Trade Deadline Most Wanted: Jeff Samardzija

Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija
Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija

With a little over four weeks remaining until the trade deadline, rumors of names heading to contending teams are starting to heat up. One name rumored to be on the move, for what seems like years, is Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. After earning $5.35 million in his second year of arbitration, Samardzija will be eligible for arbitration one more time in 2015 prior to reaching free agency. At 29, Samardzija is eight months older than Rays trade-bound ace David Price, but he has logged 438 fewer innings than Price due to his time in the bullpen over his first four seasons (128 appearances, just five starts).

While Samardzija doesn’t have the wear and tear on his arm that Price has, he also doesn’t have the resume. That doesn’t mean that Samardzija is chopped liver, though. The former Notre Dame football standout is the 23rd most valuable pitcher in baseball since moving to the starting rotation in 2012 (FanGraphs WAR). Since moving to the rotation full-time9.01 K/9 ranks 9th among qualifiers, his 3.54 FIP ranks 27th in MLB despite his ERA (3.83) ranking 55th, and his 496.1 innings rank 24th in MLB.

Samardzija1The teams that Samardzjia has pitched for shouldn’t be discounted, as well. The Cubs are 163-243 (.401) since the start of the 2012 season, while Samardzija is just 19-33 (.365) during that stretch. The 2014 season, however, has been Samardzija’s best, despite his 2-7 record. His 2.83 ERA (3.06 FIP) and his 1.20 WHIP are the best of his career as a starter (WHIP is career-best). While his strikeouts are down slightly (8.6/9 IP in 2014 compared to 9.0/9 IP in 2013), his walks are down to a career-best 2.6/9 IP, and his ERA+ is at 135, best in his career.

The Cubs are likely looking to significantly cash in if and when they deal Jeff Samardzija. While the club has prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Albert Almoraand Kyle Schwarber to build around as positional prospects, only C.J. Edwards (who is battling a shoulder issue after being acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last season) appears to be an above-average arm in the system currently, though Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn could be decent back-end options. The club drafted heavy on pitching, as 20 of their 40 picks in June’s MLB Draft were pitchers, but Chicago could use some near-ready talent with so many of their top position players at the upper levels of the minors.

So, who appears to be a good fit for a deal? As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported a couple of weeks ago:

Toronto: The Blue Jays are the top team in baseball who appear to need pitching depth, as they sit one game up on Baltimore in the AL East with veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey leading the way as Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman take on larger roles. With Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, and Alberto Tirado ranking near the top of the Jays system and all three being mid-to-top-of-the-rotation arms, Toronto seems to be a logical fit.

San Francisco: The Giants quickly tumbled out of first place in the NL West, but the problem with their rotation is Matt Cain, who is 1-6 with a 4.38 ERA and 4.51 FIP, both the worst of the current starting five; however, Cain likely isn’t going anywhere with his $20 million salary and the guaranteed three-years and $67.5 million remaining on his deal from 2015 to 2017. Ryan Vogelsong is a free agent after the season, and, while he has pitched well at times, he would likely get the boot from the rotation if the Giants were to acquire Samardzija. The Giants have several solid pitching prospects, with Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar, Adalberto Mejia, and Clayton Blackburn as potential pitching targets for the Cubs.

Los Angeles Angels: Unless the Angels were willing to part with Garrett Richards, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2015 and won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, the Angels don’t have the prospects to make a deal. It is interesting that they keep showing up in rumors considering the state of their farm system.

Baltimore: The Orioles have pitching out the wazoo, with Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Hunter Harvey having “future ace” labels on them. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Mike Wright have had less than stellar seasons in the Orioles’ system, but could be nice secondary pieces.

New York Yankees: Luis Severino and prospects with injury issues: Jose Campos, Manny Banuelos, and Jose Ramirez, top the Yankees farm on the pitching side, but the Cubs could be interested in a catching prospect like Gary Sanchez as a piece to build around, as they don’t have an elite future option behind the dish with Schwarber likely to move from behind the plate.

