Epstein: Cubs could be in market for reliever

Schwarber progressing in rehab; no return dates for Soler, La Stella

Epstein: Cubs could be in market for reliever

CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein loves the way the Cubs are playing. He loves the organization's cache of talent still in the Minors. And he has confidence in Chicago's bullpen.

All that said, Epstein is a man known for making moves.

Epstein said Friday that Trade Deadline talk has yet to fully heat up (two Wild Card spots make few teams ready to sell this early), but if the right deal comes along, the Cubs could be buyers.

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"We feel like there's some things that we could do down the line without completely mortgaging the future that could bolster the big league level," Epstein said. "That's what you want to do. These guys are going out there and deserve some support."

The bullpen is the area most likely due for an upgrade. Chicago has a 3.68 bullpen ERA, 10th best in the Majors, but another arm at the back end could alleviate some recent struggles and take the 'pen to another level.

"We'd love to add an impact reliever at some point," Epstein said. "But I don't think you're going to see us be reactive to situations where relievers are going through a little bit of a downturn in performance."

Schwarber continuing to make progress

Epstein said injured outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber is making steady progress in his recovery from the torn left ACL and LCL he suffered early this season. Epstein added there is still no way Schwarber could play this postseason, and Spring Training 2017 is a more realistic target for his return.

Schwarber, though, is off crutches when at the ballpark and has been fitted for a new, less onerous brace he will wear for the rest of his rehab.

For now, the biggest hurdle in Schwarber's recovery is finding ways to keep busy when the Cubs are on the road. Epstein said Schwarber spent four days with Cubs scouts and executives in the Draft room during last week's Draft.

No return dates yet for Soler, La Stella

Outfielder Jorge Soler, sidelined with a left hamstring strain, did some work on the field on Friday but was not expected to be ready by Wednesday, when he's eligible to come off the disabled list. There is also no timetable for infielder Tommy La Stella's return from a right hamstring strain that forced him to the DL on June 8.

New targets at Wrigley

Cubs' "Legacy Partners" Nuveen and Wintrust are adding a little incentive for Chicago hitters. Both sponsors committed donations to Cubs Charities if a batted ball from a Cubs player strikes either company's sign this regular season and postseason at Wrigley Field.

The Nuveen sign is behind the left-field bleachers, and Cubs catcher David Ross hit his 100th career homer off the sign last homestand. Nuveen is donating $10,000 to Cubs Charities for that feat and will donate another $10,000 the next time a player hits the sign.

If a Cubs batter hits the "W" of the Wintrust sign above the left-field videoboard (not easy to do), Cubs Charities will receive a $1 million donation from Wintrust.

Worth noting

• Right-hander Thomas Hatch, the Cubs' third-round Draft pick, will start for Oklahoma State in the opening game of the College World Series against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.

Cody Stavenhagen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.