The Cubs approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline with at least some level of uncertainty at seven positions, which is not the way to win a division.
The seven questions:
1. Starting pitching: How severe is Ted Lilly’s shoulder problem? How minor is the arthroscopic surgery on his knee?
2. Catching: When does Geovany Soto come back, and how effective is he when he returns? Can he pick up where he was starting to go with the bat until the shoulder problem?
3. First base: How often do Derrek Lee’s neck spasms crop up and keep him out of the lineup?
4. Second base: Can anyone play the position on an everyday basis?
5. Third base: Can Aramis Ramirez’s shoulder hold up the rest of the way?
6. Center field: Will the combo of Resuke Johnsodome be strong enough down the stretch?
7. Right field: Can Milton Bradley climb out of the hole and be a factor at any level for a stretch drive? Is there anything to the rumor of Detroit wanting to pick him up?
There’s a ready answer to Question No. 4: Freddy Sanchez in Pittsburgh, who is up for grabs along with shorstop Jack Wilson. Since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, Sanchez can be had for a rent-a-player pricetag, and the Cubs are foolish if they don’t grab a career .300 hitter and former batting champ to stablize their infield and the top of their lineup.
GM Jim Hendry looked to Pittsburgh for his 2003 steal of Ramirez and center fielder Kenny Lofton. Let’s see what he has up his sleeve this time. He can’t afford to stand pat after St. Louis picked up Matt Holliday from Oakland. Stay tuned.