Carlos Marmol was nearly traded to the Angels.
"Postseason or bust" is the sort of ambition every fanbase wants to hear from its favorite team's front office. As Epstein himself said to reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, there's no reason to bother building a team without setting that kind of goal. Every team aims to play in the postseason.
But realistically, the Cubs aren't going to be one of the National League's five playoff teams this season. The team might avoid 100 losses but will likely finish last in the NL Central now that the Houston Astros have moved to the American League.
That means Epstein will probably try to deal some players away in exchange for prospects the Cubs can continue to build with.
Alfonso Soriano is someone Epstein would surely love to trade, but another team isn't likely to take on the $36 million he's owed over the next two years. But it's more likely that the Cubs will trade off lesser players on the roster.
Here are five players that will probably be deemed expendable by Epstein and the Cubs as the 2013 season progresses.
Had Matt Garza not developed a stress injury in his pitching elbow before last season's non-waiver trade deadline, he wouldn't be on the Chicago Cubs' roster right now.
Plenty of teams showed interest in adding Garza for their playoff drives, including the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Garza was especially sought after by American League teams, since he had experience with the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.
Garza has to show he's fully healthy, of course. But he'll probably have the first three to four months of the season to build up his trade value.
If Garza is effective—showing he can strike out more than eight batters per nine innings, as he has during the past two seasons—he should draw plenty of interest in July.
Cubs president Theo Epstein won't get as much for Garza as he would have last year, since he can be a free agent after the season. But he won't let Garza leave without getting something in return.
The Cubs could try to sign Garza to a contract extension, but at this point, he might be worth more to the team as a trade chip.
Carlos Marmol was almost traded to the Los Angeles Angels after the 2012 season ended. A player can't be much more expendable than that.
The Cubs had a deal in place with the Angels to trade Marmol—and his $9.8 million salary for 2013—for Dan Haren. The trade was eventually called off when the Cubs had reservations about the condition of Haren's hip and back.
Marmol's status on the Cubs' roster looked precarious yet again when the team signed Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year, $9.5 million contract.
It's possible that Fujikawa could be the setup man for Marmol in late innings. But according to reports (h/t Gordon Wittenmyer, Sun-Times), Fujikawa chose the Cubs over the Angels largely because he thought he would be the closer in Chicago.
Marmol will have to demonstrate better control—he averaged 7.3 walks per nine innings last year—for a playoff contender to show serious interest. Additionally, the Cubs will have to eat a significant portion of his salary.
But if he looks like someone who can close out games or get key strikeouts late in the game, Marmol will almost certainly be pitching for another club by August.
After the Cubs decided not to tender Ian Stewart a contract, it appeared that he would have to find employment elsewhere.
But with questions about Josh Vitters' suitability to play in the major leagues—especially defensively—and Luis Valbuena unable to hit very well, the Cubs had a need for a third baseman until Javier Baez is ready to take over at that position.
Baez could be this year's Manny Machado, making the jump from Double-A to the major leagues in the same season. The Baltimore Orioles called up Machado because they needed someone to play third base as they competed for the AL East title and a wild-card playoff spot.
The Cubs very likely won't have that same urgency to call up Baez as they look like a last-place finisher in the NL Central this year. But team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Dale Sveum may ultimately decide that they're a better team with Baez at third base and give him a try.
Stewart may stick around for infield depth, as he can play second base in addition to third. But if he can show anything close to the power he displayed in his early seasons with the Colorado Rockies, another team may be interested in picking him up for a playoff run.
David DeJesus is a reliable piece of the Chicago Cubs outfield for now.
If Brett Jackson hasn't made enough improvements with his swing to be the Cubs' Opening Day center fielder, DeJesus will get the nod at that position. If Jackson plays center field, DeJesus provides a dependable, veteran left-handed bat.
If Jackson emerges as the center fielder and Nate Schierholtz plays well enough to be in the everyday lineup, then DeJesus becomes expendable.
The Cubs would surely rather pay Schierholtz $2 million for 2013 than the $4.25 million they'll owe DeJesus. His $6.5 million option for 2014 likely won't be picked up, and the Cubs will pay him a $1.5 million buyout.
Any team looking for some help in the outfield—especially a left-handed bat—could show interest in DeJesus. He hit .263 with a .753 OPS, 28 doubles, nine home runs and 50 RBI last season. He would come relatively cheaply, too.
The Chicago Cubs likely want to keep Travis Wood after trading reliever Sean Marshall for him last season.
Wood is the sort of pitcher a rebuilding team like the Cubs should stock up on.
He's not eligible for arbitration until 2014, thus putting him under club control for the next three seasons. Wood earned a $505,000 salary in 2012 and will likely stay under $1 million this year.
But that also makes Wood extremely appealing to other MLB teams looking to control costs and take on inexpensive starting pitching.
Wood would be the only left-hander in the Cubs' rotation, which is probably why the team will hang onto him. Though the starting staff seems well stocked, Scott Feldman and Scott Baker were both signed to one-year contracts. Those two are back of the rotation filler, while Wood could fill a key role for the next few seasons.
If and when the Cubs fall out of the race, however, teams looking for left-handed starting pitching may check in on Wood. Though he's young and cheap, Wood could be traded for even younger and cheaper pitching prospects if the Cubs still want to build minor league pitching depth.
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