Hunter Harvey Rumors

Orioles Showing Most Early Interest In Samardzija

2:27pm: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun adds to the story, reporting that the Cubs had one of their top talent evaluators — one who is not typically assigned to low-level minor league games — present at one of Harvey’s most recent start for Class-A Delmarva.

Connolly asked Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette about the timeline for trades, and Duquette replied by pointing out that the team just made a trade to acquire Nick Hundley this weekend. Duquette added that he and his staff are constantly talking to other teams, though naturally, he declined to comment on Samardzija specifically.

Of course, as Connolly points out, even if the O’s are being aggressive, it doesn’t necessarily behoove the Cubs to deal early. They could potentially extract more from a deal by getting other teams involved in the bidding to drive up the eventual return.

10:42am: While we’re still more than two months from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, multiple sources have indicated to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago that the Orioles are the “leading team of interest” in the early stages of the Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes. According to Levine, there’s mutual interest between the two teams, which isn’t surprising given the Orioles’ wealth of young pitching.

Baltimore has built up a strong crop of top-tier pitching prospects in the form of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey (who, as a 2013 draftee, is ineligible to be dealt until after this year’s draft) and Eduardo Rodriguez. Each of those players ranked inside the game’s top 61 prospects, per Baseball Prospectus. While Harvey didn’t crack the Top 100 lists of Baseball America or MLB.com, the other three are all present on those lists as well. That crop makes the O’s a particularly logical trading partner for the Cubs, who are stocked with high-end hitting prospects in their well-regarded farm system but lack potential high-impact arms.

Those names might seem a steep price to pay for Orioles fans, but it’s likely that the Cubs would ask for two from that list, in my opinion. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently reported that the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison and one of Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez from the Blue Jays this winter, and that was before Samardzija got off to the best start of his career.

The 29-year-old Samardzija ranks second only to Adam Wainwright with a 1.68 ERA among qualified starters (Wainwright, at 1.67, has only been nominally better in terms of ERA). He’s racked up 75 innings while averaging 7.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 to go along with a career-best 51 percent ground-ball rate. The Chicago ace is affordable, as he’s earning just $5.35MM after avoiding arbitration last winter, and he’s controllable through the 2015 season. Sabermetric estimators agree that Samardzija’s start has been outstanding, with FIP pegging him at 2.79 and xFIP estimating 3.27.

Last summer, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and president Theo Epstein were able to extract a package of C.J. Edwards (now the game’s No. 28 ranked prospect, per BA), Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for two months of Matt Garza. It seems logical that Chicago’s front office will look to exceed that package in order to deal a pitcher with more team control that is off to a better start and comes with far less injury concern than the one they traded away last summer.

Baltimore currently sits just 3.5 games back in the AL East, thanks largely to the team’s offense. Orioles starters have combined for a 4.57 ERA this season, which ranks 25th in the Majors.


AL East Notes: Drew, Doubront, Kelley, Harvey

Stephen Drew chose to ink a one-year deal with the Red Sox in spite of the fact that he received multi-year offers since the start of the season, agent Scott Boras said today on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (via WEEI.com’s Joon Lee). “The quest, knowing that Stephen had set forth a path to achieve the dynamic of being an unrestricted free agent the idea was to put himself in a position where the team, and within an environment we knew he could be successful,” said Boras. “It turned out we did get multi-year offers as the season opened up but it was Stephen’s decision to take a one-year deal and return to the Red Sox and have a chance to compete for another championship.” Boras indicated that, after Drew was unable to get a multi-year contract wrapped up before the season, his agency focused on the fact that Drew could avoid a second consecutive qualifying offer by waiting to sign until the season had started, calling it “a right that is of great and substantial value.”

  • Red Sox Starter Felix Doubront has been placed on the 15-day DL after experiencing increasing shoulder numbness throughout last night’s game. Lee has the story, noting that Doubront will await the results of an MRI today. The 26-year-old lefty said today that he had banged the shoulder into his car door at some point prior to the start, tweets Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
  • Doubront’s injury adds to the increasing uncertainty in the Red Sox rotation, which has compiled 4.6 fWAR but owns a mediocre 4.31 ERA. Jake Peavy has seen his earned run mark balloon from 1.93 (after his April 15 start) up to 4.33 at present, while Clay Buchholz has looked out of sorts and was run early again today. Speier took a look at the club’s internal options to fill in for Doubront, each of whom could be called upon if other needs arise as well. Brandon Workman still seems the most likely immediately call-up due to his recent big league experience, with Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, and Anthony Ranaudo all viable options as well. (Speier also mentions Matt Barnes, but notes that he is not on the 40-man and is still building up arm strength after a delayed start to the season.)
  • Meanwhile, the pitching injury issues continued to be compounded for the Yankees, who learned that reliever Shawn Kelley has suffered a setback, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. Kelley, who spent time as the team’s injury-replacement closer earlier in the season, had been expected to begin mound work in the coming days, but he experienced back stiffness after playing catch. Nevertheless, manager Joe Girardi said that an MRI had shown no structural issues.
  • A cast of Baseball Prospectus writers participated in a written debate over the prospect value of Orioles righty Hunter Harvey, who opened the year as the game’s 58th-best prospect in the view of BP and has dominated early in 2014. While Ryan Parker and CJ Wittmann disagree slightly on Harvey’s ceiling, both agree that he projects as at least a number-three starter and is likely to jump up on prospect lists. Baltimore seems to have a steal with Harvey, who was snatched with the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft and signed for the slot recommendation of about $1.95MM. He slots alongside well-regarded minor league arms like Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Eduardo Rodriguez to form an impressive group of young pitching filtering up to Baltimore.