After ending a 108-year World Series drought last season, many expected the Chicago Cubs to again be among the best teams in Major League Baseball in 2017.
However, the Cubs have struggled across the board, as their hitters fail to match last year's production and the pitchers - particularly the starters - continue to disappoint.
That means this July should be an eventful one for manager Joe Maddon's squad, as Chicago will likely have to pursue one or more big-time trades ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
According to MLB.com, one of those big-name trades could already be in the works, as the Cubs are reportedly having talks with the Detroit Tigers about ace right-hander Justin Verlander, who has long been one of the best pitchers in the game.
The report states that the Cubs had a scout in attendance on Sunday as Verlander took the mound against the Cleveland Indians. However, that scout probably left disappointed, as Verlander gave up seven runs in 3.1 innings and failed to record a strikeout for the first time in over 10 years.
Still, it's easy to see how Verlander could provide a major boost to the Cubs' rotation, which has seen Jake Arrieta struggle his way to a 4.33 ERA and John Lackey disappoint with a 5.24 ERA.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks, who was so reliable for the Cubs last year, is on the disabled list and only had a 4.09 ERA before he got injured.
The best starting pitcher the Cubs currently have is left-hander Jon Lester, but even he only has an ERA of 3.69 through 17 starts this season.
Verlander finished second in the American League Cy Young voting last season but hasn't been as sharp this year. Through 17 starts, he has a 5-5 record with a 4.96 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 98 innings of work.
Still, if you're the Cubs and you have a chance to add a former Cy Young winner to your rotation, you have to at least explore that opportunity. Getting traded to a team that is in the middle of a playoff race could be just what Verlander needs to get back on track.
At 41-41 at the halfway point of the season, the Cubs are in second place in the National League Central division, trailing the first-place Milwaukee Brewers by 2.5 games. The Tigers, on the other hand, are only 36-45, finding themselves eight games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central and firmly in last place.
It could be time for a fire sale in Detroit and it sounds like the Cubs could be very interested in working out a big-time trade.
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