Will Dempster be dealt before the trade deadline?

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Will Dempster be dealt before the trade deadline?

Its no secret the Cubs are in a select group of sellers as Major League Baseballs non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

Its also no secret the Cubs prize possession -- right-hander Ryan Dempster -- would be a tremendous addition to any club vying for a playoff spot.

The problem is, with so many teams in contention because of the additional wildcard position, the Cubs arent sure which ones are in position to pull the trigger on a trade before July 31.

When you look at the standings right now, they are so jumbled up, General Manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday prior to the Cubs game against Arizona at Wrigley Field. There are certainly fewer teams that dont feel like they can make a run at that second wildcard than in (past) years.

Dempsters name continues to be bandied about regarding the trade rumors. Dempster makes his second start since a stint on the disabled list today, bringing a 27-inning shutout streak to the mound. Thats the longest shutout stretch for a Cubs starter since 1971 when Ken Holtzman also went 27 consecutive innings.

Hoyer said management hasnt kept him in the loop for any potential trades, instead allowing Dempster to concentrate on his pitching.

Hes very focused on getting through the injury, he pitched well in New York (in a 7-0 victory over the Mets), and hes focused on today, Hoyer said. Hes been pitching and pitching well for the Cubs. When the time comes and we (need to) loop him in, well do that. But he wants -- and we want him -- to focus on pitching well.

Hoyer added Dempster wanted to get back into the rotation as quickly as possible after going on the DL with right lat tightness.

He wants to be out there, and he wants to be a part of this, Hoyer said.

Despite the Cubs improved play of late, Hoyer is realistic about where the team sits. Chicago enters today 34-52, fifth in the NL Central and 14 games out of first. The Cubs are also 13 games behind the second wildcard position.

We made our bed, Hoyer said. That doesnt mean were not happy with how theyve been playing. Its really nice to see a lot of clean games. Were much better offensively. I give the them a lot of credit. When a team is struggling the way we did for a month and half or so, its hard to stay upbeat.

Still, its hard to ignore the Cubs are sellers regardless of the improvement.

Its not a position you want to be in, Hoyer said. Its frustrating because that means your record isnt very good, and it also means the players that are being asked about are good players. Neither one of those is a positive. When youre in this situation you want to do whats best for the organization. You just hope youre not in this position very often.

Joe Maddon hints Cubs could have spot starter soon

Joe Maddon hints Cubs could have spot starter soon

Joe Maddon hinted that the Cubs could have a spot starter soon to give his regular five some rest.

The Cubs manager said it's "possible" the player could start as early as Sunday in the Cubs' series finale against the Seattle Mariners.

Maddon would not confirm who the pitcher would be, but he said the move will happen within the organization and not via trade.

"As we’ve talked about all along, attempting to try to give our regular five a rest in a particular moment, so we’re considering doing something right now," said Maddon on Saturday. "We’re not ready to announce it yet just to be honest, but we are considering."

Prior to the All-Star break, Maddon gave Adam Warren — who has since been traded to the New York Yankees as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade — a spot start to give his starters an extra day's rest.

As the second half of the season slowly winds down, Maddon knows how important rest will be moving forward, especially with the Cubs bound to be playing in October.

"When you get the opportunities, take advantage of it," he said.

Cubs starters hold a 3.24 ERA on the season, which is tied with the Washington Nationals for the league's best.

Kyle Hendricks leads the team and also has the third-best ERA in the MLB with 2.39.

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets day off vs. Mariners

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo gets day off vs. Mariners

Anthony Rizzo isn't in the lineup on Saturday afternoon as the Cubs battle the Seattle Mariners.

The Cubs first baseman is getting the day off. 

"He’s really been needing a day, so it just turned out really well for today," said manager Joe Maddon. "Day game and then a night game tomorrow actually gives him more of an extended time to rest. We rely on him so heavily all the time. It was just the right thing to do today."

Willson Contreras will be his replacement for the day.

