The Chicago Cubs aren't going anywhere this season, we all know this. A 39-48 record doesn't put you in the Wild Card discussion, and the focus for the North Siders is getting ready to contend later in the decade.
With this in mind, every Cubs game at this time of year turns into an audition of sorts, a tryout for the scouts in play. Tip the caps for Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano, they both passed the eye test in Monday's romp over the crosstown White Sox.
Garza is one of the biggest names on the trade market and he's found his best stride over his last five starts: 37 IP, 24 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 34 K. That's a 0.97 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP, and proof that he's fully healthy again. The 29-year-old righty can become a free agent after the year, and while there's been talk of a possible extension with the Cubs, that's probably just part of the dance. Chicago will listen intently when any Garza bidder phones in. We're expecting a deal before the trading deadline falls.
Fantasy owners are playing Russian Roulette when it comes to this midseason trading business. Spin the spinner, hope to get lucky with the new destination. The Ricky Nolasco owners landed on safe ground, moving from Miami's fishhouse to the soothing, expansive backdrop of Chavez Ravine. Scott Feldman supporters weren't as lucky; the surprising righty shipped to Baltimore and got knocked around by Texas in his second start. That's life in the hitter's league, where the pitchers don't bat and most teams eschew early bunting.
Some NL West contenders have been tied to Garza rumors, which is what fake baseballers want. A full summer with the Cubs would be fine, too. Just keep him out of the American League if at all possible.
Soriano went for a homer and two steals in Monday's laugher, continuing his torrid play of late. He's on a .348 tear with six homers, 12 runs and 15 RBIs over the past two weeks, grading out as the top outfielder in the Yahoo! game over that span. Soriano has trade-blocking rights as a 10-5 man and he didn't want to move to the Giants in the middle of 2012, but he's willing to listen if the Cubs can find an interested party now. If nothing else, his recent play is giving contenders something to think about.
In the case of Soriano, fantasy owners probably don't want a trade to happen. A better club might see Soriano as a platoon option (note how he's crushing lefties but ordinary against righties), and his 2013 stats have a Wrigley Field tilt (though that hasn't always been the case). Nonetheless, a finished deal won't be easy, as the no-trade angle presents an extra hurdle to clear. We're just giving you another what-if scenario to digest with your Tuesday brunch.
• The lone White Sox highlight Monday came from the bat of catcher Josh Phegley; he homered for the second straight day. The recent callup was swinging a hot bat at Triple-A Charlotte (.316/.368/.597, 15 homers) and has a chance to push Tyler Flowers out of the way. It's a case of a midwestern boy making good - Phegley was born in Terre Haute (hiya, Larry) and attended Indiana University. Phegley is owned in just two percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Seattle's baseball fans had a pretty good day Monday. Felix Hernandez received some overdue run support, rolling to his ninth win. The amazing Raul Ibanez knocked another ball into the seats. And scuffling Jeremy Bonderman was finally kicked to the curb, designated for assignment.
We're not looking to pile on Bonderman, but from a fantasy perspective we're excited to see a path cleared for Erasmo Ramirez. The 23-year-old righty passed the eye test during a 59-inning trial in Seattle last year (3.36/1.00, 48 Ks against 12 BB) and he's been solid in eight minor-league turns this season (2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 K/BB). The Mariners have yet to officially declare Ramirez their newest starter, but all logical signs point to him getting the call before Thursday's game against Boston. Heads up: this is a story with mixed-league relevance.
• The Dodgers have to feel pretty good at this stage of the game; for as many potholes as they've hit in 2013, they're a modest 3.5 games out in the paper-thin NL West. And with deep-pocketed and aggressive owners, you have to feel they'll keep exploring moves while trading season moves along.
Alas, the logjam in the outfield is cleared up for a bit. Matt Kemp (shoulder) went on the disabled list Monday, which means Carl Crawford and (especially) Andre Ethier don't have to worry about at-bats. (We all realize Yasiel Puig is going to play.)
Either collected three hits in Monday's victory and while he can't do a thing against lefties, he has a useful .287/.388/.421 line against the nothpaws. You'd like more pop, sure, but Ethier has never been a bad ballplayer - just an overpaid one. He's a possible platoon option for active owners, and he's available in 55 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: For all the relievers the Brewers have, maybe Carlos Gomez should be the closer. Sorry about that, Joey Votto . . . Two baserunning gaffes from Nick Swisher came into play as the Indians fell to Detroit in extra innings. Joaquin Benoit worked out of trouble in the bottom of the tenth, stranding two . . . Juan Francisco picks up some job security with Aramis Ramirez moving to the disabled list. Francisco had two singles and a walk in Monday's victory and qualifies at both corner-infield positions . . . Justin Smoak is on a tidy 12-for-30 binge with four walks and a couple of homers, if you feel like kicking some post-hype tires . . . The most underrated reliever in baseball might be Tampa Bay's Alex Torres: check out these wiffle ball numbers: 25 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 8 BB, 31 K. He picked up the relief win over Minnesota on Monday, and waits for a call in 96 percent of the Y . . . There's an outside chance Derek Jeter could return to the Yankees this weekend, but Curtis Granderson (finger) isn't ready to swing a bat yet . . . The Jeff Francoeur sweepstakes is over: he's reporting to Fresno, the Triple-A affiliate of the Giants. Adjust your travel plans accordingly . . . Dexter Fowler (wrist) should be back with the Rockies on Thursday, after a quick rehab assignment. Troy Tulowitzki (rib) is also considered close to returning . . . With Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) and Shane Victorino (hamstring) both dinged up, the Red Sox might need Jackie Bradley Jr. to return to the club. According to long-time beat reporter Sean McAdam, it's possible Victorino could go back on the disabled list. Daniel Nava got a look in center field Monday and did not look comfortable . . . Ryan Howard (knee) is out for 6-8 weeks, which might encourage the Phillies to get the garage sale started. Mind you, Howard hasn't been anything special this year (.266/.319/.465, 11 homers). Darin Ruf started at first base Monday, and Michael Young ended the game there.