The 2014 Cubs are very similar to the 2013 version in many ways. For one, they're not very good, and they are just biding their time until their top prospects begin to arrive in 2015.
Secondly, they have a solid back-of-the-rotation starter, signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, who is likely to be placed on the trading block barring an injury or disastrous stint. Last year, it was Scott Feldman. This season, it's Jason Hammel.
Feldman proved to be a valuable chip in 2013 after the Cubs signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal in the hopes that he would pitch well and build up his trade value. He did just that, posting a 3.93 ERA in 15 starts before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop last July.
Hammel is in a similar situation. Coming off of a disappointing season with the Orioles, the 31-year-old also received a one-year, $6 million deal from the Cubs. And like Feldman, Hammel is quickly boosting his trade value by pitching very well.
In three starts, the right-hander has a 3.05 ERA with only 10 hits allowed in 20.2 innings pitched to go along with five walks and 16 strikeouts.
Once again, look for the Cubs to try and parlay their one-year investment into a young player or two who can help in 2015 and beyond.