Saturday is the first regular-season day off for Rizzo since June 5 — and first since the All-Star break nearly three weeks ago. 

“I think it’s important to give them time off, I really do," Maddon said. "I think it’s really unrealistic to expect high-end performance by pushing someone to 162 games. ...A guy like Rizz, maybe he needs five or six plus for regular off days in a year to really be productive consistently."

Maddon also stressed the fact that he wants to keep his players healthy and not overwork them.

"I don’t want to wait til a guy who gets hurt to need a day off," Maddon said. "I’d rather be proactive with that. I put out the feelers yesterday to ask around who’s going to be needing a day. So I have other ideas coming up possibly, but for today it was absolutely the right thing to do for Rizz."

Rizzo is batting .214/.250/.464 in 14 games after the break. His 24 homers and 79 RBIs are among the league's best.

Rizzo has missed three games this season, two of which were due to back stiffness.

"I think it’s wise to be proactive, physically and mentally to give them their rest," Maddon said. "I think you’re going to get a sharper performance on a more consistent basis."

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

Cubs battle rain, explode for blowout over Mariners

A little rain Friday couldn't dampen the Cubs' spirits as they welcomed the Seattle Mariners into town.

The Cubs offense rudely greeted their American League opponent en route to a 12-1 victory at Wrigley Field that included a 74-minute rain delay after the game was well in hand.

As the Cubs have gone through a little offensive lull over the last week or so, they've maintained they need to take what's given to them from opposing pitchers and try not to do too much.

They did that and a whole lot more Friday afternoon, giving the announced crowd of 40,951 fans a lot to stand up and cheer about all game.

"Just a really well-played game," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We pitched well, we played well, we did everything well. After a really hard-fought series with the White Sox, it was kinda nice to play a game like that today."

Chris Coghlan — just activated off the disabled list Friday morning — got things started with a two-out, two-run single in the second inning and then came around to score on Kris Bryant's single.

Jason Heyward added a two-run homer in the fifth inning and the Cubs then touched up the Mariners bullpen for six runs in the sixth inning, including a three-run double from Anthony Rizzo and a solo homer from David Ross.

In all, the Cubs rapped out 14 hits and walked six times. Bryant led the way with three hits and a pair of walks.

"These days are great," Ben Zobrist said. "It's a mental breather for everybody. When you get up early in the game like that, you allow the pitcher to have some breathing room.

"... I think all across the board as a team, it's a real feel-good win."

It was all the offense starter Jon Lester needed, as he tossed six shutout innings with seven strikeouts for his 11th victory on the season.

"I felt actually a lot better than I have here recently," Lester said. "Still two pointless, useless walks out there. Still trying to clean that up for whatever reason.

"But at the end of the day, we win. That's what you want to do. Guys swung the bats really well. I try to always tell them: 12 runs and an airtight defense makes the pitcher's job a lot easier."

Lester even got in on the offensive onslaught, drawing a walk and scoring a run in that sixth inning explosion. 

With the Cubs up big, Joe Maddon opted to take out Lester for the top of the seventh after 95 pitches, giving way to Justin Grimm and former Mariner Mike Montgomery for the final three innings.

The game got so out of hand, the Mariners brought in infielder Luis Sardinas to pitch the eighth inning (and he promptly retired Addison Russell, Heyward and Javy Baez in order).

The lopsided score also helps the Cubs' new bullpen, giving Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop the day off.

The Cubs have looked like a different team since the All-Star Break, with their starting rotation once again leading the National League in ERA (2.60) in the second half.

The Cubs also haven't lost a series since before the All-Star Break, taking two of three from the Rangers, Mets and Brewers before splitting a four-game set with the White Sox.

"I think to a certain degree, yes [we have gotten our mojo back since the break]," Zobrist said. "It gave us the rest that our staff needed to get back to the kind of staff that they are and our hitters — we've struggled a little bit coming out of the All-Star Game.

"But today was a good day to kinda bust through with a lot of runs early. Hopefully there's some more games like that to come."