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Jeff Samardzija Rumors
The White Sox and Athletics are discussing a deal that would bring starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija back to Chicago, Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “I believe serious talks are going on,” an AL source told Van Schouwen. Yesterday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the A’s were in the midst of discussions regarding Samardzija.
The White Sox have already added first baseman Adam LaRoche and lefty reliever Zach Duke this offseason. As Van Schouwen notes, Samardzija would give them another strong starter to complement Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and his acquisition would be another step toward building a competitive team around Sale and Jose Abreu. Samardzija pitched 219 2/3 innings while posting a 2.99 ERA, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in a terrific 2014. He’s projected to make $9.5MM in arbitration this offseason, and is eligible for free agency next winter.
Last night, the Athletics sent star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, so it makes sense that they would also consider trading Samardzija, since he only has one more more year of club control. They acquired Samardzija in another blockbuster trade last summer, sending top prospect Addison Russell, along with Dan Straily and Billy McKinney, to Chicago in exchange for Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Van Schouwen speculates that the Athletics’ return for Samardzija could include shortstop Alexei Ramirez (although the actual terms of the trade discussions are unknown at this time). The Athletics have needs at both middle infield positions. Ramirez will make $10MM in 2015, and has a team option for 2016.
8:14pm: Then again, it is obviously possible that multiple deals are in the works, and Rosenthal further tweets that the team is in talks on multiple trades, with a source saying that GM Billy Beane is “re-working the club.” (Twitter link.)
Slusser, meanwhile, tweets that ten teams have expressed interest in Samardzija, including the Red Sox and White Sox, but that he does not appear to be in any deal nearing completion.
7:41pm: The Athletics may be closing in on a trade involving starter Jeff Samardzija, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links). Oakland would receive several players in return, per Slusser, with the focus being on acquiring bats.
Samardzija is projected to earn $9.5MM in his final year of arbitration. The righty had a breakout 2014 campaign, posting a 2.99 ERA over 219 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9. Samardzija had previously posted strong peripherals and intriguing ERA estimator tallies, but finally put it all together in his first All-Star campaign.
The 29-year-old was brought to Oakland last summer in a blockbuster that cost the A’s top prospect Addison Russell, and the club currently has significant needs up the middle. In his offseason outlook piece for the A’s, MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained why dealing away Samardzija (or fellow rotation piece Scott Kazmir) could make sense for the club.
Here are the highlights of the latest rumors column from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe:
- The Red Sox don’t “hate” Yoenis Cespedes, despite a previous report that indicated otherwise. But Cafardo suggests Cespedes didn’t do enough work on his defense after arriving in Boston, and his offense wasn’t enough to compensate for it. Cespedes has only one year left on his contract, but it’s not clear whether, or when, the Red Sox will deal him.
- Cafardo says he got “a minute of straight laughter” when he asked if the White Sox might trade Chris Sale.
- The Red Sox and Athletics could discuss a Jeff Samardzija trade. Cafardo speculates Red Sox shortstop prospect Deven Marrero could be a potential piece, given that the A’s appear to be about to lose Jed Lowrie (to free agency) and already lost Addison Russell (when they traded for Samardzija in the first place).
- Now that they’ve acquired Hank Conger, the Astros could listen to offers for fellow catcher Jason Castro. Castro hit just .222/.286/.386 in a disappointing offensive season in 2014. He has two years remaining before free agency.
The Athletics do not intend to deal away star third baseman Josh Donaldson despite speculation that he could be made available, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. That confirms what Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported (via Twitter) the day after the club’s season ended. However, the team will be willing to listen to trade interest in pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, according to Rosenthal.
Donaldson has emerged as one of the best third basemen and most valuable players in the game. While he is undoubtedly a bargain as a Super Two player with four more years of control, he will not be cheap. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects that Donaldson will land $4.5MM this year, and that number will only continue to rise.
Donaldson’s rising cost led to suggestions that Oakland may consider dealing him. But while he would undoubtedly bring back a huge return, his departure would leave a gaping hole in any plans of near-term contention. As Rosenthal notes, A’s GM Billy Beane believes the team is still primed to reach the postseason next year.
