By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Aug. 1 trading deadline is two months away, but teams like the Chicago Cubs have their people out looking at would-be talent right now.
The proactive Chicago front office has had scouts out for more than a month, checking out major and minor league players for possible deals. Although June 1 is an early juncture of the season, the Cubs are prepared at any point to add if the situation presents itself.
“It’s still really early,” general manger Jed Hoyer said.
“We made what we thought were early deals two years in a row. Those trades were in early July. This is June 1. It’s still really early. We are doing are due diligence. We are working hard and scouting the players that may become available. It is still exceptionally early in the trade season for anything.”
After an inconsistent start to the season, left-handed reliever Clayton Richard (8.00 ERA in 16 appearances) appears to be on the bubble moving forward. Taking the loss on Tuesday doesn’t mean Richard is being moved out at this moment, but it appears the Cubs will try to add a stud left-handed setup man or closer before the non-waiver trade deadline expires.
The Yankees are holding the key components to a couple of teams’ futures with left-handed power arms Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Chapman will become a free agent in November. Miller has the rest of this season and two more at $9 million annually.
The Cubs bullpen is well-rested and dependable as the one-third pole of the season passes. You would expect Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to be in a position of strength going into the trading season.
“In this game, you try to keep a pretty even keel,” Hoyer said about the tentative situations teams face due to injury and attrition.
“You always try to make sure you are always ready at every position. That way if you have to make a move, you have your people in place and what phone calls you have to make.”
The Yankees aren’t in trade mode at this point. With a veteran club and below-average starting pitching, it appears it will be “when” rather than “if” the Yankees trade some veteran talent for younger players under long contract control.
So for now, the Cubs wait out the market.
“Our pitching staff has been excellent,” Hoyer said. “You are always going to need a lot of pitching to get through a season. We expect that is something we will continue to address throughout the year.”
The Cubs have the second-fewest save opportunities in baseball this season. They’re 10 of 13 in save chances so far. That’s a product of numerous blowout wins and the best run differential in baseballat plus-128.
“We were terrific at the end of last season with those two guys as our bullpen left-handed pitchers,” Hoyer said of Richard and Travis Wood.
“I expected Clayton to get through that inning (Tuesday). It has not really clicked for him this year. He did it in the playoffs last year, and we know he can do it again.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.