Which Team Would Benefit the Most Making a Deal with the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija?

Jeff Samardzija made his tenth start of the season on Wednesday afternoon and for the eighth time he put together an excellent outing. Samardzija kept the Yankees off the board for seven innings, the third time he shutout an opponent this year. And when the Cubs gave away the lead in the ninth inning, he proved once again how useless a pitcher’s win-loss record is when evaluating his performance.

Samardzija has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 10 starts and just 11 earned runs this season while giving up 53 hits with 21 walks and 54 strikeouts in 68 innings. Samardzija’s ERA actually went down on Wednesday to 1.46 to go along with a 1.09 WHIP for the season. After posting a 0-3 record in his first five starts with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP (nine earned runs on 33 hits with 11 walks and 28 strikeouts in 34 innings), Samardzija is 0-1 in his last four starts with a 0.67 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP (two earned runs on 15 hits with eight walks and 23 strikeouts in 27 innings).

And while many are focused on the fact he has not won a game in his last 16 starts (August 24, 2013), Samardzija has responded to his critics and pitched like the ace that he viewed himself as, which was one of the reasons he could not agree to a contract extension with the Cubs the last two off-seasons.

Jeff Samardzija’s days with the Cubs appear to be numbered. He even alluded to a possible trade following Wednesday’s start. The Cubs will be looking for at least two top pitching prospects for Samardzija and the front office is not expected to waiver in what they are looking for in return for the number one pitcher on the Cubs’ staff.

The asking price for Samardzija is thought to be, and expected to be, extremely high. Jon Heyman used the word “enormous” when referring for Samardzija’s value as a trade chip. Heyman was told by a general manager of a team that is interested in Samardzija that the Cubs will “want top, top guys” and he’s not sure if his team “has enough firepower to compete” for Samardzija.

Not only is Samardzija under team control through next season, but he is cost effective as well. The Cubs and Samardzija agreed to terms on a one-year deal for $5.345 million to avoid arbitration. With Samardzija making $5.345 million this season, he should not exceed the $12 million mark for 2015. Having a top of the rotation starter for just $12 million has to be figured into the cost to acquire him. And the front office should be able to use that to their advantage to add value to the package of they are looking to add to the system.

The first pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball with an ERA below 1.50 and zero wins after his first 10 starts of a season told the beat writers after his start on Wednesday that his efforts are not being wasted.

“With modern technology, every game pretty much gets seen. I don’t think it’s any secret what I’m doing.” When asked if he was referring to the decision makers around the game seeing him pitch, Samardzija answered, “Bingo.”

Jon Heyman made a list of 10 teams that could be interested in trading for Samardzija prior to his outing against the Yankees.

Blue Jays

It is believed the Cubs are looking for at least two top pitching prospects that project as top of the rotation starters in return for Jeff Samardzija. Alex Anthopoulos is under a lot of pressure to deliver the first post-season trip for the Blue Jays since 1993 and the Jays could use a top of the rotation starter to eat innings and take pressure off the bullpen. And the needs of both front offices could end up benefitting the Cubs.

The Cubs know the Blue Jays’ system from two-plus seasons of scouting it. The Jays were one of the teams in the mix for Matt Garza in 2012 before his season-ending injury. Anthopoulos was thought to be interested in Samardzija last year and the Jays were believed to show the most interest in trading for Samardzija last off-season.

Multiple reports, and rumors, have suggested the Cubs asked for RHP Aaron Sanchez and RHP Marcus Stroman, plus at least one other top projectable prospect in return for Samardzija and Anthopoulos was not willing to pay the price to acquire Samardzija.

Now that the Blue Jays are tied for the top spot in the AL East and there is a glaring hole in their roster that could be filled, would Anthopoulos step up early and pay the hefty price in order to have Samardzija for an extra two months?

Yankees

With the Yankees at Wrigley Field and more questions than answers with their starting rotation right now, there is an assumption that either Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel will end up in another set of pinstripes in the near future. Hammel shutdown the Yankees on Tuesday night while Samardzija pitched seven innings of shutout ball against the Yankees on Wednesday.

Joel Sherman labeled the two games against the Yankees as auditions for Hammel and Samardzija.

There is a strong possibility of a deal happening with the Yankees this summer. The two teams worked on a trade last year for Alfonso Soriano. With Soriano only willing to waive his no trade clause to return to New York, the Cubs spent a lot of time scouting the Yankees’ system. If Brian Cashman calls, the Cubs should be prepared.

The general consensus is that the Yankees do not have enough high end prospects in their system to pry Samardzija away from the Cubs. Jon Heyman reported the Yankees “are said to have the ammunition” to land Samardzija.

