Cubs still playing coy when discussion turns to deadline deal

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For the Sun-Times

In the days leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline next Friday, the Cubs continue to be coy when answering questions about how they will pay for any high-priced talent they might add.

Regardless of whether the Cubs are willing to meet the demands of some prospective trade partners, there are questions about whether they even can engage in talks about certain players. The Cubs have only $5 million in payroll flexibility, -according to sources.

‘‘Our focus is trying to find the best fits for us,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said before the Cubs’ 5-3 loss Friday to the Philadelphia Phillies in 10 innings. ‘‘We have confidence that if a move makes sense, we’ll be able to figure it out financially.’’

That might be an indication that Hoyer thinks the Cubs can strike a deal with a trade partner about how much money that team might be able to send them along with the player. It also might mean the Cubs think they can absorb a trade

financially by moving a player on the major-league roster. If they do so, they could save a prorated amount of that player’s salary.

That might be why shortstop Starlin Castro’s name has surfaced recently in trade rumors.

As for ‘‘the best fit’’ on the field, Hoyer was forthcoming in saying the Cubs’ focus has been on adding pitching depth. He wouldn’t comment about whether the team was more apt to trade for someone such as the Detroit Tigers’ David Price, who will be eligible for free agency after this season, or someone such as the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, who is signed through 2018. The Cubs will face Hamels on Saturday.

Regardless, the Cubs’ hope is that what once was considered to be a seller’s market has softened some. That would benefit the Cubs, who appear unwilling to part with some of their young talent.

Hoyer wouldn’t call anyone untouchable, but he intimated there were players who wouldn’t be leaving under any circumstances.

‘‘There are players that we have an exceptionally strong unwillingness to move, I guess,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘Untouchables is probably never fair. But there are players who are not going anywhere, for sure.’’

Hoyer said the Cubs are ‘‘actively trying to make our team better’’ and indicated they wouldn’t be working the phones as aggressively as they are if they weren’t interested in adding to their roster.

So it appears the front office must decide when in the next week is the most appropriate time to make a trade. Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have proved to be adept at gauging the ebb and flow of the trade market as sellers in recent seasons.

On Thursday, the Oakland Athletics traded left-hander Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros in the first major trade before the deadline. Hoyer said there’s something to be said ‘‘for breaking the ice’’ and indicated the market might open up in the days to come.

‘‘We’re obviously on the phone nonstop, being in communication with everyone,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘It’s too early to say definitively, but we wouldn’t be making as many calls and working as hard as we are if we weren’t trying [to add].’’

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