It is no secret that Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer are trying to rebuild the Cubs organization from top to bottom.
With last week's draft, the Cubs selected highly touted high school outfield prospect, Albert Almora. In addition, the Cubs selected 22 pitchers in 42 selections, including a stretch of seven pitchers taken in a row. Epstein and Hoyer have made it known that pitching is the biggest need for this organization.
With a last place record and a group of valuable assets, the Cubs will likely be one of the league's biggest sellers.
The inclusion of an additional playoff team in each league will give teams like the Cubs better options when trying to move players.
With so many teams still in the playoff hunt, the Cubs will not only find more buyers, but they will likely be able to pit some teams against one another in a bidding war. Players like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Shawn Camp, Bryan LaHair, and Alfonso Soriano are likely trade candidates who will give the Cubs plenty of teams calling for their services.
Here is my list of four possible trading partners for the Cubs before the July 31st trade deadline.
An organization synonymous with "winning at all costs," the Yankees are linked to trade rumors year in and year out.
Despite the Yankees leading the American League East, they have never shied away in the past from an opportunity to improve their team.
The Yankees currently lead the league in home runs, but could possibly find a spot for Bryan LaHair. He could occasionally start at first, play some left field or be their DH. If the Yankees wanted to turn back the clock, they could acquire Alfonso Soriano and his newfound hot bat (12 home runs and a .304 batting average in the months of May and June) if the Cubs were willing to pay a majority of the money remaining on his deal ($36 million over the next two years).
The biggest bargaining chip the Cubs have is starting pitcher Matt Garza. At just 28 years old, Garza is in the prime of his career and would likely command a big haul for his services.
Garza was acquired by the Cubs for their 2010 minor league Pitcher of the Year, Chris Archer, along with top level prospect Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielder Sam Fuld, with the latter of the two contributing to the Rays' playoff run last season.
With injuries to starters Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, and Alex Ogando, the Texas Rangers have struggled to find suitable replacements in their rotation. Veteran hurler Roy Oswalt was signed off the street by the Rangers, but he has struggled in his three minor league starts for Class AA Frisco.
The Rangers would not likely be in the running for Garza. With only one year left on his deal, Garza will probably be seeking a long-term contract, something the Rangers will not be able to afford if they plan on re-signing slugger Josh Hamilton.
In 11 starts this year, Ryan Dempster is 2-3 with the league's fourth best ERA (2.31) and opposing batters hitting just .206 off of him. Despite his age (35), Dempster could still command a considerably good prospect from the Rangers.
If the Rangers seek a lesser profile pitcher, Cubs starter Paul Maholm (4-5, 4.91 ERA) could be obtained for a mid-to-late level prospect, but they would be required to pick up the remainder of Maholm's 1-year, $4.75 million deal.
Currently sitting in second place in the American League Central, 1.5 games back of the White Sox, the Cleveland Indians have been a bit of a surprise in a division that was assumed to be dominated by the Detroit Tigers.
With an injury to DH Travis Hafner and with first baseman Casey Kotchman batting just .212 with four home runs, the Indians could look to add to the home run department by acquiring either Soriano or LaHair. LaHair would be the better fit with his abilities to play first base.
Besides struggling to find production from the DH and the first base position, the Indians currently hold the third-worst ERA in the major leagues, a dismal 4.43. Cleveland would be a perfect landing spot for Dempster, who would immediately jump into the rotation as one of the best statistical starters on the team. Though the best ERA amongst its starters belongs to Derek Lowe (3.78).
To the surprise of many, the Baltimore Orioles are currently tied for the third-best record in the American League and are just one game behind the New York Yankees.
A team built around a combination of youth and experience, the Orioles are third in the majors in home runs (85) and 11th in ERA (3.83).
Led by outfielder Adam Jones in both batting average (.307) and home runs (18), the Orioles have garnered most of their offensive production from a collection of players. Much like the Yankees, they too could be in the running for the services of a player like Bryan LaHair, who could split time between first base and DH with Chris Davis.
If the Orioles were willing to take a chance on Alfonso Soriano instead, they could get a player still capable of hitting 25-30 home runs in a division he once starred in.
Soriano and LaHair are not likely to bring back much in return, but being able to move both players would open up the opportunity for playing time for the Cubs top prospects, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.