Jeff Samardzija Rumors

Billy Beane On Samardzija Deal, Roster Construction, Further Trades

Jim Bowden of ESPN talked to Athletics general manager Billy Beane for the latest edition of his “GM’s Office” video blog, and the two discussed a number of trade-related topics, including a fairly in-depth breakdown of the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel blockbuster (video links). While the entire interview is well worth watching (and is only about 10 minutes total), here are some highlights from their conversation…

  • Beane first reached out to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about a month ago because he felt there was a lot of value to striking early, especially if the A’s were going to be aggressive with their prospect package, which they clearly were.
  • The Cubs were initially looking to split Samardzija and Hammel in different trades, but trade talks picked up steam when the A’s decided that they wanted both players. After a dormant period, things came together quickly in a matter of 24 to 36 hours, says Beane. He added that he and Epstein discussed some one for one swaps on each pitcher that obviously didn’t pan out.
  • That Samardzija is under control through 2015 was “critical,” said Beane, noting that he’s excited about the added depth that the 2015 roster will have with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin returning from injury.
  • On what motivated him to make the trade, he offered the following: “I’ll be honest with you, I happen to think the Angels and the Mariners right behind us are two of the better teams in all of the game and they happen to sit in our division. So the narrative that this was a ‘postseason move,’ I think was a bit presumptuous.” He went on to say that winning the division is Oakland’s priority and stressed the dangers of getting involved in a one-game Wild Card playoff. “If you had a one-game playoff and you’re the Wild Card, one of the guys you might be facing is that guy up in Seattle, and that’s not a good situation to be in.” Beane, of course, is referring to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.
  • Bowden asked if the A’s would have made this deal had Parker not gone down with Tommy John surgery in Spring Training, Beane thought out loud before concluding that he and his staff probably would not have had to make this deal had Parker been healthy.
  • Beane offered high praise for prospect Billy McKinney but even higher praise for Addison Russell, listing him alongside Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada as one of the best position prospects he’s ever had. The emergence of minor league shortstop Daniel Robertson, whom the A’s selected 21 picks after Russell, made it easier to part with Russell, though it was still difficult for Oakland.
  • Asked if this was the best team he’s ever constructed, Beane said he couldn’t judge that at this point and offered praise for his assistant GMs as well. One element of which Beane is very proud is that 23 of the 25 players on the Athletics’ roster were acquired via trade — a very different method of construction from the 2001 “Moneyball” A’s.
  • Asked if the A’s are done or would pursue trades for second basemen, Beane grinned as he replied: “Well, you know, there’s a lot of time left, Jim. … Whether you have needs or not, you have to take advantage of the environment. … This is a time that everybody comes to the table. And whether you’re actively pursuing something specific, you want to be a part of the conversation. … I don’t want to say we’re done. … The short answer is: I hope we’re active still.”

Rosenthal’s Latest: Tulo, Dodgers, Valbuena, Peavy, Sox

In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki ask for a trade this offseason. One friend of Tulo told Rosenthal, “I think the guy is going to lose his mind,” due to Colorado’s consistently poor results. He adds that this offseason will be a better time to deal Tulo or Carlos Gonzalez (with an eye on a larger rebuild), and while owner Dick Monfort may prefer to move CarGo, plenty of teams would make sense as a landing spot for Tulowitzki.

Here are some more highlights from Rosenthal’s newest work…

  • One reason that Tulo could be particularly frustrated is with the Rockies‘ inability to build a competitive pitching staff at Coors Field. That’s no easy task, as Rosenthal notes, but it isn’t helped by the fact that free-agent pitchers simply don’t want to go there. While Jon Gray and Eddie Butler are promising, Butler joins a long list of currently injured Rockies starters. Additionally, rival scouts opined to Rosenthal that Colorado pitchers are poorly prepared: “They pitch not to hitters’ weaknesses but hitters strengths,” one scout told Rosenthal.
  • The Dodgers talked with the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija before he was dealt to Oakland, but talks never got serious, as Los Angeles didn’t want to part with Joc Pederson or Corey Seager.
  • Speaking of the Samardzija trade, Rosenthal hears that the deal was almost larger, as the Athletics at one point were trying to get Chicago to include Luis Valbuena in the deal as well. The A’s like Valbuena as a potential second-base upgrade and could rekindle talks for him later this month, but Chicago is reluctant to deal him, as he’s controlled through 2016, according to Rosenthal.
  • The Cubs are receiving interest in lefty relievers James Russell and Wesley Wright, both of whom are more likely to be traded than Valbuena.
  • Multiple reports today have indicated that the Cardinals have interest in Jake Peavy of the Red Sox, and Rosenthal reports that the two sides spoke a month ago, though not necessarily about Peavy. Boston has interest in the Cardinals’ young outfielders, and while St. Louis won’t deal Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty for Peavy, the teams could expand the deal to include other players and make something work. Rosenthal floats the idea of a scenario in which Allen Craig heads to Boston, though that appears to be speculation.
  • In other Red Sox rumors, he writes that the Sox don’t necessarily want to move free agents they would like to re-sign after the season even if they end up as sellers. In other words, Jon Lester and Koji Uehara may stay put regardless of the team’s approach. Beyond that, the team’s chips are largely underwhelming, as Jonny Gomes, Burke Badenhop, Stephen Drew and A.J. Pierzynski either don’t have huge appeal to buyers or would net marginal returns at best.

