Cubs Have Plenty of Motivation To Make a Push for Sabathia

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Chicago Cubs, with baseball's best record, appear content to look to their bench, primarily Reed Johnson, to fill in during Alfonso Soriano's expected six-week absence. But that doesn't mean they are planning to stand pat as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

One rival executive who has spoken to Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry recently came away convinced the Cubs will make a big play for a front-line starting pitcher in the coming weeks -- perhaps an acknowledgment the Cubs believe they have all the other pieces in place to end the franchise's 100-year drought without a World Series title.

The Cubs apparently feel they need another dominant starter to pitch behind ace Carlos Zambrano in a postseason series. Ryan Dempster, who has switched back to starting after four seasons in the bullpen, could be that guy (8-2, 2.81 ERA), but the Cubs are worried about him jumping from 66 2/3 innings last year to more than 200 this year.

Plenty of big-name starters (Toronto's A.J. Burnett, Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, Oakland's Joe Blanton and Rich Harden) are being floated around the rumor mill, but the one that perhaps makes the most sense is lefty C.C. Sabathia, free-agent-to-be of the Cleveland Indians.

Though the Indians were only 6 1/2 games back in the AL Central weekend entering last night, a rash of awful injuries plus Sabathia's pending free agency have forced them to give serious consideration to bailing out on this season. The Indians would expect a huge haul in return, but the Cubs, with a century's worth of motivation, could be just the team to give it to them.

ยท PEN MYSTERIES: Two more examples of why you can never, ever trust bullpens on a year-to-year basis:

In 2007, the San Diego Padres' and Cleveland Indians' bullpens ranked first and sixth in the majors with ERAs of 3.01 and 3.73, respectively.

This year, those same bullpens -- with virtually the same personnel -- ranked 25th and 29th entering the weekend, with ERAs of 4.24 and 4.59.

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