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Jeff Samardzija Rumors
With the draft in the rear-view mirror, the league’s attention will increasingly turn to the coming summer trade market — though, with so many teams still in the hunt and so much money owed to many possible trade candidates, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wonders if it will be a sluggish market.
Here’s the latest on some teams and players who could be discussed:
- The Diamondbacks, who feature a roster with several attractive veteran pieces, have also been widely noted for their abundance of quality young middle infielders. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links), current Triple-A shortstop Nick Ahmed has sparked interest from multiple other clubs. Ahmed, 24, is known as an outstanding defensive player and has enjoyed his most productive season at the plate this year with a .304/.385/.401 line in 250 plate appearances in his first run at Triple-A.
- The Rays should consider putting ace David Price on the market now rather than waiting for the deadline to approach, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Tampa may not achieve the return it hopes for if it waits, says Castrovince, citing a variety of reasons — including the current proliferation of teams still in the hunt, the possibility that Cubs hurler Jeff Samardzija may approach or even surpass him in value, and the potential introduction of Royals’ ace James Shields into the discussion.
- Price may be the Rays‘ most valuable trade chip, but the versatile Ben Zobrist would draw the widest interest if he is put on the block, tweets Rosenthal. The 33-year-old jack of all trades is owed just $7MM this year and comes with an attractive $7.5MM club option for 2015.
- Indeed, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com writes that Zobrist is “the perfect acquisition for a team like the Tigers, Giants, or Dodgers.” As I noted a few days ago, he would also make sense for a team like the Nationals if they decide to add an impact veteran, and there are surely many others with possible interest.
- Gammons goes on to cite a few other possibly overlooked trade possibilities. He lists Bartolo Colon of the Mets and Steve Cishek of the Marlins in addition to some more commonly mentioned names like Jason Hammel of the Cubs, and Chase Headley of the Padres.
- Cliff Lee of the Phillies, a hypothetically intriguing trade candidate, finally threw a baseball yesterday for the first time since May 18, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. After what he described as a “light throwing session,” Lee said that his elbow was feeling “better.” Of course, he would need to make it back for at least a few starts to allow Philadelphia to recoup anything close to maximum value were they to shop him.
- In today’s Baseball Tonight podcast (audio link), ESPN’s Buster Olney says that hears the Cubs will approach this year’s deadline as they did in 2013, dealing one pitcher early as they did with Scott Feldman last year and waiting until later to move a second, as they did with Matt Garza. Presumably, that’d mean Jason Hammel would be moved first, with Jeff Samardzija being moved later. His colleague, Keith Law, feels the strategy can work, as there will never be enough starting pitchers for all the teams looking to buy, and the price for Hammel isn’t as difficult to agree upon. Moving Hammel early on forces interested clubs to force on the bigger target later in the deadline as the need becomes greater.
- Olney lists the Blue Jays, the Orioles and the Athletics as teams that could have early interest in Hammel, and he wonders if the recent injuries to the Pirates‘ rotation would cause them to jump into the mix. Law feels the Angels could be added to that mix, as their weak farm system would prevent them from adding a big-name starter.
12:56pm: A baseball source differs from the report referenced below, telling MLBTR there is no truth to the assertion that the Cubs have inquired about receiving a competitive balance draft pick as part of a Samardzija deal.
10:57am: The Cubs have asked about acquiring a competitive balance-round draft pick and the associated bonus slot money as part of their desired return for Jeff Samardzija, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports. This would give Chicago an extra pick either between 35th-41st overall (Round A of the competitive balance picks) or 69th-74th overall (Round B) in this year’s amateur draft, should a trade be completed between now and Thursday.
Here’s a refresher on the order of the competitive balance round, which awards an extra pick to teams that play within the 10 smallest markets and/or teams with the 10 lowest revenues. Unlike other draft selections, competitive balance picks can be traded; just yesterday, the Marlins dealt the 39th overall pick to the Pirates in exchange for reliever Bryan Morris.
Passan cites the Rockies (picking at No. 35) as the best fit for Samardzija among the Round A teams with picks to trade, given Colorado’s long-standing need for starting pitching. The draft pick would just be part of a Samardzija trade package, of course, and I would guess the Cubs would also ask for Rockies pitching prospects Jonathan Gray or Eddie Butler in exchange for their ace. The Rox could possibly upgrade their rotation simply by promoting one of those two young arms, however, rather than deal assets for a veteran.
