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Jeff Samardzija Rumors
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.
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).
- 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.
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).
Dan Jennings was a guest on MLB Network Radio’s Front Office show this morning, and the Marlins GM told hosts Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden (as per Bowden’s Twitter account) that owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to “open the checkbook” to make additions before the trade deadline. Miami began the season with one of the league’s lowest payrolls at just under $46MM, yet despite losing ace Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery, the Fish began the day just 1.5 games out of first place in the NL East. The Marlins could be looking to take advantage of their surprising good form, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported earlier today that Miami has been as aggressive as any team in scouting for upgrades.
Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- The Braves likely won’t be involved in the bidding for the Rays‘ David Price or the Cubs‘ Jeff Samardzija, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The team is already over budget and still has a solid starting rotation, despite the loss of Gavin Floyd.
- The easiest way for the Phillies to rebuild would be to trade Cole Hamels, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Despite Hamels’ big contract (he is owed approximately $107.5MM through the end of the 2019 season), he is younger and carries fewer health question marks than other veteran Phillies who could be available in trades. “If I were in their boat, I’d really hate to move [Hamels],” a rival executive tells Brookover. “But if you go back to question about which player is going to bring you the most value, you’re going to get the most for that guy. You have to get the most you can for a guy like that. If you don’t, you keep him. But you’re only going to get 1.5 pieces for someone else when you could get a lot more than that for him.”
- When Travis d’Arnaud returns this week, the Mets have the choice of either optioning Anthony Recker to Triple-A or exposing Taylor Teagarden to waivers, ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes. Also, Teagarden has the option of becoming a free agent if he is outrighted again. Rubin explores several factors in the decision, such as whether the Mets would mind losing Teagarden, and the effect this roster move could have on catching prospect Kevin Plawecki‘s development.
It’s been a rough week for the Rockies, who have lost five games in a row, got no-hit by Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday and allowed three runs to score on one wild pitch in yesterday’s 9-4 defeat to the Brewers. Here’s the latest on a Colorado team that is trying to hang on in the NL playoff race…
- The Rockies aren’t interested in Cubs starters Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports.
- It may be too soon to tell if the Rockies will be sellers or buyers at the trade deadline, but if the team does decide to sell, Saunders notes that two of its key trade chips have very limited value at the moment. Michael Cuddyer is on the DL until August, while southpaw Jorge De La Rosa is battling a stiff back and has pitched poorly over his last three outings.
- In an MLB Network Radio appearance today, Rockies director of Major League Operations Bill Geivett told Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden that Troy Tulowitzki won’t be traded and Geivett hopes the star shortstop will spend his entire career in Colorado (via Duquette’s Twitter account). With Tulowitzki healthy and putting up MVP numbers, it could be argued his trade value has never been higher, though Geivett and other members of Rockies management have steadfastly insisted for a few years now that Tulowitzki isn’t going to be dealt.
The Cubs promoted top prospect Kris Bryant from Double-A to Triple-A yesterday, but as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat writes, president Theo Epstein doesn’t feel the 2013 No. 2 overall pick’s development is complete yet. Muskat spoke with manager Rick Renteria and current Cubs players Jake Arrieta and Anthony Rizzo about Bryant’s future as well. The 22-year-old Bryant, who slashed an unthinkable .355/.458/.702 with 22 homers in 69 Double-A games, didn’t seem to have a hard time adjusting to his new Triple-A surroundings; he went 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in last night’s Iowa debut.
More on Bryant and the Cubs…
- Despite Bryant’s tremendous minor league success, Epstein told reporters, including the Daily Herald’s Bruce Miles, that he doesn’t expect Bryant to be promoted to the Major Leagues this season (Twitter link). That may be disappointing for Cubs fans, but from a business standpoint there’s little harm in letting Bryant develop at Triple-A and waiting to start his service clock.
- Via Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago (on Twitter), Epstein also said that if No. 4 overall pick Kyle Schwarber‘s bat warrants fast-tracking him to the Major Leagues, the team won’t slow him down by leaving him behind the plate to develop. A catcher and outfielder at Indiana, Schwarber’s bat is said to be much closer to big-league ready than his glove behind the plate. However, the consensus seems to be that he could reach the Majors quickly as an outfielder.
