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Who are Cubs likeliest to be traded?

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TONIGHT

Cubs at PIRATES

The facts: 6:05, CSN+, 720-AM.

The pitchers: Ryan Dempster (0-2, 2.28 ERA) vs. A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78).

The rest of the series

Saturday: 6:15 p.m., Fox-32,
720-AM. Paul Maholm (4-3, 4.73) vs. Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.50).

Sunday: 12:35 p.m., Ch. 9,
720-AM. Matt Garza (2-2, 3.72) vs. Erik Bedard (2-5, 3.52).

Updated: July 3, 2012 10:05AM



PITTSBURGH — As hard as it might be to recall, the Cubs were in first place on Aug. 7, 2009.

Then Carlos Zambrano said he couldn’t pitch, the bullpen lost to the Colorado Rockies that day, the Cubs fell six games back in a week and a half and they’ve been 49 games under .500 since that day.

They’ve spent three days with a winning record since that season ended — 2½ considering they got to 9-8 in 2011 on the last of those days before losing the second game of a doubleheader.

The Cubs haven’t been buyers since that 2009 summer (such as their limited buying power was at the trade deadline that year). This year, they’ve been sellers since the offseason, and once the June draft is over in two weeks, they could be every buyer’s first call.

Officials from other teams say they had a list that ran 12 deep of players the Cubs made available at the winter meetings in December, including, obviously, those who have since been traded (Sean Marshall, Zambrano, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu).

Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, Randy Wells, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt also made the list.

All of those and more could wind up in trade talks within weeks. It would take an exceptional offer, however, to get Garza, who’s more likely an extension candidate barring a blow-them-away package of prospects.

For now, the likeliest players to be moved by the worst team in the majors once the early-bird sale sign goes up:

 RYAN DEMPSTER: With dramatic changes to the way free-agent draft compensation is awarded under the new collective-bargaining agreement, the Cubs have no financial/business incentive in a season like this to keep their Opening Day starter and clubhouse leader through the end of the ­final year on his contract.

That doesn’t mean he couldn’t come back next year if he’s willing to offer a steep discount from his $14 million salary. But to get compensation for him if he becomes a free agent after staying all year, the Cubs would have to offer him a one-year deal worth at least the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball this year (close to $12.5 million). Then he would have to turn it down and sign elsewhere with that team facing the likelihood of losing its first-round pick. He could be the first Cub traded when the trade winds start blowing. One wrinkle: Dempster has full no-trade rights. But he also has sold his Chicago home and likely won’t stand in the way of a chance to pitch for a contender and to help the organization.

 CARLOS MARMOL: He hasn’t done anything to help his trade value, nor does a contract that runs for another year at $9.8 million in 2013. But that strained hamstring has looked good in rehab work this week, and if the Cubs can get a couple of weeks of dominant, knee-buckling Carlos, this is the time to move him. The trade-deadline market for closers might be at an all-time high.

GEOVANY SOTO: The 2008 All-Star starting catcher and Rookie of the Year is another health concern as he recovers from minor knee surgery. But Tampa Bay and Washington have had catchers go down, and when healthy, he could help a contender. At $4.3 million this year and arbitration-eligible again next winter, he’s not in the Cubs’ long-term plans.

 ALFONSO SORIANO: Wishful thinking? Probably. But he has played defense like a reborn fielder, his power is starting to show again and the Cubs are willing to pick up a massive amount of the $48 million left on the deal (through 2014).

 JEFF BAKER/BLAKE DEWITT: Not that the Cubs feel urgency to move either utility guy, but they’re the kind of players that a budget-conscious buyer could find useful, and if it means a decent prospect in return for either, it’s an ideal Cubs fit.



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