With contenders struggling to find the right match for available starters Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren on the trade market, interest in Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly has stepped up dramatically and a trade could be completed by the end of the weekend, major-league sources said Friday.
Lilly's trade value skyrocketed after he held the Houston Astros to one run in 7 1/3 innings Wednesday. His next scheduled start is Tuesday in Houston, and sources say the Cubs would like to complete a deal before that outing.
The struggling New York Mets have shown the most interest in Lilly. The Detroit Tigers are also believed to be shifting their attention to Lilly after hitting a wall in their talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks centering on Haren. Scouts from several contenders, including the Mets, Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers, were at Wrigley Field on Wednesday for Lilly's start against right-hander Brett Myers, who is being shopped by the Astros. Myers has also drawn interest from the Mets.
Lilly would give the Mets three lefties in their rotation, and allow beleaguered manager Jerry Manuel to move Hisanori Takahashi to the bullpen.
Though the Cubs are grooming Carlos Zambrano to return to the team next weekend as a reliever, they could alter that plan and stretch him out to be a starter should Lilly be dealt. That would also help the Cubs in their growing desire to trade Zambrano, who has 2 1/2 seasons left on his five-year, $91.5 million contract.