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Epstein's focus unchanged despite tough stretch

Cubs looking for rotation help, veteran bat at Trade Deadline

CHICAGO -- Getting swept by the Phillies and falling further back in the Wild Card standings hasn't changed how Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein approaches Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"We'd really like to [make a deal], but it's impossible to say," Epstein said Monday. "If we do something on the bigger end, it will involve players who will help us beyond this year. If we do something on the smaller side, it will probably be more for a rental player.

"If we do nothing, it will be because we couldn't find anything rational that we could do," he said. "I don't know which of those three directions it will go yet."

The Cubs have made it known they'd like to add a starting pitcher, and Epstein said they've also been in the market for a veteran hitter, although that's not because of the recent offensive struggles.

"We'd always like a veteran hitter to mix into the group, especially since Javy [Baez] went down and [Tommy] La Stella before him to give us a few more options to rest some guys," Epstein said. "It's not a great market for position players.

"We have an opportunity to upgrade the fifth starter position, whether someone wants to step up internally or the more obvious path would be through a trade, and that's something we'd like to do," he said. "We certainly have looked into deals to acquire a veteran position player."

Epstein said the recent skid hasn't affected their thinking as far as making a deal.

"We were in a competitive race for the postseason a week ago, two weeks ago, and we still are today," he said. "We're just in a little bit worse position. That shouldn't surprise anybody that we're going to have some down stretches as well. It's our job to pull ourselves out of it."

The Cubs are relying on rookies Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber, but Epstein said they're not the reason for the team's struggles.

"I wouldn't hang this on the rookies," he said. "We really haven't hit as a team since the end of May. It's been a slump that's lasted a month and a half or so. Through some guts and great pitching, we've kept our head above water in that span. This weekend [against the Phillies], we didn't quite have the pitching, and it all came crashing down on us. That's natural. I hope we're nearing the end of this pretty long slump."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.
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