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Six-game streak turns Cubs into aggressive buyers as deadline looms

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer

ATLANTA — The Cubs just swept the Braves, fresh off of sweeping the Orioles.

With an 8-2 victory over the Braves on Wednesday, the Cubs have a season-high six-game winning streak since the All-Star break, and their starting pitchers have suddenly started looking like last year’s dominant rotation.

The big question: Where do they go from here?

And the short answer: shopping.

After making their big trade of the season last week for left-hander Jose Quintana, the Cubs’ brass said they wanted to see how the team played out of the break before deciding how aggressive to get at the trade deadline for pieces dedicated to this year’s playoff push.

Consider the Cubs aggressive buyers with less than two weeks before the July 31 deadline.

“We’ll be on the lookout for a bunch of different things,” said general manager Jed Hoyer after watching his team reduce the first-place Brewers’ lead in the division from 5½ games to 1½, after the Brewers’ 3-2 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday night.

“We had struggled coming into the break. We’ve obviously played well [since],” he said. “We’ll get in a room for the 10 days as we get closer to the deadline and we’ll look at all those options.”

Keep an eye on Tigers catcher Alex Avila, among several Cubs targets as they look to shore up a very young catching corps, and on relievers to add to an already high-performing bullpen. And they’ll continue to shop the starting pitching market — even kicking the tires on former Cub Jeff Samardzija, who’s now a big-ticket, innings-horse starter for the Giants.

Cubs insiders say they don’t expect another blockbuster; they’re not going to top Quintana by the end of the month, and don’t have the marquee prospect left to pull it off anyway without trading from the big-league roster. And they’re not likely to do that.

But sellers have shown interest in several attractive prospects still in the system, and the front office is ready to deal -after watching their defending World Champion finally start looking like one.

“We already were aggressive,” Hoyer said, referring to the five-player Quintana trade, which was as much about the 3½ years left on a team-friendly contract than immediate gratification. “Now you feel differently going out and trying to add pieces to a team that’s come out here and gone [6-0] to start [since] the break. The way we’re playing, it gives us more reason to think about what else we can do to supplement the roster.”

Hoyer won’t talk about specific targets or players the Cubs are -willing to move.

But the Cubs are casting a wide net to make sure they don’t get caught flat-footed after the deadline with depth in case of injury or a performance decline.

“Once you get past July 31, if you have injuries, now you really have to handle them internally,” Hoyer said. “So focusing on depth and focusing on making sure you have enough pieces as you cross that threshold [is key]. August deals happen, but they’re harder to make.”

Hoyer would not rule out trading somebody off the major-league roster but, like team president Theo Epstein a few days earlier, stressed a “strong preference” to avoid that.

“We’re certainly not looking to sell low on members of our core, and we hope in fact to keep it intact if possible and win more World Series with this group,” Epstein said.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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