CLEVELAND – The fact the most eligible pitcher on the trade market – the Phillies’ Cole Hamels – is sidelined for at least one start with a hamstring injury isn’t slowing down the Cubs’ pursuit of a starting pitcher to fill the club’s biggest need.
A major league source said the Cubs have contacted all of the 29 other teams seeking at least a mid-rotation-quality starter capable of falling in behind Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in a Cubs’ playoff rotation – and that a potential deal with the pitching-rich Mets may have been derailed by slugging prospect Javy Baez’s recent hand injury.
Team president Theo Epstein acknowledged this week the Cubs’ search for starting pitching.
Fifth-starter Tsuyoshi Wada was in danger of losing his rotation job until a “badass,” seven-inning start in Wednesday’s 17-0 win in Cleveland. Thursday, Jason Hammel, who has looked like an All-Star most of the season, needed 86 pitches to get through four innings before a long rain delay ended his start – after going five innings in an error-extended start last time out.
And $155 million ace Jon Lester has been up and down this season as he faces the Twins in Minnesota on Saturday.
Even a short-term injury in the rotation could have a dramatic impact on a team that was trying Thursday to move to a season-high eight games over .500 and pick up a game on first-place St. Louis in the National League Central.
Sources say the Cubs are not willing to give up any of their bigger-named prospects – for instance, any of the rookies on the current roster – but are willing to consider most others from a growing pool of other hitting prospects, if it means getting back an experienced starter with multiple years of club control left.
Versatile outfielder Jacob Hannemann, who was promoted this season to Class AA Tennessee, is said to be drawing some interest.
In addition to the Mets, the Cubs also have had multiple conversations with the Los Angeles Angels, sources say.
–Asked whether he had any social media team rules or policies in the aftermath of Boston third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s Instagram benching Thursday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said: “Yeah, just don’t get caught.” He added: “I want them to exercise good judgment. It really is harmless, but it sends out all the wrong messages, especially when you’re not playing well. Just don’t do it.”
– The Cubs officially announced the signing of first-round draft pick Ian Happ, the switch-hitter from the University of Cincinnati. Happ, who agreed to an under-slot $3 million signing bonus close to a week ago, already is in Mesa, Ariz., preparing for a first assignment at Eugene (Ore.) of the short-season-A Northwest League
– MLB announced 72-game suspensions of two Cub minor-league pitchers for testing positive for the steroid Stanozolol. Right-handers Assael Aquino and Luiz Escanio both are members of the Cubs’ Dominican Summer League team, and neither was a highly regarded prospect.
– Right fielder Jorge Soler, who has been on the disabled list since June 2 because of a sprained ankle, is out of the walking boot, and on Thursday did some jogging for the first time since the injury. He suggested a return next week could happen, “maybe.”
–Kris Bryant extended the longest active hitting streak in the majors to 14 games with an infield hit in the fifth inning Thursday.
– The day after the Cubs torched him for six runs in the second inning and a quick knockout, right-hander Shaun Marcum was designated for assignment by Cleveland.