Quick Hits: Samardzija, Viciedo, D-Backs, Byrd

Jeff Samardzija couldn’t be happier to be joining the A’s, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee.  “Billy asked me how I felt,” said Samardzija. “I was supposed to pitch today, so I’m a day past my due date to pitch. I’m chomping at the bit. I don’t think there’s any better way to get acclimated than to do it on the mound. It was a no-brainer for me, and I look forward to it.” Here’s more from around baseball.



Athletics Acquire Jeff Samardzija And Jason Hammel

JULY 5: The Cubs have officially announced (via Twitter) the trade confirming the team will receive a player to be named later as part of the deal. The A’s meanwhile tweeted the final piece will either be the PTBNL or cash.

JULY 4: The Athletics have agreed to acquire pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Top prospect Addison Russell is heading to Chicago in the deal. Fellow prospect Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily will also go to the Cubs, reports ESPN.com’s Keith Law (via Twitter).

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs

Though initial reports indicated that another team could be involved, the final deal is a two-way swap, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Talks were said to be serious earlier tonight, per reports from Rosenthal and Morosi. There are conflicting reports as to the final piece of the deal (if any): Law (Twitter link), Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter), and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) have reported that a PTBNL or cash will go to the Cubs, while Morosi tweets that no additional piece is involved.

The swap represents an aggressive move from an Oakland team that has paced the rest of the league all year long, but which had questions in its rotation and has often been stymied in the postseason. While the club has cruised to a league-best .616 winning percentage, backed by a +129 run differential that is far and away the best in baseball, it is being chased by two clubs (the Angels and Mariners) that rank 2nd and 3rd in the game in run differential. In Samardzija and Hammel, GM Billy Beane filled two rotation needs in one stroke. The former promises to add another top-of-the-rotation arm to the staff, both this year and next, while the latter will provide depth and solid innings as a reasonably-priced rental. Even better for the small-budget A’s, neither player will break the bank. And the team with the best record in the game arguably now firmly stands as the favorite to prevail in the American League.

Samardzija will add to the top of a rotation that has delivered a stellar 3.34 ERA, but which owns peripherals (3.90 FIP, 3.84 xFIP) that paint a somewhat different picture. More importantly, perhaps, are the question marks that accompany the team’s top three hurlers: staff ace Sonny Gray is up to 111 innings but has never thrown more than 182 1/3 in a season as a pro; the emergent Jesse Chavez (103 innings) is about to pass his career high in innings pitched; and Scott Kazmir has a well-documented injury history. Samardzija is earning a modest $5.35MM in his second (and second-to-last) season of arbitration eligibility. Though his excellent 2.83 ERA (8.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 52.5% groundball rate) through 108 frames will warrant a significant raise next year, he surely projects to deliver significant excess value over his contract. While a run at an extension seems unlikely from Oakland, the team could always flip him next year if circumstances warrant or ultimately make him a qualifying offer.

Hammel, meanwhile, is a sturdy option to bolster the Oakland staff down the stretch. Looking further down the line at the club’s prior options, Tommy Milone has a relatively low ceiling and has outperformed his peripherals this year, Dan Straily‘s minor league numbers largely match the ones that got him demoted (and ultimately dealt), Drew Pomeranz is injured, and Josh Lindblom has just six big league starts to his credit at age 27. Signed to a one-year, $6MM contract entering the season, Hammel owns a solid 2.98 ERA in 102 2/3 frames. Since joining the Cubs, he has returned to striking out better than eight batters per nine, as he did in his excellent 2012 campaign. Unlike that season, however, when Hammel registered a 53.2% groundball rate while walking 3.2 per nine, his success in 2014 has come from limiting the walk (1.84 BB/9) even as his percentage of grounders has dropped to 40.5%. He was probably the most attractive, mid-level, pure rental arm available.

