By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — As Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer prepares for a torrid eight days of trade talks, baseball’s best and brightest descended on Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. Some of the most well-known scouts in the game were watching two clubs in the Cubs and Padres that will trade just about any player in the right deal.
Eleven top scouts were in town to formulate last-minute recommendations for their bosses. The non-waiver trading deadline is at 3 p.m. CST on July 31. At the top of the Cubs’ list of available players is Emilio Bonifacio, a versatile infielder/outfielder who was out with an oblique strain before returning to the active roster Tuesday. The Kansas City Royals, one of his former teams, are desperate for a lead-off man who can steal bases and score runs.
“We are all looking for hitting, speed and bullpen help,” a grizzled veteran of 50 years in scouting said. “We all need run producers this time of year. Hey, you look at those National League lineups and the last three guys — and on some clubs four guys — are automatic outs. You see Bonifacio as a player who can get hot and help you set the table for producing runs.”
When asked, Hoyer wasn’t thrilled with the question of moving up the timelines on Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. In order to even consider that path, veterans like Bonifacio, Justin Ruggiano, Nate Schierholtz and James Russell must be dealt. If Bonifacio stays healthy a few days, he will bring back a solid minor league player or two.
“Moving pieces like we did is not always ideal,” Hoyer said. “It does allow us to move young pitchers like Kyle Hendricks up and pitch.”
Trading can continue after Aug. 1, but that’s a tricky proposition. When players are claimed after that date, other teams might tell you to keep the guy and get nothing in return. The White Sox picked up Alex Rios that way in 2010. Chicago claimed Rios and after haggling about players, and Toronto let Rios and his $60 million contract walk. The buyer (or in this case the claimer) must beware of the salary dump like the Rios deal.
Cubs brass is hoping this is the last year of player and cash dumping at the deadline.
“We will be active in both,” Hoyer said of deadline deals and post-July 31 waiver claims. “We will try to be opportunistic, if something makes sense for us, going forward in August as well.”
Cub fans did get some good news Tuesday, as Arismendy Alcantara will be in the lineup on a daily basis after Darwin Barney was designated for assignment. Manager Rickey Renteria confirmed the young talent will either play the outfield or second base throughout the final 64 games of the 2014 campaign.
Hoyer wouldn’t delve into whether Kris Bryant or Javier Baez will make the big show this year. Baez has been switched to second base for some games at Triple-A Iowa, and Bryant may start playing a little right field there as well. Bryant played some center field at the University of San Diego.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.