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Cubs playing like a trade-deadline buyer — without a shopping list

MILWAUKEE — Starting-pitching depth? Bullpen help? A bat?

The Cubs are playing well enough to suggest an aggressive approach by the front office during the trading season, but they’re also playing well enough to make it hard to identify a clear area of need.

‘‘It’s still too early to make that assessment,’’ team president Theo Epstein said Tuesday. ‘‘There are some years where it’s obvious you’re going to go out and you need to make a big move or there’s a certain area you’re going to try to address.

‘‘I think this group, as talented and as deep as we are in most areas, it’s more about observation and maintenance and trying to stay ahead of the depth areas.’’


The Cubs’ bench is balanced and productive. Their bullpen has proved to be deeper than many anticipated with some of the
additions shuttled from the minors, including rookie Randy Rosario, the winner of the series opener Monday against the Brewers.

If anything, it’s the $332 million starting rotation that has been shaky in spots, including walk-prone newcomer Tyler Chatwood and offseason centerpiece Yu Darvish, who struggled early and has been on the disabled list twice.

With sixth starter Mike Montgomery already plugged in for Darvish, the Cubs get thin fast if they need another starter from the system. Top prospect Adbert Alzolay, for instance, has been on the minor-league DL with a strained lat since May 30.

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‘‘We have to really make sure to stay ahead of the starting-pitching depth,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘But that’s really a contingency. It’s not like we’re looking to get someone and force them into the rotation.’’

Sources say the Cubs plan to talk with the Orioles about superstar shortstop Manny Machado once they start shopping him in earnest. But it’s doubtful the Cubs will pursue him with the same kind of urgency as other teams with more pressing needs might.

What seems certain is that the Cubs, who entered play Tuesday having won 12 of their last 15 games, were starting to look like the kind of team (see: 2016) likely to be added to.

‘‘Yeah, added to or don’t mess with a good thing,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘We’ll see how we’re playing. We’ll see what the 25-man roster looks like, who’s feeling good, who’s not feeling good, who’s playing well, who’s not playing well.

‘‘We’re trying to win the World Series. If we’ve played up to our capabilities, then you look to try to tweak some things here and there to eliminate all the possible things that could go wrong that could get in your way.’’