A day after departing the Winter Meetings in Orlando without having traded or extended Jeff Samardzija, the Chicago Cubs outwardly plan on starting Samardzija on Opening Day. There have been worse outcomes.
And if the Cubs stick to their reported asking price on Samardzija in trade, it might actually play out that way.
According to Bob Elliott, when the Cubs spoke with the Blue Jays about a possible Samardzija trade, the Cubs were asking for both of Toronto’s top pitching prospects, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, as well as a third prospect. The Blue Jays’ GM indicated to Elliott that trade talks – without mentioning Samardzija, specifically – continue, even if the acquisition costs remain too high at this point.
Each of Sanchez and Stroman are likely top 50 overall prospects in baseball, and it should go without saying that netting them both in a deal for Samardzija, let alone together with a third prospect, would be the kind of over-the-top deal the Cubs could not turn down. Indeed, that’s probably exactly where the Cubs’ asking price on Samardzija should be right now. Although the team’s control has dwindled to just two years on Samardzija, two years is actually a long time. Even if the Cubs didn’t trade Samardzija now, and even if they were hell-bent on trading him, they could shop him at the deadline – when the number of suitors might be down, but the desperation is up and the available options (no free agency) are reduced – or in the offseason next year. Yes, they risk injury in that approach, but they also could get the benefit of Samardzija performing up to his peripherals.
In other words, even if you accept that the Cubs cannot extend Samardzija (a possibility no one is quite yet ready to throw out), they have no reason to trade him right now short of a fantastic offer. And I didn’t even mention the value that Samardzija offers the Cubs in 2014 in terms of, you know, winning games. That, too, has incremental importance, even if the Cubs are exceedingly unlikely to chase the playoffs.
Setting aside the Blue Jays, the Atlanta Braves could be growing increasingly eager to land a pitcher like Samardzija. The Braves, in the thick of an increasingly competitive division, have already lost Tim Hudson and Brian McCann this offseason, and have yet to make a notable addition. It’s a tight budget in Atlanta these days, and adding a cost-controlled starter like Samardzija has to be a very attractive option.
To that end, David O’Brien writes that the Braves “could be leading suitors” for Samardzija, if he’s dealt. O’Brien adds, however, that the belle of the Braves prospect ball – big righty Lucas Sims – is off the table in talks about Samardzija. That could make finding a package that works difficult (though Sims is just 19, and the Cubs are believed to prefer upper level impact pitching talent – but, hey, talent is talent), especially if Sanchez/Stroman/+ is the standard bearer in what the Cubs are looking for. It’s not impossible to see a deal happening with the Braves, but it may have to be a whole lot of quantity.
A trade involving Samardzija still seems like the most likely outcome this offseason (even if those “99 percent” rumors now sound a little too much), but it’s possible no serious traction happens until after the Masahiro Tanaka situation is clear (coming, not coming? signing with whom?), and until after some of the big name free agent starters – Garza/Santana/Jimenez – sign.