It seems unlikely that the Cubs would move Samardzija between now and Thursday’s draft, though they could still target a competitive balance pick in the 2015 draft. The competitive balance lottery for next year’s draft will take place in roughly six weeks’ times, and an extra pick could be a valuable trade chip for any contending teams who win those additional selections.
Count FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal among those puzzled by David Price‘s revived feud with David Ortiz, as Rosenthal notes that the two seemed to have buried the hatchet after last year’s controversy in the ALDS. While Price has been no stranger to high-profile situations over his career and is widely considered to be a level-headed person, Rosenthal wonders how the Rays ace would deal with increased scrutiny if he is dealt to a more pressurized market than Tampa Bay. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- The Blue Jays don’t have the prospect depth to pursue Price or Jeff Samardzija on the trade market this summer, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Both aces are only under contract through 2015 and seem unlikely to sign extensions to stay in Toronto, so the Jays aren’t willing to pay the high price of several top prospects for such short-term acquisitions.
- The Jays could look to add less-costly pitching help before the deadline, Olney writes, as well as an upgrade at second base, though the Brett Lawrie/Steve Tolleson/Juan Francisco rotation between 2B and 3B is working well. Toronto could also add another bullpen arm (if Sergio Santos isn’t healthy or effective) either before the deadline or into the August waiver period.
- “There’s no magic number for attendance” that will impact whether the Blue Jays make deadline deals or not, team president Paul Beeston tells Sportsnet’s Michael Grange. “If there’s a deal it’s not going to be money that determines if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be wins. If we’re winning we’ll do it. I hope we have that opportunity,” Beeston said.
- The big free agent deals signed by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury last winter have yet to translate into an improved offense for the Yankees, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News writes. Beltran has been injured, McCann has struggled and Ellsbury has been miscast as a No. 3 hitter, a lineup spot Ellsbury has often been forced to fill due to injuries. Madden wonders why the Yankees didn’t pursue a first base backup for Mark Teixeira (again battling wrist problems) over the offseason and believes the team needs to sign Kendrys Morales to help the lineup.
- Ken Davidoff of the New York Post also looked at the Yankees’ hitting woes and argues that the club could be better served by trading for starting pitching rather than offensive help. If the Yankees’ veteran hitters are healthy, they’re at least known commodities, while New York has several unproven young arms in its injury-riddled rotation.
It’s time to move Hanley Ramirez from shortstop to third base, writes Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. Saxon notes that advanced defensive metrics paint Ramirez as the worst shortstop in the Majors, and with Juan Uribe out for weeks (if not months) and a heavy emphasis on pitching, going with the best defensive alignment makes sense. Uribe could be used in a super-utility role upon his return, with Erisbel Arruebarrena and Dee Gordon forming a solid middle-infield tandem, he argues.
Here are some more notes from the Senior Circuit…
- The landscape in the upcoming Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes is beginning to take shape, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Sun-Times. Gonzalez runs down all of the factors that could determine where Samardzija is dealt (assuming, of course, that he is indeed traded) and examines how the tight race in the AL East benefits the Cubs. An Orioles source told Gonzales last week that they feel they’re in a window to contend through 2015. He also speculates that the Red Sox might be a sleeper for Samardzija given their strong pitching and catching depth in the minors.
- Earlier in the week, Mets GM Sandy Alderson appeared on 98.7 ESPN radio to tackle some criticism he’s received for signing Chris Young for just $750K less than Nelson Cruz received from the Orioles. Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog has highlights from the talk, in which Alderson calls such talk an “unfair comparison,” given the fact that Cruz was seeking $65MM at the time and only was an option in left field. Alderson said the team was searching for an outfielder that could handle center field and provide some pop with a .240-.250 average.
- The Washington Post’s James Wagner looks at the unlikely story of Nationals prospect Pedro Severino, who almost quit baseball after being asked to become a full-time catcher and is now among the organization’s best prospects at the position. Severino caught his first game at age 15 (he had preferred third base at the time) because the team’s regular catcher failed to show up. He impressed his coaches by gunning down a base stealer, and they asked him to stay there. Four months after nearly quitting, the Nats signed him as a 16-year-old catcher for $55K. Now, Severino says, he wouldn’t dream of playing another position. Though his offensive numbers are low, the Nats coaches and front office aren’t worried, as they’ve placed him in leagues where he’s three years younger than the average player in order to challenge Severino.
