Calling the 2010 Cubs season a train wreck is an insult to train wrecks. There's no need to rehash all the various injuries, meltdowns and bad years here - the question is, what do the Cubs do between now and July 31?
The proverbial elephant in the room is now Carlos Zambrano. Z was moved to the restricted list this week so he can get help for anger management, and GM Jim Hendry said he won't return until "at least" after the All-Star break. It's not clear whether Z cannot pitch again for this ballclub even if he does complete the mandated treatment ("to the letter", according to Hendry), so even as he spends the next couple of weeks in New York, I suspect Hendry is working the phones trying to make a deal.
What team would take him? When he wants to, he can be among the most dominant pitchers in baseball. But it's been nearly two years since he's been even close to that; there are suggestions that there may be too many miles on his 29-year-old right arm. There are 45 million other reasons - dollars left on his deal - that other teams might be leery to take his contract.
A possible destination could be the Mets, where GM Omar Minaya has long coveted Zambrano, and where they have a toxic contract of their own - Oliver Perez's - to dump. There's about $27 million of difference between what's left on Z's deal and what's left on Perez's, so if this is the way the teams go, there will be much negotiating involved.
The Astros would love to get rid of Carlos Lee's contract (two years remaining), but Lee wouldn't fit in the Cubs' already overcrowded outfield.
As far as the rest of the team is concerned, they may very well become sellers. But frankly, who would take any of the Cubs' underperforming stars? Aramis Ramirez has a long way to go before even getting to the .200 mark; Derrek Lee's contract expires at the end of this season but he's been swimming around under .240 most of this year, and the Cubs have offered Kosuke Fukudome around (most notably, reportedly to the Red Sox) but found that teams don't want Fukudome's 2011 contract, which calls for him to get $14 million next year. The Cubs and Red Sox supposedly discussed Mike Fontenot (to help the Red Sox replace Dustin Pedroia), but that went nowhere.
That leaves, pretty much, Ted Lilly as the only real trade chip the Cubs have on the table. Lilly's been the Cubs' most consistent starter for the 3 ½ years since he's been signed, and came back quickly and with no real blips from arthroscopic shoulder surgery last offseason. Lilly is 34, lefthanded, and revered by Cubs fans for bowling over Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina a couple of years ago trying to score. Most Cubs fans will tell you they'd like to keep Lilly, but depending on the return, a deal might be forthcoming - or, they could decide to keep him, offer arbitration and take the draft picks if he doesn't want to stay. Lilly has a no-trade clause and owns a home within walking distance of Wrigley Field, so he might want to stay regardless of this meltdown of a Cubs season.