On the other side of the equation, by combining their two top trade chips, the Cubs managed to pick up one of the game’s truly elite prospects in Russell. Many will question the “need” for another shortstop for a club that already has Starlin Castro (and his long-term extension) at the major league level with two top-100 prospects (Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara) in the upper minors. But president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer will gladly add the top-end prospect piece now and figure out any logjams in the future. (If all of those players work out, of course, top-100 middle infielders make for useful trade chips — as this very deal demonstrates.)

The other two pieces in the deal also hold value for Chicago. McKinney, 19, was taken 24th overall in last year’s amateur draft. He owns a .241/.330/.400 line in 333 plate appearances this year at High-A. Of course, while he was widely considered the club’s second-best prospect, he is a ways from the big leagues and does not appear on any league-wide top-100 lists.

Straily, 25, is a bounceback candidate who could provide innings for the Cubs rotation in the near future, though he is headed to Triple-A to start. After logging 152 1/3 innings of 3.96 ERA ball last year (with 7.3 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 and a 36.4% groundball rate), Straily struggled to a 4.93 mark in his first 38 1/3 frames in 2014. In spite of largely equivalent peripherals, a tendency to the long ball sidetracked the righty. Since being demoted, he has posted good strikeout numbers at Triple-A (as he has in the past), but has nevertheless scuffled to a 4.71 earned run average through 63 frames to date.

From a broader perspective, this deal takes two prime starting pitching targets out of play for the rest of the market. And it delivers them to a club that might not ultimately have made such significant additions. The many clubs angling for rotation pieces will now have less readily available stock to pursue, which could raise the price for the top remaining arms.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. 


Cubs, Athletics In Serious Talks On Hammel And/Or Samardzija

The Cubs and Athletics are in serious discussions regarding a major swap that would deliver Chicago starters Jason Hammel “and/or” Jeff Samardzija to Oakland, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Top Oakland prospect Addison Russell has been discussed, according to the report.

Needless to say, a deal involving both Hammel and Samardzija would represent a stunning early turn in the market. The pair of Cubs hurlers has long been rumored to be among the best arms likely to change hands over the summer. But both were expected to have many suitors, some (but not all) of which would likely overlap.

Though Hammel is expected to bring back some value, there is little doubt that Russell would only be involved if Samardzija was also on his way to Oakland. The 20-year-old shortstop is far and away the A’s best-regarded prospect, with a wide consensus that he is one of the twenty best pre-MLB players in the game. ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) ranked him as the third-best overall prospect coming into the season, lauding his outstanding across-the-board tools, projectable power, elite hands and arm at short, and overall feel for the game.

Indeed, it is arguable that Russell would be too great a return even for Samardzija. On the other hand, it is difficult to see the A’s landing Samardzija (or any other starter at or above his level) without including Russell. The fall-off in the A’s system comes fairly quickly. Billy McKinney is the team’s consensus second-best prospect, but he (like much of the rest of the organization’s best talent) has yet to advance above High-A ball and does not rate amongst the game’s best-rated young players.

For the A’s, the addition of at least one starter — if not two — makes a good deal of sense. The rotation has been good thus far, but clearly could benefit from an upgrade at the top and/or depth at the back for the playoff push.

Of course, Oakland could also stand to upgrade its options at second base. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs notes on Twitter, that is another area where the Cubs could potentially add value in a hypothetical deal. Indeed, Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, and Darwin Barney are all capable of manning the keystone. And it is not inconceivable that a deal could deliver a somewhat lesser prospect (or prospects) back to Oakland, in order to balance out the A’s sacrifice of future value. Ultimately, there are many plausible permutations that one could imagine coming to pass.


Central Notes: Frieri, Cubs, Hammel, Twins

As Ernesto Frieri was en route to the Pirates after being traded by the Angels, he ran into a familiar face at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer. “I’m waiting for my next flight, so I just went to a bathroom to wash my face. First thing, I look at this guy washing his hands next to me,” said Frieri, “and I thought, ‘I think I know this guy.’”  He was right – that guy was Jason Grilli, the reliever for whom he had been traded hours earlier.  Anyone who has been in the colossal O’Hare Airport can appreciate exactly how unlikely this chance meeting was.  Here’s more from the AL and NL Central..

