by Matt Eurich

Despite having a record of 33-52 and sitting only a half game ahead of the Houston Astros for last place in Nation League Central, the Cubs possess two of the most sought after trade pieces on the market:  Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza.

Although he spent time on the disabled list prior to the All-Star break, Dempster has compiled a 4-3 record to go along with his league leading ERA of 1.99.  Dempster is currently on his last year of a 4-year $44 million dollar contract that pays him $14 million this season.

On the other hand, Matt Garza has struggled in his second year in Chicago, currently holding a record of 4-7 with a 4.32 ERA.  Despite Garza’s struggles, many teams view him as potential ace at the age of 28 with another year under team control.  Garza’s prior efficiency pitching in the AL East, as well as the playoffs, gives teams belief that he can still be a dominating pitcher.

So, with two of the most sought after pitchers on the trading market, who can Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer be looking to acquire if they are to trade Dempster or Garza?

Los Angeles Dodgers

Rumors have been swirling about the Los Angeles Dodgers being the frontrunners to acquire Ryan Dempster since first reported by ESPNChicago’s Bruce Levine in June.

The Dodgers appear to be making an aggressive approach in their first season under new ownership and according to CBS’s Jon Heyman they could also be looking at acquiring Garza.

If the Cubs were willing to part with both Dempster and Garza, the haul would have to be extreme.  The Dodgers are aware that Dempster may only be a rentable player for this season, but Garza offers them the ability to acquire a pitcher who is still under team control.

In almost any deal, Epstein and Hoyer will be looking to acquire arms for a farm system lacking any real depth at the pitcher position.  Here are three options:

Zach Lee, RHP

Lee, a first round selection in 2011 was expected to be a tough sign for the Dodgers, having had offers to not only pitch but play quarterback for LSU, but the Dodgers were able to settle on a deal and immediately viewed him as a potential ace.

In Low-A Great Lakes in 2011, Lee compiled a 3.47 ERA in 109 innings to go along with a WHIP of 1.22 in his first season of professional ball. Lee started the 2012 season at High-A Rancho Cucamonga getting 12 starts with a 4.55 ERA.  Despite the high ERA, the Dodgers sent Lee to Double-A Chattanooga where he has struggled a bit in three starts racking up a 5.14 ERA.

Despite Lee’s seemingly backwards trend early on in his minor league career, like most 20 year-olds, it is going to take Lee some time to adjust to the higher levels of competition.  Lee’s 92+ mph fastball, a plus curve and a developing changeup all point to Lee having the ability to become a team’s ace.

Lee’s long term potential makes him a lock for what the Cubs would be trying to acquire if they were to trade both Dempster and Garza.

Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

Few expected then 21 year old Nathan Eovaldi to be pitching in the majors in 2011 after never having pitched above Double-A prior to that season. In Eovaldi’s 34.2 innings pitched in 2011 he compiled a 3.63 ERA in 10 appearances, including 6 starts. Eovaldi has struggled in 8 starts this season, going 1-5 with a 4.21 ERA.

Eovaldi is a power pitcher who relies heavily on his 94 mph fastball.  He lacks command at times and will need to develop his second and third pitches to become a solid middle of the rotation starter.  If he is not able to develop his other pitches his power fastball will lend well to the back end of a bullpen.

Eovaldi would likely be a player the Cubs could pursue for Dempster as some feel he may of already hit his ceiling as a starter.

Joc Pederson, OF

At just a few months past 20 years old, Joc Pederson is still a very raw prospect in the Dodgers’ system.  In 62 games with High A Rancho Cucamonga, Pederson has a slash line of:  .289/.364/.426 and has 6 home runs to go along with 23 RBI. Pederson projects to have some power from the left hand side will likely be an average to above average hitter.

Despite being lean and athletic, Pederson projects more as a corner outfielder than a centerfielder as he doesn’t have the most ideal speed for the position.  While projected to be somewhere in the 15+ homeruns a year range, he likely wouldn’t be a cornerstone in left field.

Pederson could also be a player the Cubs could pursue for Dempster, but it would be hard for the Dodgers to give up on likely their top hitting prospect.

Despite being rumored as the top suitor for Dempster and possibly Garza, the Dodgers may struggle to put together a package because, like the Cubs, they lack overall depth in their farm system and may be unwilling to let go of their top-end talent.

Detroit Tigers

For what seems like months and months, the Detroit Tigers have been linked to rumors involving their desire to acquire Matt Garza.  Detroit was thought to be the front-runner to win the AL Central with a lineup boasting Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera and a pitching staff spearheaded by reigning AL Cy Young and AL MVP, Justin Verlander.  The Tigers have struggled this season and currently sit in third place, 3.5 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox.  Verlander currently leads all Tigers’ starters with a 2.58 ERA with Drew Smyly following with a 4.42 ERA.

Both Dempster and Garza would be viable options for the Tigers, but with Garza’s extra year of team control, he may be the Tigers’ greater desire.

Much like the Dodgers, the Tigers are very top heavy with talent but see a significant drop off after the first few spots.  Here are two options:

Jacob Turner, RHP

Turner, a former top-10 pick in the 2009 draft, is believed to be the Tigers top prospect.  Standing in at 6’5” and weighing 210 pounds, Turner is an imposing figure on the mound.

Turner has been on the fast track since his debut in Single-A in 2010 where he compiled a 3.67 ERA with a 51/9 K/BB in 54 innings with West Michigan.  Turner jumped to Double-A Erie in 2011 with a 3.48 ERA in 17 starts before starting 3 games for Triple-A Toledo where he finished with a 3.12 ERA.

Turner would of likely joined the Tigers rotation to begin the year if not for a nagging should injury.  In 14 starts between Lakeland and Toledo, Turner has a 2.77 ERA before being called up to start against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 21st, pitching five innings, allowing four hits and one earned run.

Turner is likely at the top of the Cubs wish list if they were to deal Garza.  Turner can reach the lower to mid 90s with his fastball, throws both a changeup and curveball, and has been working on a cutter. Turner has had trouble with injuries in the past, so that may cause the Cubs to proceed with caution, but out of all the prospects mentioned,  Turner would be the top get.

Nick Castellanos, 3B

At just 20 years old, third baseman Nick Castellanos is one of the best young hitting prospects in the game.

Last season in 135 games with Low-A West Michigan, Castellanos batted .312 with seven home runs and 76 RBI.  So far this season, splitting time between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie, he has posted a .371 average, seven home runs, and 47 RBI.

Castellanos has backed up the hype and has hit the ball wherever he has been.  Castellanos possess a quick smooth swing and should be able to develop himself in to a power hitter.  Still raw at the position it is unknown whether he’ll stick at third base, but if he can continue to develop he should become an average defensive third basemen.

Despite not fitting the mold of a young arm, Castellanos’ ability to hit the ball and to possibly develop some power in the future will likely make him a piece that Epstein and Hoyer will want to add to any deal for Matt Garza.

The Tigers are built to be a win-now team and their farm system proves that.  After Turner and Castellanos much of the talent drops off significantly.  The Cubs would likely ask for one of, if not both players, in any deal involving Garza.  If offered only one of these players the Cubs would likely try to acquire any young pitcher with a high ceiling in the Tigers’ system.

With both Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster likely to get moved, there is no telling where they might eventually end up.  If the rumors prove to be true and if either of these teams are in the running for Garza or Dempster, the Cubs are likely to do their due diligence and try to get the best market value for either player.  Epstein and Hoyer have an opportunity to greatly change the dynamic of the Cubs farm system and if they are able to require some of these players before the trade deadline they might finally be able to build this farm system from the bottom up

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