June is half over and Ryan Dempster has three of the Cubs' four victories this month. Just imagine life without Dempster once the seemingly inevitable trade to a contender happens.
Dempster sure didn't hurt his trade value — or Epstein's take of talent in return — when he pitched seven shutout innings Friday during a 3-0 victory over the Red Sox in a game Carlos Marmol saved.
"I'm not naive, I'm not oblivious to what's going on," Dempster said. "But it's really out of my control — not out of my control because actually it is under my control — but it's one of those things if I focused on that and worried about that, I wouldn't be doing a very good job as a teammate.
"And I wouldn't be doing a very good job for myself if I wasn't focusing on what I need to do. And whatever ends up happening, happens. Right now I'm here and love being here and everybody knows that."
Epstein knows that, too, but apparently Dempster will waive his no-trade rights if it means going to a contender.
"(Trade talks are) starting to pick up," Epstein said. "There is a little bit of chatter. Most of the phone calls are preliminary in nature, kind of feeling out calls. 'Hey, what are you looking for? What are you trying to do? Who might be available?' That kind of thing."
Epstein is mum publicly on what might be happening, particularly with Dempster and Matt Garza.
And he refuses to say his first Cubs team is underachieving, saying it "would be disrespectful of the effort they're putting in. We're not where we want to be and there are some games we would like back. We could have won a few more games.
"But these guys are playing hard, they're preparing hard and they're not backing down. We'll find a way to grind our way to a few more wins going forward."
Of course, trading Dempster only means "a few more wins" will be harder to get, especially the way the veteran is pitching now.
He lowered his ERA to 2.11 while throwing zeros, which now total to 22 straight innings. He has pitched at least seven innings while allowing one or no runs in seven starts this season.
It appears the growing rumors don't bother him when he is pitching.
"It's all I can control," he said. "We have a great group of guys and things haven't gone as we wanted but we keep pressing forward. I just try to do my job every fifth day.
"(I'm scheduled) to pitch against White Sox on Wednesday and that's all I can worry about."