According to Heyman, the Yankees might not want to include RHP Dellin Betances in a deal for Samardzija but LHP Manny Banuelos “is back healthy” and the Yankees have RHP Luis Severino and LHP Ian Clarkin plus catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy, infielders Abi Avelino (SS), Eric Jagielo (3B) and outfielder Aaron Judge. And Jim Bowden mentioned Greg Bird (1B) and outfielders Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams as players the Yankees could use to land Samardzija. Bowden thinks the Yankees have enough pitching in their system and mentioned Adam Warren as another arm that could be used in a trade.

Jim Duquette thinks any deal with the Yankees for Samardzija would have to include Dellin Betances, but as the second piece of the deal, not the headliner. Duquette is not sure if the Yankees have a prospect that could headline a deal for Samardzija.

Samardzija noticed how the Yankees run their team and talked about what he saw after Wednesday’s game. “They bring the whole crew when they come. It’s really nice to see how they run things. There’s a certain method to their madness with the guys they pick and the guys they decide to put in pinstripes. All their guys are professionals. They come out and they play every day. As you saw today, they’ll play 13 innings. That’s what you need.”

Red Sox

With Jake Peavy struggling (1-2, 4.33 EERA, 1.50 WHIP), Felix Doubront going on the disabled list Wednesday with a shoulder strain and the defending World Series Champions below .500 (20-25) and in fourth place in the east, the Red Sox could use a starting pitcher.

Jon Heyman listed LHP Henry Owens, RHP Allen Webster, RHP Matt Barnes and RHP Anthony Ranaudo as pieces the Red Sox could use to acquire Samardzija. Mookie Betts was not on Heyman’s list.

Would the Red Sox brass allow Ben Cherington to trade top prospects to the Theo Epstein-led Cubs?

Braves

The Braves were one of the teams in the mix for Jeff Samardzija around the Winter Meetings. The Cubs reportedly asked for Justin Upton or Jason Heyward in a deal for Samardzija at one point. And the Cubs asked the Braves about RHP Lucas Sims, RHP J.R. Graham and RHP Mauricio Cabrera, the younger brother of Alberto Cabrera. Sims was not available during the winter, but he is struggling at High-A Lynchburg in the Carolina League this year.

The Braves are pitching and pitching extremely well, but right now Aaron Harang is in their rotation and while he is not showing signs of returning to the form of recent seasons, many are wondering how much longer he will be able to pitch the way he has over the nine starts.

Dodgers

The Dodgers have the prospects (Zach Lee, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson) to land Jeff Samardzija, but Ned Colletti has not wanted to deal his top prospects in the past and despite the pressure to win, it is highly unlikely he would dip into his farm system to pay the Cubs’ price.

The Dodgers are in third place in the NL West, one behind the Rockies and four games back of the first place Giants. A good week of baseball would put the Dodgers at the top of the division without Colletti having to acquire a pitcher.

Rockies

The Rockies could use a starter to go along with the high-powered offense that is putting up video game numbers at Coors Field. Colorado has two pitching prospects they could use to acquire Samardzija according to Jon Heyman, Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray. And while it is unknown if the Rockies would move either pitcher, those are two young arms that should be able to get a deal done with the Cubs.

The 23-year old Butler is 3-4 in nine starts at the Double-A level with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP (50 hits, 33 strikeouts, 16 walks) while the front office came close to taking Jonathan Gray in last June’s draft. Gray is pitching rather well at the Double-A level this year (4-2, 2.98 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 38 strikeouts, seven walks, 34 hits allowed in 42 1/3 innings).

Jonathan Gray signed his contract on June 12, 2013. A deal involving Gray could take place this year on or after June 12.

Athletics

Oakland keeps playing good baseball and the depth Billy Beane assembled has kept his team in first place. The A’s likely do not have the prospects it would take to acquire Samardzija as Jon Heyman noted. The A’s could use him though due to the season-ending Tommy John surgeries that ended the seasons of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin.

Jon Heyman also mentioned the Mariners, Rangers and Marlins as teams that could be interested in trading for Samardzija. With the Athletics off to a 30-16 start and the Mariners and Rangers below .500 and well back in the division, Texas and Seattle could soon be sellers and not buyers. As for the Marlins, there is a huge hole in their rotation and Miami is over .500 (24-23), but the surprising Fish were not supposed to contend, and as Heyman pointed out, it is doubtful  Miami would make a deal for a player like Samardzija they would not be able to sign to a long-term contract.

There are two other teams to keep an eye on not mentioned by Jon Heyman, the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. Dayton Moore, like Alex Anthopoulos, is under a lot of pressure to deliver a post-season appearance for the Royals this season. The Royals were six games back of the Tigers with a 23-23 record when play began on Thursday and another frontline starter could give them the push they need.

With Matt Cain going on the DL with a strained hamstring, the Giants could use a top of the rotation starters and are believed to have the pitching prospects necessary to acquire Samardzija.

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