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.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the 20 biggest disappointments of the 2014 season so far. Near the top of the list: the Rangers unfortunate rash of injuries. Texas will be without Prince Fielder for the rest of the season and Jurickson Profar‘s status is up in the air as well. In total, the Rangers have had 14 players land on the disabled list, twice as many as any other team. More from Cafardo..
- Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija is being watched more than any pitcher by major league scouts. Among those watching are the Blue Jays, who are more convinced than ever they can win the AL East if they obtain a top starter like Samardzija. Meanwhile, one major league scout tells Cafardo that Toronto is still insistent on not giving up Drew Hutchison.
- There’s some concern about David Price‘s performance this season when it comes to Price, including a 3-mile-per-hour dropoff in velocity in recent outings, but one AL GM doesn’t believe the Rays will have trouble getting what they want in a deal. “Unless there’s a reason to believe he has something wrong with his shoulder, pitchers have ebbs and flows with velocity throughout a season,” said the GM. “Price will be fine.”
- The Pirates designated Wandy Rodriguez for assignment last week and they won’t find a deal for him if the medicals are too bad, but the feeling is that some team will take a chance.
- If new Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa starts hiring people in Arizona, Cardinals farm director Gary LaRocque could be brought aboard for a front office role.
The Cubs should trade Jeff Samardzija now rather than waiting, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. With Samardzija off to a hot start, his value should be at its peak, and the Cubs run the risk of having it drop if they wait. Even with Samardzija, the Cubs are in last place, so he’s unlikely to have a strong impact on their fortunes over the next year and a half unless they trade him. Here are more notes from the National League.
- With Tony LaRussa in the fold, Kevin Towers’ fate with the Diamondbacks is unclear, but it’s very unlikely that the D-Backs will hold onto manager Kirk Gibson, Nightengale writes. Instead, they could turn to White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing or Cardinals bench coach Mike Aldrete to replace Gibson.
- Giants president Larry Baer could be a candidate for commissioner, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. Baer isn’t saying whether he would be interested in the job, but Shea guesses the outgoing Baer would find it appealing, even though his current job with the Giants means a lot to him as a native San Franciscan. “He’d be crazy to give it up. He’s done a remarkable job in San Francisco,” an MLB source tells Shea.
- In light of Prince Fielder‘s injury, the Rangers could pursue free agent Kendrys Morales, although they will not do so until after the draft, since that would require them to lose a pick. If they fall out of contention, they could trade Alex Rios or Joakim Soria, either of whom could become free agents if the Rangers don’t pick up their 2015 options. They could also consider dealing Elvis Andrus, given their depth of young middle infield talent.
- When the Cubs and Blue Jays discussed a Jeff Samardzija deal this offseason, the Cubs asked for Drew Hutchison plus either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman, Rosenthal reports. Especially in retrospect, that would have been a steep price to pay — Hutchison has been terrific in the Jays’ rotation so far this year, and while Sanchez has struggled with walks at Double-A New Hampshire, Stroman continues to look like a top prospect. The Jays are not likely to pursue Samardzija again this summer.
- All signs indicate that the Phillies will not trade Chase Utley: Utley can veto any trade, he signed an extension last August, and GM Ruben Amaro tells Rosenthal that an Utley deal isn’t going to happen.
- The Astros are not interested in trading pitchers Dallas Keuchel or Collin McHugh, both 26-year-old pitchers who are having surprisingly strong seasons in Houston’s starting rotation.
- The Nationals could trade Ross Detwiler, a potential starter who’s currently in their bullpen. He’s currently earning $3MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility. (Detwiler is currently struggling with a 5.24 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 13 walks in 22 1/3 innings. That means the Nationals aren’t likely to get much for him.)
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado left this evening’s game with a left mallet finger fracture, the club announced on Twitter. The injury occurred to his left middle finger, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Team trainer Keith Duggers said that the best case is a four to six week layoff, though he’d be out longer if surgery is necessary, tweets Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Last year, Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro was able to play through a similar injury after missing just six games, but his featured only tendon damage and was not accompanied by a fracture. (Moreover, as Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News notes on Twitter, Scutaro still required surgery, and playing through the pain contributed to an injury to another finger.) For now, at least, Colorado will call up Josh Rutledge to take Arenado’s place on the active roster.