Boston: The Red Sox have a lot of pitching options in their system in Henry Owens, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Allen Webster, and Trey Ball. It’s quite possible any of those five could do a better job than Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz are doing this season. Regardless, if Boston is serious about contending, they’ll likely part with some of their young talent for a more proven commodity like Samardzija, even if they could get similar production over the next two seasons from one of the prospects if they stood pat.


Trade Deadline Most Wanted: David Price

Rays LHP David Price, one hot commodity
Rays LHP David Price, one hot commodity

With a little over five weeks remaining until the trade deadline, rumors of names heading to contending teams are starting to heat up. Among the names is David Price, the three-time All-Star and 2012 AL Cy Young winner, who is under team-control through the 2015 season and will likely fetch a very strong return, likely similar to what the Tampa Bay Rays received for James Shields, if the last place Rays decide to be sellers at the trade deadline. After Wednesday afternoon’s performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, his stock seems to be at its peak for a potential deal.

In front of 23,761 of the finest retirees in St. Petersburg, Florida, Price pitched 8.1 innings, allowing just five hits, one run, coming on a solo home run to Andrew McCutchen in the top of the 9th, while striking out 11, and walking one. Price became the first pitcher since Johan Santana in 2004 to strike out at least 10 batters in five straight starts. Price now has a Greg Maddux-like 144:14 K:BB in 124 innings in 2014. While his ERA stands at 3.63 after the strong performance, Price’s FIP is 2.99, and the Rays, who have scored 300 runs in their 80 games (3.75 R/G), aren’t scoring nearly enough runs to allow Price to win as many games as he should have at this point. In his five masterful strikeout performances in June, Price is now just 2-3 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and a 54:5 K:BB over 39.2 innings.

The line forming for Price’s services is extending each day. The most recent name to drop in is laughably the Los Angeles Angels, whose farm system is the weakest in baseball and would require a three-way deal including Mike Trout to get the pieces necessary to deal prospects for Price. There are plenty of players, though.

Cardinals' Future Star and trade chip Oscar Taveras
Cardinals’ Future Star and trade chip Oscar Taveras

Steve Kinsella (@Steve_Kinsella1), of Sports Talk Florida, mentioned in a piece published Wednesday that the Dodgers and Cardinals are two teams that meet the criteria of an impressively stocked farm system. He mentioned hard-throwing right-hander Carlos Martinez and outfielder Oscar Taveras being interesting pieces for the Rays from St. Louis, while the Dodgers could toss out the names of 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias, right-hander Zach Lee, outfielder Joc Pederson, and shortstop Corey Seager, as possible names in a deal. It’s hard to argue with either of those deals on the Tampa Bay side, as they would need to acquire enough talent to have a deal worth completing, but it’s fair to question whether they have any leverage when so many other teams know that they don’t want to risk going to arbitration prior to the 2015 season and paying Price nearly $20 million given the club’s weak attendance and non-existent revenue capabilities in their market.

While the Cardinals and Dodgers appear to be capable of the top bids, it likely won’t stop there. Here are some other possible suitors:

Baltimore: Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jonathon Schoop could be nice long-term options for the Rays in some sort of package, as the pitching rich Orioles push for contention in the AL East.

Boston: Garin Cecchini, Mookie Betts, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Blake Swihart, or one of Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks may be enticing for the Rays, though the Red Sox lack of youth may keep them from dealing from their future core, especially with the club’s lack of interest in expensive, long-term deals.

Seattle: James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Gabriel Guerrero, D.J. Pederson, and Victor Sanchez would be a nice group to choose from, and we all know that the Mariners think that they’re making a run for it after the Robinson Cano signing. Acquiring Price would be costly, but would strengthen an already strong Felix HernandezHisashi Iwakuma led rotation.

Kansas City: Sean Manaea, Raul Mondesi, Jr., Kyle Zimmer, Jorge Bonifacio, Hunter Dozier, and Miguel Almonte are at the top of a Royals system that some was drained when they traded Jake Odorizzi and Wil Myers to the Rays for Shields. Dayton Moore may not have a strong manager and a strong win-loss record as the Royals GM, but the man can draft and develop talent.

