become active on the trade front.
My take on the Cubs' situation: Being the first team to sell pieces has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, the Cubs will have more teams to work with at this juncture. Early in the trading season, with so few teams ready to declare themselves sellers, buyers will have few other places to turn. Trading for a player like Garza or Feldman right now would give the acquiring team an extra few starts from the pitcher they're trading precious prospects for. Acquiring a position player in late June as opposed to late July could mean an extra 20 to 30 games out of that player.
On the flipside of the coin, teams may not be as desperate right now as they would be in the final hours leading up to the deadline. Oftentimes, big deals go down with just hours or minutes to go before the trade deadline, as teams have decided that one final push is worth the risk. Recent examples of July 31 blockbusters include both Hunter Pence trades, the Ubaldo Jimenez trade and the White Sox's acquisition of Jake Peavy. Each of these deals included high-profile prospects being exchanged for star-caliber players, though obviously not all of them worked out.
Injuries can also occur in the next month that would make buyers out of teams who are currently not looking. Conversely, one of the Cubs' trade chips could incur an injury, which would leave president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer one less piece to work with.
Selling pieces early takes away some of the "desperation" leverage from the Cubs, but it also will likely increase their number of suitors, creating more competition for their players. Epstein and Hoyer will have to determine how to walk that line over the next several weeks as they look to build toward the future.