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Should Cubs make move at trade deadline?

The Chicago Cubs are trying to make the playoffs for the first time this decade. For a team that has not won the World Series in more than 100 years, any time you have hope to get there, it is a major deal. Chicago has longed for an opportunity to see the Cubs reach the Fall Classic, something which has not happened since the 1940’s.

This year was supposed to be about building up a young base before truly competing in 2016. However, a few developments have thrust Chicago into a situation that is both envious and tenuous. General manager Theo Epstein will need to figure out over the next two weeks whether he stays the course with his long-term vision and refuses to deal any of his young talent, or if he deals off a player or two with an eye on the prize.

At 49-41, the Cubs are the first wild card team in the National League. Yet, they are being chased by the pitching-heavy New York Mets and defending world champs in the San Francisco Giants. A misstep in August or September could result in playing 162 games and not another more. So does Epstein try to bolster the rotation behind Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, or does he sit tight and hope for the best?

There is a legitimate chance that Chicago reaches the playoffs under manager Joe Maddon. The problem would be advancing past a potential Wild Card game. The St. Louis Cardinals are currently the best team in baseball, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have an experienced, deep team. The Los Angeles Dodgers boast a powerful lineup and a rotation led by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, while the Washington Nationals have an embarrassment of riches on the bump with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann leading the way.

Chicago could target Scott Kazmir of the Oakland Athletics. Kazmir would be a one-year rental before hitting free agency (unless Epstein made a move to lock him up) but could cost a legitimate prospect. A’s general manager Bill Beane and Epstein did business last year, when the Cubs sent Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for mega prospect Addison Russell and starter Dan Straily. Clearly, Chicago won that deal in a landslide.

The danger in making a move like that is potentially giving up a Javier Baez or Jorge Soler. The Cubs have been so careful in building up the best farm system in baseball over the last few years. It would be a tough pill for Epstein to swallow. Plus, there are no guarantees. Oakland traded Yoenis Cespedes for Lester last year and made the aforementioned deal with the Cubs, yet went into a complete tailspin and lost in the American League Wild Card game.

It would be surprising to see Epstein trade away a youngster. The again, pennant fever is a dangerous thing.

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