David Price is very unlikely to finish the 2014 season in a Rays uniform. He would certainly be a huge addition with a huge cost for whatever team is gutsy enough to strike up a deal. Much like the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7, 2008 (Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 17 starts for the Brewers), the sooner Price can make an impact for the acquiring team, the better the deal will look, especially given the hauls.


GM for the Day: Los Angeles Dodgers

Poor, poor Ned Colletti.  What a mess the Dodgers have turned into, as the McCourt family has turned a once highly respected organization into a complete joke.  The Dodgers have three major parts right now: Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  At the trade deadline, the rumors are flying about Hiroki Kuroda going to the East Coast with the Yankees and Red Sox as the favorites for his services.  He has a full no-trade clause, though, so it will have to be negotiated.  Outside of Kuroda, who would I trade?

The starting rotation has Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Rubby De La Rosa who would be untouchable.  Billingsley is 27 and is signed through 2014 with a club option for 2015, so he isn’t going anywhere.  He has 68 wins in his career, and, while he can be inconsistent, he can be viewed as a solid #2 or #3 for the Dodgers long-term.  Kershaw is an elite starting pitcher and he is just 23, has already won 38 games, and is under team control through 2014, with arbitration coming up in 2012 for the 1st time.  De La Rosa is still new at this at just 22.  He has made just nine career starts, but he looks like a keeper.  I would deal Kuroda, if he’ll waive his no-trade clause, to the Red Sox for Ryan Lavarnway and Felix Doubront, getting an offensive-minded catcher and a solid left-handed pitcher who is overlooked as a prospect, despite being 23 with a 46-35 record and 3.55 ERA over parts of seven seasons in the Minors.  I would then deal Ted Lilly to Detroit for Daniel Fields, a toolsy center field prospect who is struggling in High-A.  Fields would be a project who could take Kemp’s spot in a few years, though.

Matt Kemp is my superstar, he is three years younger than Ethier at 26, and he is a Free Agent in 2013.  I am keeping him at all costs and I shed some payroll by trading Kuroda and Lilly, though I would have had to take on about half of the $24-26 million that Lilly was owed through 2013.  Andre Ethier is eligible for arbitration in 2012, so I am going to trade him and start over.  I will work with the Braves on this one.  While Pence isn’t worth those aces, Ethier is.  He would be a great addition due to his ability to get on base (.364 career OBP), and I think he is worth the $10-12 million he could get in arbitration.  However, I’m not taking the top prospect from the Braves, I need more depth.  Martin Prado will have to play center for Atlanta with the acquisition of Ethier, as Ethier has never played center in the Majors.  As the Dodgers GM, I would want Jordan Schafer to take over center.  I want Kemp out of center to protect him long-term, so he’ll go to right.  Jerry Sands will be my left fielder, giving him a longer look after his struggles earlier this year, as he deserves another shot after hitting .275/.349/.564 with 16 homers in Triple-A.

This roster will need to be turned over and go young over the next few years, so if I get offered prospects for a veteran bullpen arm, like Mike MacDougal,  I will jump at it.  I will trade Rafael Furcal and give the shortstop job to Dee Gordon, and trade Jamey Carroll to a team in need of a utility player.  Furcal should be useful for a team like the Pirates, who are running Brandon Wood and Ronny Cedeno out there, and I should be able to get more depth, maybe even Gorkys Hernandez, a speedy outfielder in Triple-A.

It is all about depth at this point.  Going young, going cheap.  Until the McCourt’s lose control, that is all we can do in Los Angeles.  Get rid of veterans, play a bunch of kids, see what you have.  Get as many prospects as I can and get rid of payroll.  Keep Kemp and Kershaw until they retire, if possible, and build around them.

One Pence, None the Richer

Hunter Pence is a good baseball player.  Good, not great.  You could even say that he is so good that he isn’t great enough to be worth the type of talent that it is rumored that he will cost a team trading for him.  Pence is batting .309, good for 18th in MLB.  His .356 OBP ranks 50th, his .472 slugging percentage ranks 54th, and his .828 OPS ranks him 49th in MLB.  Value has changed to where OPS is a pretty good indicator of run production, as a high OPS shows that a player gets on base and can drive the ball.  Pence ranks behind names like Casey Kotchman, Seth Smith, and Yunel Escobar, players that no team are throwing the names of their top prospects around for in a trade.

