To be certain, we still don’t know whether the Chicago Cubs are ready to give up the ghost on signing Jeff Samardzija to a long-term extension, but, based on widely circulating rumors, there are a ton of teams interested in the big righty if the Cubs do decide to shop him.
One of those teams is the Toronto Blue Jays, and Bruce Levine reports that, beyond just checking in, the Blue Jays are now trying to put together a package of young players to actually pull the deal off.
If the Blue Jays really want to make a deal happen, they have the ammo. Their top pitching prospect, Aaron Sanchez, is a top 25 overall prospect (depending on whether his stock fell this year), and just dominated the Arizona Fall League after a mixed debut in the Florida State League (High-A – he put up a 3.34 ERA, but mostly on the back of not giving up any hits or homers (something that lesser arms can do in the FSL); he walked 4.2 per 9, and struck out just 7.8). Sanchez is 21, and wouldn’t be seeing the bigs for another couple years, likely, but he’s the top arm to target. The Blue Jays feature a number of other interesting arms, including Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin, Roberto Osuna, John Stilson, Matt Smoral … I could go on. It’s a pitching-rich system, though it may be more quality depth than super-high impact. They’ve also got Tommy John recoverees Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek …
You can see MLB.com’s top 20 Blue Jays prospects here, and start to dream up a package that would land Samardzija.
On the big league roster, the Blue Jays also have young center fielder Anthony Gose, who could be expendable with an outfield that already features Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera (though the latter two are free agents after the season). Gose is just 23, and is considered an exceptional defensive player, but questions about his bat have persisted throughout his career.
So, should we be bracing for a deal? I wouldn’t quite go that far. Teams know that the Cubs are interested in extending Samardzija, and would consider dealing him if they can’t. Those extension talks haven’t yet led to a deal, so it’s natural that teams – in a pitching-thin, increasingly-pricey market – would inquire. And some, like the Blue Jays may be doing, would probably even try to entice the Cubs with a specific offer. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Cubs are involved beyond listening.
And if the Cubs are merely listening, as opposed to actively trying to find a deal for Samardzija, they’ll probably need to be wowed to make a move right now. Remember, Samardzija is under control for two more years, and is coming off a second straight season where the peripherals and advanced statistics say he was a whole lot better than the ERA. That means he’s a good bet to pitch very effectively in the first half of 2014, and the Cubs could find the market for him just as attractive at the Trade Deadline as it is now.
As I often say to folks, consider what the Cubs got for just a couple months of Matt Garza: a top 50 overall prospect (C.J. Edwards, who obviously climbed after the deal, but the Rangers knew what they had); a guy who was a top 30 overall type the year before but had a down year (Mike Olt); a guy who was a top 6 organizational prospect (in a top system) until he was thrust a year early into a starting role in the bigs (Justin Grimm); and a guy who was a borderline top 10 organizational prospect (Neil Ramirez). Samardzija is, in my mind, a superior pitcher to Garza. And he’s coming with two years of control, not two months. How much better would the package have to be? Well, that’s your starting point, and then increase it considerably.