October 1, 2014
PHOENIX — A large group of scouts already had filled two tables in the dining room at Chase Field when four more walked through the door about an hour before the Cubs’ game Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
‘‘This is a big game,’’ one said with a smile.
Two teams that entered the series in last place in their divisions put what was left of their wares on display for three days in the same showroom.
It doesn’t get any bigger than that for would-be contenders in the two weeks between the All-Star Game and the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.
And the players in the Cubs’ clubhouse feel it as acutely as they do the 108-degree temperatures in Phoenix, even in the relative quiet since the blockbuster trade July 4 that sent their top two pitchers to the Oakland Athletics.
‘‘It wouldn’t surprise anybody if something else happened,’’ said second baseman Darwin Barney, who might be on the brink of Cubs extinction with second-base prospect Arismendy Alcantara already on the roster and Class AAA prospect Javy Baez recently moved to second. ‘‘There’s a lot of time left [before the deadline] and a lot of teams that still want to add, and we’re a team they could add from.’’
The San Francisco Giants are looking for a second baseman, and Barney’s Gold Glove and West Coast roots might make him a good fit there.
Lefty reliever James Russell has drawn the most interest among the Cubs on the sale shelf, and many expect him to be the next player traded. Lefty reliever Wesley Wright, right-hander Carlos Villanueva and outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Nate Schierholtz also are in play, and sources say several teams are interested in infielder Luis Valbuena.
‘‘All I know is what everybody else knows by [reading] trade rumors and what I see on TV,’’ Russell said. ‘‘I’d like to hang out here. I like it here. This is all I know. I’m comfortable here. That goes a long way. But if I do go, I hope it’s for the better of the team and the organization, and I’d like to at least go to a winning team.’’
The Cubs dealt their top two trade chips in the four-for-two swap with the Athletics that sent right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. The Cubs entered play Saturday 2-9 since making that deal.
Some of the most value the Cubs figure to get in trades the rest of the way will come in the form of roster flexibility for potential prospect promotions and salary savings to add to their spending ability in 2015.
If there’s a coup left to pull off, it would be finding an opportunity to trade right-hander Edwin Jackson and a chunk of the $26 million left on a contract that runs through 2016.
And a narrow window of opportunity might be open because of the pitching misfortune suffered by the New York Yankees, who have the financial muscle and are close enough to the top of the American League East to make a deal possible.
‘‘You’ve seen crazier things happen,’’ said Jackson, who has been traded six times in his career. ‘‘Anybody can be a candidate to be traded. . . . As a player, you can’t really worry about what you can’t control.’’
The Cubs were at the same ballpark when they traded right-hander Matt Garza and outfielder Alfonso Soriano in separate deals days apart last season.
‘‘Nothing surprises me,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘You try to kind of prepare for everything. . . . But at this point in time, I don’t try to speculate.’’