  • A year and one day ago, the Cubs traded Scott Feldman to the Orioles rather than waiting until the July 31st deadline was closer.  This year, while there are plenty of scouts watching the Cubs, General Manager Jed Hoyer isn’t positive that we’ll see a similarly timed move this year. “Last year it really came together,” Hoyer said, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. “Baltimore was so determined to get a starter. You can always tell when teams have a feel for what we’re looking for. Ultimately, sometimes it takes a deadline to make deals. People get a lot more serious with each day that gets closer to the deadline. It probably works both ways. I don’t think you ever go into July thinking you’re going to make deals early, but sometimes it can come together.”
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have sent at least ten scouts to watch the Cubs since September and several sources tell Gonzales that they have followed Jason Hammel just as closely as they have followed Jeff Samardzija.
  • We saw a bunch of international signings on July 2nd, but Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff says they aren’t in a rush to spend.  “Right now the biggest issue is early committing,” Radcliff said, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “It just doesn’t make sense. You’re talking about 15- and 16-year-olds. You’d think you’d want more time to figure it out and have more people see the players, but people are just throwing their money out there and locking them up earlier and earlier. I think we’re all still figuring it out.”

Cubs Notes: Epstein, Barney, Samardzija

The Cubs begin a series at Fenway Park tonight, getting back in action following a rare Sunday off-day.  The club played a doubleheader on Saturday in order to keep Sunday free for Chicago’s Pride Parade, which could’ve created a traffic jam in the Wrigleyville area had the Cubs been playing as originally scheduled.  MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat takes a look at the history of Sunday baseball, and passes along the historical note that the Cubs were off on a Sunday for the first time since 1932.

Here’s the latest from the north side of Chicago…

  • Theo Epstein denied rumors that he will leave the Cubs after his contract expires following the 2016 season, he tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  While some speculate that Epstein has been upset at the lack of Major League resources he’s been given by the Cubs, he “insists he will be here as long as the Cubs want him,” Sullivan writes.
  • Two scouts aren’t impressed by Darwin Barney‘s bat, telling Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune that while Barney is a good fielder, “if he can’t hit in the National League, what makes anyone think he can hit in the American League?”  Barney has only slashed .198/.243/.284 in 174 PA this season and could be non-tendered if he can’t improve at the plate.  Gonzales feels Barney’s time with the Cubs is probably nearing an end, though it could come via a trade if he can hit enough to get a look from another team.
  • Also from Gonzales’ reader mailbag piece, he expects the Cubs “to wait as long as possible” for the best offer before trading Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel.  He thinks Samardzija might even not be moved until the offseason if necessary, though this would lessen this trade value as a new team would only have him under contract for the 2015 season.
  • The Cubs haven’t gotten much production out of their veteran outfielders, and Gonzales expects maybe one (at most) of Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney, Chris Coghlan or Ryan Kalish to be back next season and Chicago will look for more veteran upgrades.  Since Sweeney is owed $2MM for 2015 and the others are all on one-year or minor league contracts, I’d suspect Sweeney is the favorite to return, though $2MM isn’t so large an amount that the Cubs couldn’t eat it if necessary.

Pitching Rumors: Price, Angels, Miley, Ross, Samardzija

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that the Cardinals should not overpay to acquire David Price from the Rays by parting with Oscar Taveras. Rosenthal points to the decline of offense around the league and the rarity of controllable sluggers in opining that Taveras is too valuable a commodity to lose. He also notes that the Cardinals aren’t typically big spenders, but adds that the team could create room for Price’s remaining $7MM and roughly $18-20MM 2015 salary by electing not to re-sign free agents such as Jason Motte and Pat Neshek, as well as non-tendering arbitration eligible players such as Peter Bourjos. While St. Louis could put together a formidable package headlined by Carlos Martinez, he also notes that a team like the Dodgers could top such a package perhaps by including prized outfielder Joc Pederson.

Price’s name — and the names of several others — will be hot topics over the coming month. Here’s the latest on the pitching market…

  • The Angels are interested in Price but don’t have the prospects to acquire him, Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). He adds that Cubs hurler Jason Hammel is on a long list of alternative options for the Halos. Rosenthal also reports that the team would like to acquire left-handed relief, though landing a starting pitcher would allow them to use Hector Santiago in relief.
  • In his daily blog post (subscription required/recommended), ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that several teams are looking at alternatives to the market’s two big-name starters — Price and Jeff Samardzija. Several clubs are interested in pulling off a deal similar to the Tigers’ acquisition of Doug Fister from the Mariners back in 2011. As such, the Diamondbacks are receiving interest in Wade Miley, and Padres righty Tyson Ross could become a target as well. Controllable arms like Miley and Ross will be highly appealing to rival clubs, as any team can afford them — regardless of payroll. He adds that the D’Backs and Padres might be years away from contention anyhow, and at that point, Miley and Ross will have become expensive via arbitration.
  • Later in his post, Olney writes that the Giants will have a tough time lining up for a Price trade, as their 2015 roster is full of holes that will need to be filled – namely at third base, left field and second base. Price’s 2015 salary would prevent them from addressing their many needs, as would a Samardzija acquisition, albeit to a lesser extent.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports looks at three factors that will impact the Cubs’ ability to maximize their return on a Samardzija trade: Many contenders are hurting more for offense than pitching in 2014; interested parties will have Price as an alternative and may prefer to surrender more talent for the longer, more impressive track record; and Samardzija is seen by some GMs as unlikely to sign an extension regardless of setting. One interested GM confidently told Heyman, “No one’s going to extend him. He’s hitting free agency,” noting that Samardzija’s agency, Frontline Athlete Management, has a history of taking clients to the open market (e.g. Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Mike Hampton).

