It comes as no surprise that the Chicago Cubs are struggling this season. After finishing last season 71-91 and firing General Manager Jim Hendry in August, the Cubs were able to sign Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and hire Jed Hoyer for their General Manager position.
Despite Epstein and Hoyer not directly saying it, many Cubs fans understood that not only was the 2012 season going to be a rebuilding year, but more than likely the next few years to come. Epstein and Hoyer are known for their ability to scout young talent and are looking to build their team from the ground floor up.
With a minor league system that could use some work, they will likely be looking to upgrade their team for the future, if it requires getting rid of somebody now. An article by USA Today's Bob Nightengale claimed that:
"The Cubs are letting teams know that nearly everyone but starter Jeff Samardzija is available, two high-ranking team officials told USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of competitive reasons."
Despite Starlin Castro not being named untouchable, it is unlikely Castro would be dealt, unless the team is blown away by an offer for the 22 year old.
With the exclusion of Castro, here is my list of the five Cubs most likely to get traded before the trade deadline.
For much of the 2012 season, the Cubs bullpen has been nothing short of a disaster. One of the lone bright spots for the Cubs bullpen this season has been the strong showing by veteran reliever, Shawn Camp.
Camp was a Spring Training invitee and was perceived as a long shot to make the squad. Camp has been relied upon heavily, already appearing in 24 of the Cubs' first 40 games this season. Cubs' manager Dale Sveum has had high praise of Camp saying:
"We put him in all these different roles and the way he gets out left handed hitters. The fact of the matter is he is probably our MVP up to this point.”
Sveum may have been a bit caught up in the moment but during Camp's 27 innings of work, he has an ERA of 2.67 and a WHIP of 1.15 and has pitched very well against left-handers, holding them to a .200 batting average.
Camp would likely only be able to bring in a mid-level prospect at best, but given his effectiveness so far this season, as well as his experience, a team that has a hole to fill in its bullpen could greatly benefit from a guy like Camp.
Whenever the name Alfonso Soriano comes up amongst Cubs fans, they often have more than one disparaging remark to give. Many see the amount of money he is making this season ($18 million) and feel he has never quite lived up to that salary.
During the first two years of Soriano's deal, he batted around .289 and cranked out 62 home runs, leading the way towards back-to-back division titles for the Cubs. Despite his stolen base totals decreasing, he was exactly the player that the Cubs were expecting to get. Soriano's numbers have steadily declined in recent years, but he still has the ability to hit around 25 home runs a year.
Soriano struggled the first two months of the season, batting .237 with no home runs and just 11 runs batted in. In the month of May, he has started heat up, batting .290 with seven home runs and 17 runs batted in.
It is unlikely that any team would be willing to trade for Soriano without the Cubs picking up the majority of the remainder of his contract.
With the $18 million Soriano is making this season, coupled with the $32 million he has left on his deal, the Cubs will have to think long and hard before eating that money, but if they can find a suitor, get a prospect or two and open up a spot in the outfield, then the deal would ultimately be worth it.
After years of being stuck in the minor leagues, 29-year-old Bryan LaHair finally got his chance to be an everyday player for the Cubs.
So far this season, LaHair is batting .308 with 10 home runs and 22 runs batted in. LaHair is second in the National League amongst first basemen to only Joey Votto in OBP and OPS.
LaHair was red hot in the month of April, finishing with a .390 batting average. He has cooled off in the month of May, batting just .253 as more pitchers are learning the best way to pitch to him.
If LaHair continues to play the way he has, it is a strong possibility he could make the All-Star team. With Anthony Rizzo waiting in the wings to take over the first base position, it is plausible that the Cubs could shop LaHair.
LaHair has been a solid fielder and could offer support as an everyday first baseman. He could also be viewed by AL teams as a possible DH.
LaHair's age will likely reduce the possibility of the Cubs gaining a top prospect, but if his batting average and power numbers continue to increase, anything is possible.
The one thing almost every contending team in the major leagues could use is more starting pitching. Since Ryan Dempster's jump from bullpen to the starting rotation in 2008, he has averaged 33 starts per season with an ERA of 3.82.
In Dempster's nine starts this season, he has an 0-3 record, but boasts a 2.90 ERA. His poor record stems from the fifth worst run support average in the league, just 3.97 a game.
Dempster is currently in the final year of a four year/$52 million deal. Given Dempster's age (35), it would be unlikely to think he would be an integral part of the Cubs moving forward. Many teams will be looking for help in their rotation, and Dempster could be a top three starter for many teams in the league.
Dempster's age will reduce the level of prospects expected to get in a trade, but if he continues to pitch well, a desperate team may offer a higher level prospect than initially expected.
At 28 years old, Matt Garza is in the prime of his career.
Garza's first season in Chicago ended with a 10-10 record with a 3.32 ERA. So far this season, Garza is 2-3 with a 4.22 ERA.
Although his numbers haven't quite shown it in his time in Chicago, Garza is still considered one of the best pitchers in the league. With a no-hitter and an American League Championship Series MVP award with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 under his belt, his postseason experience is a major plus for teams interested in him.
Garza likely would command the best prospects of those on this list and rightfully so. Garza is still arbitration eligible for one more season and was once a dominating pitcher in the difficult AL East.
Despite Garza being the perfect fit for a young rebuilding club, the level of prospects he could garner in return almost makes a trade of him inevitable.