Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 6/28/13
As a dozen or so teams spend the next few weeks deciding whether to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, the verdicts in the N.L. Central already are in. The breakdown is as obvious as the 11-game difference between third and fourth place. The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds will be buying; the Brewers and the Cubs will be selling. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija could see another roster remake when the Cubs visited Busch Stadium last week and he wasn't thrilled about it. "If you unload three or four guys, you have to replace those guys and the hole gets deeper," he said. "If you keep guys, the turnover into next year doesn't look so big. The valley doesn't look so deep." When told that a strong showing in July could change the front office's thinking about unloading veterans for prospects, you could see the doubt in his smile. "You say that," he said. Samardzija lost four teammates at the deadline last year. He could lose more than that next month. Carlos Marmol is already gone, having been designated for assignment earlier this week and now attracting mild interest. As sharp as Matt Garza has looked recently, he's as good as gone. Scott Feldman has pitched well enough to bring the Cubs something in return. The most-coveted Cub on the market could be closer Kevin Gregg, who is having a strong season after making the team on a minor-league contract. Veteran outfielders David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, who is down to the final year and a half on his seven-year contract, also could be moved. For the last-place Brewers, the odds for a second-half charge like the one they mounted last year got a lot longer with this week's report from cbssports.com that Corey Hart (knee) is not likely to play this season. With Ryan Braun (thumb) also out indefinitely, the Brewers' offense is as lacking as their rotation, which is last in the N.L. Two Milwaukee starters who are coming up in speculation are Yovani Gallardo and former Cardinal Kyle Lohse. Lohse's situation is worth watching. With five straight quality starts, he looks to have overcome a bumpy beginning to his season that had to be partly due to the fact he couldn't find a job until the end of spring training. Lohse took a three-year, 33 million contract that was below his market value based on how well he pitched in 2012. Now that contract, which leans towards team friendly, could help him land with a contender. Another arm who could be traded is hard-throwing reliever John Axford, who has rebounded from a poor start. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is the position player most likely to be moved by Milwaukee. Unlike in Chicago, Ramirez does not have no-trade protection like he had -- and used -- when he was with the Cubs. Travis Wood cuts back on the cutter One Cubs starter who doesn't need to worry about being traded is lefty Travis Wood, who has pitched well in two starts against the Cardinals and even better against most other teams. With a 2.56 ERA and .198 batting average against, Wood is pitching his best since 2010, his rookie year. If he didn't have some of the lowest run support in the N.L., his record surely would be better than 5-6. Cubs manager Dale Sveum considers him the team's best candidate to make the All-Star team. On a team with a lot of disappointments, it's been an impressive season for a guy who had an ERA well over 4.00 each of the past two seasons. One reason for the improvement is relying less on his cutter and more on fastball command. "I fell in a rut of throwing too many cutters and it was causing me not to have the command I needed," Wood said. "Now I feel like I have my fastball command back and am working everything off that." Reds seeking to rebound With an 11-13 record in June and a weekend in Texas up next, the Reds are in danger of suffering their first losing month since 2011. Their relief corps has been a big reason for their struggles. The bullpen ERA in May was 2.61. In June, 5.09. But give the Reds' pen a couple of weeks and it should look different. Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are due back around the All-Star break. They can't say the same about Ryan Ludwick, though. He is nowhere near close to returning from a dislocated shoulder suffered on opening day. Without Ludwick, and with Todd Frazier struggling, the Reds need a right-handed power hitter. They could find one with the Cubs in Soriano and the Brewers with Ramirez. With their teams going nowhere, they figure to be available. You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.
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