Heyman’s Latest: Blue Jays, Mariners

In two separate reports, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com takes a look at two teams (the Blue Jays and Mariners) that figure to play key roles in the developing trade market. Here are the highlights:

  • The Blue Jays are highly unlikely to deal for Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija, and the clubs have not swapped trade proposals in some time. While a deal centered around pitching prospects Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris has been floated in the media, a source tells Heyman that there is “zero chance” that Toronto would part with that package.
  • Instead, Toronto will probably focus more on the the “rental” market, says Heyman. But with many teams still waiting to see how they perform over the next month, the supply remains uncertain. Heyman cites Justin Masterson (Indians), Jorge De La Rosa (Rockies), Francisco Liriano (Pirates), and Jake Peavy (Red Sox) as arms that could join Jason Hammel of the Cubs in that segment of the market.
  • The Jays are also likely to “take another look” at adding a second baseman after losing Brett Lawrie for a month or more to a broken finger. While minor league signee Juan Francisco will play third in the meantime, and now looks like an even more important piece of the puzzle, the club is running out a less-than-ideal assortment of options at second. Heyman suggests that the Jays would have interest in Chase Utley, but it remains far from clear that he will be an achievable target.
  • The Mariners made a run at Kendrys Morales before he signed with the Twins, and Heyman has details. Seattle discussed a two-year concept and also offered a one-year deal for about $5MM.
  • That would seem to reflect a desire to add bats, but GM Jack Zduriencik says that he is “wide open” in approaching acquisitions. According to Heyman, the team is interested in adding controllable, younger bats or starting pitching. Seattle has spoken with the Cubs about both Hammel and Samardzija, though the club remains loath to give up either Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. While the club seemingly would deal away some of its young position players — such as Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Nick Franklin — it seems disinclined to part with them for less than a compelling return.
  • While the M’s have plenty of strategic approaches available, one big issue cited recently has been the team’s apparent inability and/or unwillingness to add payroll. Heyman says that the club may have some free cash “for the right player,” however, possibly relating to incentives in Corey Hart‘s contract that will not be met.

Latest On Blue Jays’ Interest In Jeff Samardzija

The Blue Jays continue to scout Jeff Samardzija, as pro scouting director Perry Minasian was in attendance for yesterday’s outing against the Reds, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Much of the chatter regarding Samardzija to this point has included speculation when it comes to Chicago’s asking price, but Morosi hears “strong indications” that the Cubs would deal Samardzija for a package highlighted by right-hander Aaron Sanchez, left-hander Daniel Norris and center fielder Dalton Pompey.

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has maintained that he won’t include all three of those prospects in a deal for Samardzija or any other available pitcher — even David Price — according to Morosi’s report. He also notes that as much as the Blue Jays like Samardzija, they may prefer Price and Philadelphia southpaw Cole Hamels (though the latter isn’t guaranteed to be available).

The Blue Jays reluctance to deal three of their top prospects lines up with previous indicators that they may be more interested in rental players than controllable players due to a strong desire to preserve some of their farm system. Toronto has dealt away some notable prospect value — including Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani — to acquire the likes of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes. One thing we do know is that Anthopoulos feels he will have ownership’s blessing to expand the team’s payroll if necessary.

As for the three prospects listed by Morosi, Sanchez entered the season with the highest stock of the bunch but has seen his star lose some of its luster after struggling to a 4.08 ERA and issuing 48 walks in 75 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Norris, on the other hand, has been electric, turning in a combined 1.62 ERA and 4.47 K/BB ratio in 72 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A. Pompey ranked just 17th among Toronto prospects (per Baseball America) prior to the season but has boosted his value with a strong .312/.392/.460 batting line, six homers and 27 steals (in 29 attempts).