Hunter Pence will be 29 in April.  He makes $6.9 million this year and is eligible for arbitration, which will make him capable of making $10 million or more next season based on his current salary and production.  But…is he worth it, let alone the amount of talent a team will be giving up to get him? has a ranking system based on age-level production.  Hunter Pence is nearly equal to…Bobby Higginson…at this point in his career.  Bobby Higginson’s best season came at the age of 29, in 2000, when he hit .300/.377/.538 with 30 homers and 102 RBI.  Higginson did one thing that made him better than Pence…he walked.  Pence’s .339 career OBP makes him a liability for his long swing as he ages.  His strange approach to hitting has long been questioned.  John Sickels of wrote: “The question now is, when he gets into his late 20s, does Pence stay where he is now (which is really good) or does he take a further step forward into genuine superstardom?  Most scouts would doubt the latter possibility. Many have never been comfortable with his unorthodox stance at the plate. But it works, and if he can make even a marginal improvement in his plate discipline, such a breakthrough is possible.”  This was posted on February 4, 2008 (

Pence is good, not great.  He was an All-Star this season, but so was damn-near everyone in baseball, as well as in 2009.  He hit 25 homers in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  His on-base skills have bounced up and down like Aubrey Huff’s last few seasons.  Pence is a very good player.  He isn’t Carlos Beltran, who was traded for a legitimate top prospect in Zack Wheeler.  It is rumored that Philadelphia and Atlanta are in on Pence.  Philadelphia may offer Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton, and/or Jarrod Cosart, all top prospects for the Phillies.  The Astros are asking for Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino, and/or Randall Delgado from the Braves, all top prospects.  It doesn’t make sense for these teams.  To get over the hump and then have to pay the type of money it will require in arbitration to Pence…it isn’t worth it.  He is a good player.  Not a great one.  If Philadelphia or Atlanta deal a group of top prospects for Pence, they will get a solid hitter, a great fielder, and a 3rd-tier star.

Get to Know…Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler was the 6th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Draft by the Giants.  He seems to be the primary piece going to New York for Carlos Beltran.  While Beltran has had a rebound this season, the Giants are getting a player who struggled last season, playing in just 145 games in 2009 and 2010 due to microfracture surgery (the same surgery that may again doom Grady Sizemore –  Beltran has a nice .904 OPS, his highest since posting a .982 mark in 2006, but what about the cost of the rental?

Zack Wheeler is an excellent prospect.  Typically, posting a 3.99 ERA leaves you into the land of mediocrity.  However, the California League isn’t your normal pitching environment.  Wheeler’s 3.99 ERA ties him for 11th in the league in ERA.  At 21, Wheeler has struck out 98 in 88 innings, good for a 10.02 K/9IP mark, while his 4.80 BB/9IP shows that he still needs to work on his location.  His stuff is electric, though, as he has a fastball that touches 96 and a devastating curveball, which will be his out pitch.

Wheeler’s long-term value could get a boost moving to Citi Field, a known pitchers park, but that isn’t to say that San Francisco’s AT&T Park wouldn’t have been nice to pitch in.  The Mets will be an interesting team to monitor.  They could move David Wright due to Jefry Marte’s presence in the Minors, Reyes may leave in Free Agency this winter, and they will have a group of arms to build around in Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jenrry Mejia.  Maybe they’ll be on a sweet baseball card like Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen some day.

Right in the Ras…mus

He likes animals more than good baseball players

Toronto STOLE Colby Rasmus today and they didn’t even need to use any petroleum jelly.  Toronto traded Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart to the White Sox for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahan, taking on about $7 million in salaries.  They then turned around and traded Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson, and Marc Rzepczynski to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J Walters.