As for Oakland’s staff, deals involving pitchers on expiring contracts are obviously more palatable, though Rosenthal hastens to add that the A’s are not shopping anyone and mentions that a trade deadline deal (if the team falls out of contention) could be the likelier outcome. Both Samardzija (projected $9.5MM arb salary) and Kazmir ($11MM salary with an additional $2MM luxury tax hit for his signing bonus) are cheap for their recent results, and the former in particular would be a popular trade target. In fact, MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his recent outlook for the A’s offseason that a deal involving Samardzija or Kazmir could make a good bit of sense.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that Jake Peavy has gone from a likely minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal. The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has gotten great work out of him. For his part, the 33-year-old appears to enjoy being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego. Here’s more from today’s column..
- A major league source tells Cafardo that Victor Martinez‘s preference is to stay with the Tigers and, therefore, Detroit will get the first crack at him. The interest is mutual and the Tigers would like to get something done sooner rather than later.
- If A’s GM Billy Beane listens to offers on Jeff Samardzija this offseason, you can count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties. The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens.
- Orioles outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz enjoys Baltimore and wants to stay, but Cafardo expects the Yankees, Rangers, and Mariners to be in on the bidding. No matter what, the 34-year-old looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere on a three- or four-year deal.
- First baseman Adam LaRoche likely won’t re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base. However, LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield. He could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz.
- While there’s intrigue over Korean shortstop Jung-Ho Kang, there’s still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he can translate well to MLB. Some are worried about the pronounced leg kick in his stance that lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his defensive ability, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.
The Athletics made several errors in their approach to mid-season roster reconstruction, opines SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, but trading away Yoenis Cespedes was not one of them. Overvaluing Jeff Samardzija, failing to improve at second, and giving up Addison Russell were all front office mistakes, says Brisbee, though much of the team’s recent poor play can be chalked up to some combination of bad luck and injury.
- Samardzija said he expects to reach free agency in November of 2015, according to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM (on Twitter). Though Oakland obviously attributed significant value to controlling him next year at a below-market salary, giving up Russell to do so, it is hardly surprising to hear that an extension is not in the works. Samardzija went on to say that he is open to both the Cubs and White Sox as a free agent and indicated that the city of Chicago is still a priority for him (link).
- The Astros‘ coaching staff is in limbo thanks to their managerial opening, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. Houston likes its current coaching staff and when figuring out who their next skipper will be, they’ll have to also decide how much they value the staff and whether it’s worth getting rid of coaches they like to accommodate a new manager.
- Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa has several avenues to pursue in his GM search, writes Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic. Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque and agent Dave Stewart have been heavily tied to the job and both have a history with La Russa. Meanwhile, if La Russa truly wants to “beef up” his analytics department, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler should garner strong consideration.
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.”
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.
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.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req’d) looks at what it would take for the Marlins, Giants, and Cardinals to land Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist.
- David Golebiewski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looks at the advanced stats and says that the Pirates came away as the winners in the Ernesto Frieri-Jason Grilli swap.
- White Sox slugger Dayan Viciedo says that he’s not fazed by the trade rumors surrounding him, writes Daniel Kramer of MLB.com. In last night’s MLBTR poll asking which position player will be dealt first, Viciedo finished third behind Martin Prado and Chase Headley.
- Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon would like to see his club get an offensive upgrade, but he also doesn’t want to see them sell off top prospects for rental players, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
- The Padres are seeing immediate returns on Cuban pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne, writes Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego.
- The Diamondbacks probably aren’t done trading after sending Joe Thatcher and Tony Campana to the Angels, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. “We plan on being active,” Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers said. “This is the start.“
- Troy Tulowitzki‘s trade value may never be higher for the Rockies, argues Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Tulo is saying the right things and hasn’t asked for a trade but a change makes sense for both sides at this time.
- Tulowitzki deserves better that what he’s getting with the Rockies, writes Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. “I want to be somewhere there’s a chance to be in the playoffs every single year,” Tulowitzki said.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the club sees the cost of trading as high.
- Phillies right fielder Marlon Byrd was dealt Aug. 27 last year from the Mets to the Pirates and he could be traded again this summer. However, the veteran says he’s not thinking about that, as Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.
- Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com looks at how the Cubs-A’s blockbuster deal helps the Phillies.
- The Indians talked to the Cubs about Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and it would have cost them Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, and Danny Salazar to make the same kind of deal that the A’s did, writes Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.
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).
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.