After taking three of four against the Phillies coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs are tied for third place in the National League Central with the Brewers at 42-51. The Cardinals are 9.5 games ahead of them in first place and the Reds are only half a game behind in second (first in the Wild Card standings).
That's not much of a change in the two-and-a-half weeks that have passed since I wrote part one of this series. The way this team is playing has changed and, if they can stay hot through the trade deadline, they might not be the sellers we all thought they would be.
How hot do they need to be, though?
Well, if you assume that the Central and Wild Card races will require winning percentages around those of their current leaders (the Cardinals and Reds), then they will need to finish with around 90 wins. In order to do that, they would need to go 48-21 (.696) over their final 69 games.
In other words, it's still a bit of a stretch.
No matter what the case may be, though, the Cubs probably won't become buyers. They're simply in too good of a position to build for the future.
All that's left to determine is if they're going to be outright sellers and who will be going if that happens.
In my mind, there are eight guys who are prime candidates to get moved: Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Xavier Nady, Carlos Silva, and Ryan Theriot.
Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, and Ryan Theriot
Darwin Barney is a very good defender who is holding his own offensively for Triple-A Iowa. He's also five years younger than the trio of Baker, Fontenot, and Theriot and will be under team control for the next six years.
One of the three will have to go to free up his roster spot. Another might have to go if the Cubs want some pop available off the bench that can play first and third.
If none of the three can be traded, someone might be non-tendered this offseason, meaning that the Cubs would get nothing in return.
Fontenot is the best offensive option of the three, Theriot is probably the best defensive option of the three, and Baker offers the most versatility. Fontenot also has three years of team control left while Theriot and Baker have only two.
Who the team trades probably depends on how much personal value they're willing to give up for a return.
Fontenot would likely get the best return in a trade, but would also be the best long-term option to keep. Baker, meanwhile, probably holds the least value for both the Cubs and any potential trade partner.
Derrek Lee and Xavier Nady
Either player could draw interest from a contender looking for a first baseman or designated hitter. They're both on expiring contracts and have a history of hitting well, even if they haven't been great this season.
In all likelihood, at least one of the two will get traded. The team only needs one first baseman and trading either player would open up a spot for Brad Snyder, who continues to tear it up in Triple-A, to be a strong bat coming off the bench and a good defensive option in the outfield.
If the season were to take a nosedive before the trading deadline, I wouldn't be surprised if both players found themselves in different uniforms.
Ted Lilly and Carlos Silva
Ever since Cliff Lee was traded, Lilly's name has been one of the hottest names on the market.
Even if the Cubs stay in contention, with the demand that pitching so often draws, they might get an offer they can't refuse. In that event, they could put Zambrano back in the rotation or try out one (or a couple) of the young guys and hope they don't have to face Ted down the stretch or in the playoffs.
Silva, on the other hand, isn't going to land a great package like the Cubs' lefty. But he might also get traded, even with the team contending, if a good enough deal comes along.
Obviously, the team won't trade both if they're contending, but Silva is a younger and cheaper option that barely ever walks anyone. If the team slides out of contention soon enough, it's completely within the realm of possibility that both pitchers get moved and two young pitchers would get a shot at the rotation.
Fukudome just hasn't lived up to the expectations that a four-year, $48 million contract creates.
He's been a good defender in the outfielder and he's drawn more than his share of walks, but his second half struggles have been bad enough to erase all the good that his hot starts had done.
In some ways, you could even consider this his worst year yet.
He's drawing walks at the lowest rate of his short career, has the lowest batting average of his career, and, according to FanGraphs' UZR ratings, is having his worst defensive year also.
His contract and well-established second half struggles will only hurt his value and force the Cubs to decide between paying more of his contract, getting fewer prospects in return, or waiting until the offseason to trade him.
I'm sure that there are other names that Cubs fans wanted to see on here, but there are more moves that will have to be made. They just have to wait until the timing's right.
For some, that will be this offseason. For others, it will be next season. The rest need to just start playing better.
Soon enough we'll see who's going and who's staying, but these eight are easily the most likely to be dealt before the deadline.
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