Cubs GM Jed Hoyer expects trade talks to heat up

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer expects trade talks to heat up
July 29, 2014, 10:45 pm
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The Cubs won’t have the same trade-deadline drama after pulling off the Fourth of July blockbuster that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s.

Good timing with all the rumors flying about Jon Lester, David Price and Cole Hamels. So while Cubs executives will keep sending text messages and making phone calls, it won’t be the same adrenaline rush.

“It’s probably a little bit less pressure-packed,” GM Jed Hoyer admitted Tuesday while being surrounded by reporters at Wrigley Field. “There would be a lot more pressure to get a deal, especially with the number of starting pitchers currently on the trade market.”

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It only felt like this game would last until Thursday’s 3 p.m. non-waiver deadline. It ended at 1:33 a.m. Wednesday after the Cubs outlasted the Colorado Rockies and earned a 4-3 victory in 16 innings, winning the longest game in franchise history at six hours and 27 minutes.

Edwin Jackson (5.79 ERA) needed 105 pitches to get through four innings, giving up three runs, exposing the bullpen and showing why he essentially has no trade value.

The Cubs will be looking to move super-utility guy Emilio Bonifacio, who’s getting hot at the right time and can be a switch-hitting leadoff spark and play all over the field. Bonifacio almost went for the cycle and is batting .400 (14-for-35) in eight games since coming off the disabled list (oblique strain).

The San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners have been among the teams tracking the Cubs. A club source sensed all was quiet for the moment, knowing things could still change in a hurry. It’s almost last call, the lights are about to turn on and Hoyer made it sound like the Wrigleyville bar scene.

“You’re sort of trying to find a dance partner on the 30th and 31st,” Hoyer said. “People cast a wide net early and then they sort of hone in on what they think is realistic. As you get towards (Wednesday) evening, people want to make deals and they’re a little more willing to sort of pair up.”

Hoyer predicted Wednesday will be “moving day,” a time for all the contenders to get serious. Only seven games separate four teams in the American League East, and only five games separate four teams in the National League Central. The wild cards are up for grabs.

“People have some reluctance on the last day,” Hoyer said. “You get too close to the deadline and you can kind of cut short your medical process and things like that.”

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Like Bonifacio, outfielder Nate Schierholtz (now hitting .198) and swingman Carlos Villanueva will also become free agents after this season. Lefty relievers are in demand, and James Russell and Wesley Wright are caught in the middle of the rebuild, remaining under club control through 2015.

But the Cubs are recognizing the replacement costs and the value of leadership and continuity, so they seem less inclined to deal Russell, infielder Luis Valbuena and outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan.

“We’ve been pretty aware of moving those guys as we think about how we have to put the team together next year,” Hoyer said. “The free-agent markets are pretty thin now. You can trade a guy that (will be) under club control. (But) unless you’ve got a prospect that can do that same job, all that means is you’re right back on the market this winter, trying to find virtually the same skill set.”

Theo Epstein’s front office also believes no one is untouchable, so it’s hard to believe the Cubs will be quiet, even if nothing will match the fireworks of Samardzija/Hammel.