What are they getting?  A cornerstone center fielder who they can plug in right now between Eric Thames and Travis Snider, forming one of the youngest, most potent group of young outfielders in the league.  In Rasmus, as written earlier (, they get a player who Tony LaRussa basically forced  out of town.  He could use some help with his contact rate, but look what Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy has done for Jose Bautista!  Rasmus just wanted some help outside of the organization to get back on track.  Now he has some extraordinary help.  Miller, Tallet, and Walters are all middle to long relief types.  Mark Teahen can play each of the corners and is just two years removed from ripping 34 doubles and 12 homers for the Royals.  The main piece throughout this deal is Rasmus and the Jays parted with bullpen help and veteran pieces, just what rebuilding teams need to do.  Bullpens can be pieced together, but cornerstones aren’t found on the street.  They gave up Edwin Jackson, who was flipped right away, but he is now in his sixth organization (seventh if you count the hour he spent as a “member” of Toronto) and he is just 27-years-old.

What did the Blue Jays lose?

* Jason Frasor, who will turn 34 in August, who has a 2.98 ERA over 44 appearances, a Free Agent after this season is gone.  He has a career 3.69 ERA over 455 appearances.

* Zach Stewart will be 25 in September.  He has made three starts in Toronto, going 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA.  He didn’t start a game in the Minors until 2009 and has made just 56 starts over the last 2 1/2 years.  He is probably bullpen bound long-term.

*Octavio Dotel will be 38 this winter and has pitched well over his entire career, including a 3.68 ERA this season.

*Corey Patterson will be 32 in August.  He has a career .253/.292/.402 slash line, never really learned how to take a walk, and strikes out in over 20% of his at bats for his career.  He is a fine defensive outfielder still, but not much should be expected.

*Marc Rzepczynski is about to turn 26 and is probably the most difficult piece that the Jays had to part with.  “Scrabble” finally developed a role, making 43 appearances and establishing himself as a dominant left-handed specialist, holding lefties to a .159 average.

Great deal by Alex Anthopoulos, GM of the Jays, who stole Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes from the Braves last season for Alex Gonzalez and a couple of Minor Leaguers.  He really seems to be making some smart decisions and is developing a nice farm system along with his great trades.

GM for the Day: Cincinnati Reds

The Reds need another top of the rotation starter, but they don’t need to give up their top four prospects to make that happen.  This would take out James Shields (who is already off the market) and Ubaldo Jimenez (who probably wasn’t ever really on the market to begin with).  You don’t need an outfielder when you can’t find time to give to Chris Heisey, a guy who would be a regular for half of the league.  However, the Reds are apparently still shopping for a left-fielder despite their logjam with Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis and Heisey.  So lets stick with a starting pitcher.  Who should that be?  The top starter available if Shields and Jimenez are gone would be Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers.  Kuroda has been solid this season, despite his win-loss record of 6-12.  The 36-year-old, who is a free agent after this season, has posted a 3.19 ERA over 20 starts, averaging 6 1/3 innings per start.  Kuroda won’t be nearly as expensive as Shields or Jimenez would have been, but he should still cost a top-tier prospect.  Who would I trade if I was the Reds GM?


Billy Hamilton.  Billy Hamilton is the type of player that Cincinnati fans love until they make it to the Majors.  Not yet 21, Hamilton has had an average season at Low-A Dayton, hitting .253/.317/.338 over 379 at bats.  He has struck out 91 times but he has stolen 74 bases.  His game is build on speed.  The issue that I see with him is that people love his speed but don’t see through his inability to hit at this point.  People sometimes say that college players are “old” when they are 24 in Triple-A.  Hamilton will be 21 in September, just as Dayton’s season has closed out.  He will spend a season in High-A, Double-A, and maybe a full season in Triple-A.  He’ll have to stay healthy to do that, too, something that speed players sometimes struggle with due to leg injuries.  He has game-changing speed, but he has a LOT of work to do before he is a legitimate prospect, despite being ranked by Baseball America as the Reds #2 prospect (behind Aroldis Chapman and in front of Devin Mesoraco).  Let someone else gamble on the tools and get a pitcher, while a rental, who would make a difference down the stretch, while also showing the fans that you’re making an effort.