Here’s more out of the game’s western divisions …
- The Rangers‘ incredible injury difficulties are no reason to panic, argues MLB.com’s Richard Justice. While the Athletics are well out in front of the division, Texas is hovering around .500 and is far from out of the Wild Card race. The team is fortunate to have an obvious replacement on the open market in Kendrys Morales, says Justice, and should seriously consider signing him. Otherwise, the club can still look for help from a series of young players — Justice mentions Luke Jackson, Alec Asher, and Alex Gonzalez — who can be asked to make the jump to the bigs earlier than expected.
- That opinion is not shared by a pair of ESPN.com writers. Keith Law (Insider piece) says that the club should be able to acquire Morales for a song, but would be better suited by cutting their losses on the year. In addition to pending free agent relievers Joakim Soria, Neal Cotts, and Jason Frasor, Law says that the club could consider shopping Alex Rios and even star third baseman Adrian Beltre. Buster Olney joins with that general sentiment, writing (via Insider) that deciding to retool for next year would give the club a chance to free up some payroll space and add some young talent back into the system.
- In the same piece, Olney suggests that the Giants could potentially make sense as a trade partner with the Cubs for pitcher Jeff Samardzija. San Francisco has been aggressive in dealing prospects for veterans in the past, notes Olney, and could add Samardzija with the hoping of eventually extending him (much as they did with Hunter Pence).
- In a lengthy piece on the Astros‘ front office, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle provides details on the contract discussions that took place with third baseman Matt Dominguez and outfielder Robbie Grossman. The club offered Dominguez $14.5MM over five years in a contract that would have given the team two option years. Meanwhile, Grossman was made an offer of $13.5MM over six years, again with two options tacked on.
- The key to the Athletics‘ success this year has been achieving true depth, assistant GM Farhan Zaidi said in an interview with Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. “Whether it’s fatalistic or not you always think two injuries ahead,” said Zaidi. “You have a five-man rotation, but we always like to have seven or eight starting pitchers that we feel we could put in the mix if we needed to and still be able to compete.” The club builds in injury risk into its internal projection model, says Zaidi, who notes that manager Bob Melvin plays a role by maintaining contact with players at Triple-A throughout the season. Discussing the team’s propensity for exchanging players, Zaidi said that Oakland “tend[s] to be pretty targeted in players that we go out and try to trade for.” That means the club must also be willing to see a player find success in his new destination. “When you’re really targeting specific guys, rather than having teams approach you about players, you have to be willing to be aggressive and maybe overpay talent-wise to get the guy that fits your specific need,” he explained. Be sure to read the piece for plenty more great information.
Speculation has heightened as to when the Cardinals will call up top prospect Oscar Taveras. He is part of a special trio of Triple-A outfielders, along with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk, a scout tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). That same scout said that Taveras needs a new challenge at this point. “He’s on cruise control,” he said. “Gives away at-bats. Needs to play with more urgency. He’ll get a wake-up call but it will take [the] big leagues to do it.” Of course, whatever his level of motivation and effort, Taveras has played well; he entered the day with a .304/.354/.509 line through 175 plate appearances.
Here are some more stray notes to round out the evening:
- While he remains winless, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija continues to drive up his stock with an outstanding start to the season. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the club should shop him this summer at peak value; as a GM tells Heyman, Chicago will “want top, top guys” in return. Heyman lists the ten clubs that could possibly match up on Samardzija, topped by the three northernmost A.L. East clubs.
- While Heyman puts the Yankees first among possible Samardzija suitors, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post says that fellow Cubs starter Jason Hammel may make more sense for New York. Samardzija may price himself out of the Yanks’ reach in terms of a prospect package, says Davidoff. While Cliff Lee of the Phillies would also be of interest — and, presumably, be more achievable for the Yankees given his hefty contract — he now has significant arm issues for the first time in his career.
- The early-agreement trend on the July 2 international market has not only changed the dynamics of the market itself, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, but has made it more difficult for prospect watchers to scout players. When players reach terms, they tend to steer clear of showcases and tryouts. As Badler notes, increasingly aggressive signing tactics also “elevate the risk and uncertainty” for teams, because young players can change so much in a short period of time.
- Now a decade in the past, the 2004 amateur draft understandably looks quite different in retrospect. ESPN.com’s Keith Law takes a look back in two Insider pieces (subscription required). There were many misses, of course, headlined by first overall pick Matt Bush. If teams had perfect foresight at the time, says Law, the first three choices would have brought Justin Verlander to the Padres, Dustin Pedroia to the Tigers, and Jered Weaver to the Mets.