The moment Theo Epstein said them, many took the Chicago Cubs president’s words as gospel: In order to fill pitching needs this offseason, the Cubs might have to trade from the core of position players that has helped them to three straight postseason appearances.

Is a blockbuster deal really in the cards as the winter meetings approach next month? Are the Cubs going to say goodbye to Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ or another of the fan favorites who have made them so dangerous?

Pitching is the name of the game, and the Cubs are clearly short on it at the moment.

“We have some real surplus with some talented players who are really desirable,” Epstein said shortly after the Cubs were eliminated from the postseason. “We have benefited from having two or three extra starting-type players on the roster. That helped us win 97 games in 2015, 103 last year and 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything. Those things show up every day for us.

“Sooner or later, you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. We’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes sense to the overall outlook of the team and the organization.”

What’s not said there is the obvious: The Cubs used up most of their top prospects in acquiring Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and Jose Quintana in July. In order to improve on the mound via trade, there’s only one place left to turn: the major league roster.

The Cubs could easily turn a current strength -- depth -- into a weakness. Is there a trade out there that makes sense?

“You can’t just sit there and say, ‘Hey, we’re moving him’ because you don’t know what the return might be,” Epstein continued. “You don’t know if the different moving parts might fit together. Going into the offseason, we’re prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them, and keeping an open mind to everything is appropriate, under the circumstances.”

Let’s examine the possibilities.

The Cubs have three tiers of tradable major league players. Tier 1 includes Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Those two can fetch any available arm on the market.

Tier 2 includes the middle infielders, Javier Baez and Russell. (An informal poll of executives at the GM meetings earlier this month had them neck-and-neck in value on the trade market.)