- As for the team’s more immediate concerns — presumably, dealing away several veterans from the big league roster — Epstein says that trade talks remain sporadic at present, Rogers reports. “The rule of thumb is there is more speculation this time of year than actual trade talk,” said Epstein. “Teams don’t like to rush into those types of things.” While last year’s Scott Feldman deal went down in early July, Epstein said that did not mean anything for this year’s plans. The head baseball man also hinted that he hopes a healthy number of buyers could work to his team’s advantage. “The parity creates more potential buyers,” he said. “A lot of teams are out there that could be one or two players away from getting into the playoffs and doing some damage.”
- The Cubs may come to regret not locking up staff ace Jeff Samardzija when they had the chance to do so at a lower price, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times. Wittenmyer reports that, earlier in the year, Samardzija had proposed a $100MM deal while the Cubs were sitting at $60MM. Samardzija’s representatives signaled that they would split the difference, but Chicago only increased its offer by $500K. Now, with the asking price much higher, it seems as though the 29-year-old will instead be dealt, and Wittenmyer argues that the club will struggle to replace him for anything approaching a reasonable price.
5:45pm: Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that Samardzija rejected a five-year offer that was worth slightly more than $85MM (Twitter link).
WEDNESDAY, 4:48pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also hears that the Cubs have made a new five-year offer to Samardzjia, but he says the number is “definitely not in the vicinity” of Bailey’s $105MM guarantee and could be more in the $75-80MM range. Samardzija and his agents have not countered the offer, he adds.
Heyman notes that some Cubs people have spoken optimistically about trading Samardzija, only to sign him in a year and a half when he reaches the free agent market. Given Samardzija’s prioritization of winning, the Cubs would likely need to experience a drastic turnaround in 2015 to make that scenario plausible.
TUESDAY: Though most of the rumors surrounding Jeff Samardzija of late have understandably pertained to possible trade destinations, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Cubs are making a late push to extend their ace. Wittenmyer hears from multiple sources that the Cubs have offered Samardzija a new extension that would keep him in Chicago through 2019. While that contract length is the same as the previous five-year deals Chicago has offered, Wittenmyer says the new offer is for a higher guaranteed number than the previous $60-65MM figure that was proposed.
One source tells Wittenmyer that Samardzija would require something in the vicinity of the $17.5MM annual value that Homer Bailey received on his six-year, $105MM extension with the Reds. That deal, of course, essentially boiled down to a five-year, $95MM extension, as Bailey was already likely to earn about $10MM via arbitration in 2014.
Multiple sources also indicated to Wittenmyer that “at least” two teams, including the Blue Jays, have already had preliminary talks with the Cubs about Samardzija and exchanged potential names that could change hands. He adds that contenders that are looking for starting pitching this summer “still believe Samardzija is firmly on the market.”
A midseason extension for Samardzija certainly wouldn’t be unheard of; Cole Hamels was thought to be a trade candidate for a potentially rebuilding Phillies club in 2012, but Philadelphia instead inked him to a six-year, $144MM extension. Matt Cain signed a five-year extension that guaranteed him $112.5MM in new money shortly after the onset of the 2012 season, which could be a potential talking point in negotiations for Samardzija. That contract, however, was worked out entering Cain’s contract year, while Samardzija has one-and-a-half years of control remaining.
The Cubs are reportedly gauging the market value of Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta in addition to Samardzija — perhaps in an effort to assess what they can pull in via trade should they lock up their most valuable trade chip long-term rather than ship him elsewhere for what would surely be an impressive haul of prospects. Given Samardzija’s excellent season to date and the fact that he is controlled through 2015, it’s hard to envision the Cubs getting anything less than the package they received for two months of Matt Garza last summer. In my estimation, a team would have to top that package — C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez — in order to pry Samardzija away from Chicago.
In 91 innings this season, Samardzija has pitched to a 2.77 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate. Both the walk rate and ground-ball rate would represent the best full-season marks of his career, should he maintain them. Sabermetric ERA estimators love Samardzija’s work even more than usual, as FIP pegs him at 2.95, xFIP at 3.27 and SIERA at 3.39.
