Cubs still in trade mode?

Jeff Vorva

It’s not always easy to make big trades at this time of the year, but the Cubs made one Wednesday, when they dealt catcher Michael Barrett to San Diego for catcher Rob Bowen and a minor league outfielder.

Is there more wheeling and dealing ahead for the Cubs?

“We’re always open for business,” general manager Jim Hendry said Friday. “I’m not going to tell you that in the seventh inning today something is going to happen. We obviously haven’t been playing as well as we’ve liked.

“We’ll continue to try to make upgrades if we can. Hopefully Aramis (Ramirez) coming back (from a knee injury) will give us a lift. We haven’t conquered the ability to knock in the runs. (Thursday’s 6-5 loss to Texas) was a day we had a lot of people on base and we should have scored a lot more runs. We haven’t clicked for more than three, four or five days at a time. We’ll continue to explore options that will make us better.”

Hendry does not talk about specific players, but the rumor mill has the Cubs being interested in parting with right fielder Jacque Jones and shortstop Cesar Izturis. Neither figures to command much value in return unless the Cubs are also willing to throw in some prospects as well. There was speculation when the Cubs were in Texas that a deal sending Jones to the Rangers for reliever Eric Gagne was a possibility.

Cincinnati outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.’s name also surfaced as possibly being involved in a deal to the Cubs. Cubs manager Lou Piniella was Griffey’s skipper in Seattle from 1993-99.

Whether they make a deal over the next couple of days, the Cubs will make a roster move.

When the Cubs activated Ramirez and sent reliever Sean Gallagher to Triple-A Iowa, it left the North Siders with just 11 pitchers.

“It (11 pitchers on the roster) hasn’t worked when we’ve tried it before,” Piniella said. “But we’re in the American League (vs. the Sox) and you don’t have to pull your pitchers if you’re behind in the score. We’ll be able to get by with it. But once you get into the National League (Monday against Colorado) it’s a different story.”

The tricky part will be which position player leaves. If there is no deal in the works, the Cubs’ position players with minor league options include infielder Mike Fontenot (who’s hitting .340), outfielder Angel Pagan (.294) and infielder Ryan Theriot (.255).

“I can’t figure it out yet, and I haven’t tried,” Piniella said. “We’ll see what happens with this thing. We haven’t discussed it. But we’re not going to stay this way long.”

On a larger scale, there are various national reports that have several teams — especially the New York Mets — who would have interest in Carlos Zambrano if the Cubs are out of the playoff picture by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“It’s a business,” said Zambrano, who can become a free agent after this season. “If the Cubs don’t trade me, it’s good. If they want to trade me, it’s good, because I would go to a team that’s maybe in first place and I would help them to get in the playoffs. But I would be happy to help the Cubs, too.”