Cubs Eye Leadoff Man, Lefty Reliever On Trade Market

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As the trade deadline looms on July 31, the Cubs are searching for help in several areas. 

That includes at the leadoff spot, which outfielder Kyle Schwarber has been filling to mixed returns. Schwarber has a .323 on-base percentage, and the Cubs want more consistency out of that spot as infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has remained on a personal leave of absence since early May.

"We have to become a little bit more offensive in the right moments," manager Joe Maddon said about his wish list for the best possible 25-man roster moving forward. "I am thinking we would be looking at that area. If we could just add one more pro bat. We are missing Zobrist. That is a perfect guy. He is not here, so we miss that. You could always rely on him for that pro at-bat leading off in front of the other guys. Adding something like that could be very advantageous."

An ideal fit for the Cubs would be Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, but Kansas City isn't shopping him, sources said. That conversation is a non-starter unless the Royals receive three MLB-ready players who could help them right now, sources said. 

More realistic targets who project to be available are Blue Jays infielder Eric Sogard, Blue Jays infielder Freddy Galvis and Mariners infielder Dee Gordon. Sogard has a strong .363 on-base percentage, while Galvis (.307) and Gordon (.290) have struggled in that department. 

Short of that, the Cubs may just have to wait on the return of the 38-year-old Zobrist. The team is hopeful he'll return for the stretch run, but there's no expectation that he's rejoining the Cubs soon. It's also difficult to project what he could contribute after missing months of action.

As usual, the Cubs are also searching for bullpen reinforcements, particularly a lefty reliever. The Giants' Tony Watson (3.19 ERA) and Will Smith (2.17 ERA) fit that bill and will likely be traded in the coming weeks. 

Blue Jays closer Ken Giles and Tigers closer Shane Greene also will be on the trade market, and the Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox, Brewers, Dodgers and Yankees figure to be in on those conversations. The White Sox could also choose to shop setup man Kelvin Herrera and closer Alex Colome.

There will be a flurry of deals in the coming weeks after MLB changed its rules this past offseason to make July 31 the hard trade deadline. Previously, teams were allowed to make waiver trades through the end of August, but that's no longer allowed. After July 31, the only path for teams to acquire help will be from within their own farm system.

There appear to be 12 teams in the National League playoff race, as seven teams trail the Brewers by four or fewer games for the final wild-card spot. That could mean there will be more buyers than sellers in the next couple weeks.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.