The Blue Jays are 7-6 after 13 games and are toward the top of a bunched up American League East. Alex Anthopoulos is still looking to add a starter to the top of his rotation. The Blue Jays’ staff is currently ranked sixth in the American League with a 3.61 ERA ( 1.31 WHIP) and is seventh in the AL in ERA (3.63 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) for a starting staff.
Toronto is still believed to be very interested in trading for Jeff Samardzija. Anthopoulos is under a lot of heat to put a winner on the field and was unable to add to his rotation during the off-season. Alex Anthopoulos appeared to have a deal in place with Ervin Santana before injuries to the Braves’ starting staff opened a spot for Santana to sign with a National League team.
The Cubs are looking for a big return in any deal that involves Jeff Samardzija. Rumors during the off-season suggested the front office is asking for at least two top pitching prospects in a package for Samardzija.
While Samardzija has not posted a win, he is off to a good start this season. Samardzija has not hurt his value and likely increased it. Samardzija is 0-1 in three starts with a 1.29 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Teams are hitting just .233 against him while he has completed seven innings in all three starts. In 21 innings, Samardzija has allowed 17 hits with five walks and 15 strikeouts. Most think the Cubs will wait until July before they move Samardzija. Bruce Levine has remained consistent in the fact he thinks the Cubs could trade Samardzija sooner rather than later, and maybe this month.
The Blue Jays could be the best fit for the Cubs in a deal for Samardzija that could also include Darwin Barney. The Cubs have scouted Toronto’s system extensively for the last three years. The Blue Jays were one of the teams interested in Matt Garza in 2012, so the Cubs’ scouts started doing their homework on the Jays’ system then. And at this point, the Cubs might know Toronto’s system better than they do.
According to Bruce Levine, if Alex Anthopoulos would make RHP Aaron Sanchez available in a deal for Samardzija, the Cubs would pull the trigger on the trade. The Cubs are also interested in RHP Marcus Stroman and catcher A.J. Jimenez in a package for Samardzija from the Blue Jays.
Aaron Sanchez is the top prospect in the Blue Jays system according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Sanchez is 1-1 in three starts for Double-A New Hampshire of the Eastern League this season. Sanchez has allowed five runs on 10 hits with eight walks and 12 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings (3.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP).
Baseball America and MLB.com ranked Marcus Stroman as the second best prospect in Toronto’s system. Stroman is 0-1 in two starts from Triple-A Buffalo this season with a 1.80 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP (three runs, two earned, on seven hits with six walks and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings). Catcher A.J. Jimenez was ranked as the 11th best prospect in the Jays’ system by MLB.com while Baseball America thinks he’s the 14th best player in their system. Jimenez has not played in a game since April 4. Jimenez was placed on the 7-day DL with a sore hamstring. In two games for Double-A New Hampshire this season he is 5-for-8 with two doubles and one walk (.625/.667/.857). Jimenez had Tommy John surgery in 2012 but appeared to be fully recovered this winter. Jimenez is known as an excellent defensive catcher with above-average receiving and throwing skills. Jimenez hit .287/.332/.406 with 19 doubles and four home runs in 67 games last season. Jimenez projects as an average hitter at the big league level.
The Cubs’ front office would like to extend Jeff Samardzija’s contract but after being unsuccessful in reaching an agreement last winter neither side will reportedly discuss his contract during the season, which means he will likely be traded by July 31, if not sooner, in order to maximize his value.
With the addition of Emilio Bonifacio, Darwin Barney has seen his playing time diminish significantly this season. And he could lose even more playing time once Javier Baez pushes his way on the big league roster at some point this season. Barney has shown an improved approach at the plate this year and appears to be listening to his new hitting coach Bill Mueller. Barney has only three hits in 10 games (3-for-21) but he has walked six times with four strikeouts (.143/.333/.143).
Darwin Barney could be an excellent addition to a contending team with enough offense around him to make up for his shortcomings at the plate. Barney is a Gold Glove second baseman and has been the best fielding shortstop on the Cubs roster for several seasons. Barney knows the game and would be a valuable player on a team with aspirations of playing deep into October.
The Blue Jays are thought to be looking for a middle infielder. And Darwin Barney could be a fit in a deal, along with Jeff Samardzija, according to Bruce Levine.
News and Notes
Rick Renteria said Sunday that the Cubs would not be shifting the starting rotation with the two off days this week. After Jason Hammel squares off against Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday night in the Bronx, Travis Wood is scheduled to face Michael Pineda on Wednesday night in the finale at Yankee Stadium. The Cubs open a seven-game homestand on Friday against the Reds. Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson will start the three games against the Reds.
Teams around the league like how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are building the Cubs according to a report from ESPN Chicago. John Mozeliak is the latest GM to praise what the Cubs’ front office is doing and not only because the front office is building the organization the “right way” but Epstein and Hoyer have “maintained that discipline” and not succumb “under the pressures of winning now.”
Justin Grimm still sees himself as a starter but he wants “to have an important role on the pitching staff, wherever that may be.” Grimm told the Sun-Times if he was able to develop in to a reliable closer he “would let that go.”
Staying sharp has not been easy for Mike Olt or Wesley Wright according to ESPN Chicago.