Trade buzz regarding the Chicago Cubs normally begins with Jeff Samardzija, who may be the best pitcher in baseball with a 2-5 record.

But Theo Epstein could have more than one starter to peddle as July 31 approaches. Jason Hammel has tossed seven scoreless innings in each of his last two starts to lower his ERA to 2.53, a figure slightly better than Samardzija’s 2.54.

Peter Gammons reports Hammel has displayed a dominating slider in recent starts. “If these improvements continue for a few more weeks at the very least, Theo Epstein could cash in big before the trade deadline,” Gammons writes.

Hammel, who signed a modest one-year, $6 million deal over the winter, could interest teams unwilling or unable to pay a premium for Samardzija, who is not a free agent until after next season. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer acquired Mike Olt and Justin Grimm in dealing away Matt Garza last summer, and will be looking for a similar haul when dealing their current ace.