The latest trade deadline news and rumors out of the National League …
- Even as the team explores the possibility of an extension, the Cubs are still indicating to other clubs that top starter Jeff Samardzija is available, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. As Wittenmyer notes, Chicago engaged in “lukewarm final talks” with Matt Garza last year prior to dealing him away.
- We heard last night that the Blue Jays were keeping a close eye on Samardzija. Further reports indicate that, unsurprisingly, they were not alone in watching his start last night. The Giants took a look, according to a tweet from Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, as did the Royals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Also present, albeit with unknown targets in their sights, were scouts for the Angels, Indians, and Reds, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).
- Diamondbacks starter Bronson Arroyo has a sprained UCL and is now on the DL for the first time in his career, reports Steve Gilbert of MLB.com (Twitter links). Though the current plan is for Arroyo to rest for about ten days, the injury certainly throws some uncertainty into his potential status as a trade candidate this summer. Arroyo’s calling cards, of course, are his remarkable durability and consistency. The injury suggests a potentially increased risk for a pitcher who is 37 years old, has 3,469 2/3 professional innings on his right arm, and is owed not only the rest of a $9.5MM salary for this year but also $14MM in future guarantees.
- Phillies president David Montgomery says that he is confident in GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and his staff, reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I just believe that group of people gave us the successful period we had,” Montgomery said. “They had different roles in it. I know people focus on Ruben’s role having changed vis-a-vis 2009 vs. 2008. … [Y]ou have to look at the whole body of work. Have we been served well? My answer to that is yes.” Regarding the team’s operating strategy, he said that it will continue to “pay attention to both today and tomorrow, and to do what’s right in both cases.”
- While it remains unclear whether the Phillies would be willing to deal either or both of their veteran middle infielders (Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins), or if the players would in turn be amenable to waiving their no-trade protection, it is also worth considering what kind of value they might bring back. “I don’t know if some of those guys will get you enough in return to warrant making the trade,” an American League executive told the Inquirer’s Bob Brookover. The unnamed exec did indicate that some teams may be willing to look past the negative clubhouse reputation of closer Jonathan Papelbon, whose strong performance to date could make it possible for the Phils to offload him and save some future cash.
- The Marlins are open to dealing for rotation help, but will first explore internal solutions, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Miami just promoted youngsters Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani. If the club does ultimately consider dealing away close-to-the-bigs talent in exchange for an established starter, Frisaro says that it would likely aim for a player that it can control beyond the season. He floats the possibility that the Fish could dangle infield prospect Derek Dietrich, who offers intriguing left-handed power.
JUNE 16: In addition to discussing Samardzija and Hammel trades, the Cubs are at least willing to consider the possibility of moving additional arms, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Morosi hears Chicago is trying to gauge the market on Samardzija, Hammel, Edwin Jackson and even Jake Arrieta.
It’s not surprising that they’d be willing to move Jackson, as they undoubtedly would be pleased to shed some of his salary obligations — he is owed roughly $28.3MM through 2016 — but Arrieta is somewhat of a surprise. Chicago acquired him in last year’s Scott Feldman trade, and he’s off to an outstanding start in 2014, having pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 52.1 percent ground-ball rate in 43 innings. Still just 28 years old, Arrieta is not yet arbitration eligible and is under team control through 2017, so it stands to reason that the asking price would be high.
Listening on Arrieta is a bit puzzling, as one would think he’s the type of arm the Cubs would like to build their rotation around, but he’s also battled injuries and has never been able to consistently succeed in the Majors, despite having the talent to do so. As Morosi notes, the Cubs aren’t planning to trade all four starters, but rather is doing its due diligence to know the market value of each starter heading into trade season.
JUNE 14: The Cubs are already discussing trades involving starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel with at least two teams, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Interested teams include the Braves, Blue Jays and Mariners, and Wittenmyer cites one source from within baseball who tells him Hammel is likely to wind up with Seattle.
With about six weeks left to go before the trade deadline, the Cubs are 27-38, 11 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. It is, of course, not necessarily surprising that the Cubs would consider trading two veteran pitchers who are having good seasons. Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, currently has a 2.77 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 91 innings. Hammel, who’s signed to a one-year deal for $6MM, is in the midst of the best season of his career, with a 2.81 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.