jeff samardzija gatorade showerCould the Chicago Cubs be in the David Price trade market?

Given the development of the Cubs’ top prospects and the increasing (apparent) financial restrictions that have, in tandem, pushed off the opening of the Cubs’ perceived competitive window to 2015 at the earliest, it seems a pretty big stretch to suggest that the Cubs should go after Price. After all, he’s under control for just two more years, and although they’re cost-controlled in arbitration, as a Super Two, Price’s last two arb years are going to be very pricey.

Plus, aren’t the Cubs looking to trade away their lesser facsimile of Price? Jeff Samardzija is about the same age, has plenty of upside, and also comes with two years of control. Wouldn’t trading away Samardzija and trading for Price just be robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Ken Rosenthal, nevertheless, makes the argument that the Cubs should go after Price, even as they ready themselves to ship out Samardzija. Rosenthal contends that adding Price would energize the Cubs’ fan base, and might be the team’s only available opportunity to land an ace in the next few years. He suggests trading Samardzija for a handful of prospects that could help acquire Price, or at least soften the blow of meeting the Rays’ exorbitant demands. You can read Rosenthal’s piece for his full contention, which he says is not based on any sourced information. He’s just thinking out loud.

With apologies to Rosenthal, and an appreciation that he’s starting interesting conversations … yeah, that’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. The only real upside Rosenthal offers is that Price would inject excitement into the Cubs’ fan base and would “probably” be more willing than Samardzija to sign a long-term extension (because his Vanderbilt pitching coach is now the Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator? … and yet Samardzija is from Northwest Indiana and loves being a Cub? which of those two sounds more likely to sign an extension, in the abstract?). Thing is, even if fans would be excited by acquiring Price, unless such a deal was accompanied by significant other moves that produced a winning team in 2014, I don’t think you’re going to see a marked shift in the declining attendance to which Rosenthal points.

That’s not to say there is never a time when it makes sense to trade away one asset, and trade for a similar asset. Imagine that the Cubs were lukewarm on the near-term future of Samardzija, and believed Price was going to remain a Cy Young contender. Imagine further that the Cubs believed they had uniquely strong knowledge that a couple of their top tier prospects would soon be exposed as seriously flawed. It’s conceivable that the Cubs could convert Samardzija into prospects they prefer, while converting prospects they aren’t as high on for Price. Pull that off, and you could be in a better position at the Major League level and the minor league level.

Of course, that’s merely a strained example of how such a thing is possible.

In reality, you’d almost certainly be trading a considerable downgrade at the minor league level for the upgrade in the bigs. For my part, I’m not convinced that Price is going to be so much better than Samardzija over the next two years that it’s worth making that move for the Cubs. Nor am I convinced that Price would sign a reasonable extension with the Cubs (or that trading away your best prospects for the privilege of extending a starter who just lost two MPH off of his fastball and missed time with an arm injury, when that extension could approach $200 million, is a good idea).

In a vacuum, I’d love to see the Cubs picking up Price. But when you consider the risks associated with a long-term Price extension ($200 million versus $60 to $70 million for Samardzija), the cost of the two years of control ($30 million versus $13 million for Samardzija), the steep prospect acquisition cost (you aren’t going to get for Samardzija anything close to what it costs to get Price), and the general unease that accompanies Price’s 2013 season (velocity decline and arm issue – Samardzija is still pumping bullets and has had no arm issues), I think holding onto Samardzija is preferable to trading him and acquiring Price.

If the Cubs were hell bent on trading away Samardzija and replacing him with another pitcher, I’d much rather see that pitcher be Masahiro Tanaka, who will cost only money, and is just 25.

Either way, I still see the Samardzija decision as independent from everything else. Maybe acquiring Price makes sense. Maybe signing Tanaka makes sense. But I know that extending Samardzija on a reasonable deal makes sense. And I know that, if a reasonable deal can’t be struck, trading him for top-level prospects makes sense. I also know that simply holding onto Samardzija for now and reevaluating in July makes sense, too.

  • Chef Brian

    The point is moot there is no credible source anywhere that says the Cubs are going to trade for Price. As Brett said in his piece, this is just Rosenthal trying to drum up conversation. A trade for Price makes no sense for the Cubs as they are currently constructed. Right now I am very interested in the upcoming Draft and I hope the Cubs are able to find a potential TOR arm there.

  • Scott

    Call me crazy, but making a trade for the purpose of “energizing the fan base” seems like a very bad idea to me.. Ok, let’s say the Cubs trade for Price and he does deliver what everyone expects. One player by himself isn’t going to make this a playoff contender. How long do you think that fan excitement is going to last? Until the end of April? May? Then what?

    I say, make the trades that make sense and make the team better, regardless of the amount of fan excitement it generates. If the team improves and starts winning, THAT will be what generates excitement.

    Plus, I’m not sold on how effective Price is going to be. Sure, he’s been a #1 caliber pitcher. But he was hurt last year, and who knows how effective he’s going to be going forward. Pitchers who have had recent arm trouble make me nervous. Especially when they are going to have a big price tag.

    • Funn Dave

      Agreed. If we want to make a move that could energize the fan base, then we need to lock someone up for more than two years.

  • cubsin

    The (hypothetically) improved attendance probably wouldn’t even be enough to cover the difference in their contracts for 2014 and 2015.

    Price is clearly the greater injury risk.

    Samardzijah (local boy) seems slightly more likely to sign an extension than Price (we employ his college coach).

    The trade would derail the current team-building plan.

  • John (ibcnu2222)

    How about we keep Shark, trade for Price and sign Tanaka. BOOM! That just happened!

  • Fastball

    It doesn’t make sense to trade Shark to gain prospects to flip over to Tampa for Price. We would have to ensure the prospects coming back for Shark were exactly what Tampa would want. In that case why wouldn’t Tampa just go to our trade partner and do a deal for those prospects directly and cut the Cubs out of the middle. I would love to have Price. I think the cost for top of the rotation pitching is going to be high whether we acquire that player no or later. The Cubs are going to have take on that cost at some point. I don’t think Shark is or ever will be a Price as far as pitching talent goes. We can say Shark has upside all day long. He hasn’t delivered at age 29 is still a hopeful / potential maybe top of the rotation pitcher. He is that guy on this team because we don’t have that top of the rotation of pitcher. I really don’t believe Shark is going to yield a huge haul of talent if we settle on a trade. Most of the potential trade partners have moved on at this point. Keep Shark til the Trade Deadline and see what he yields then. In the 1st 3 months of this season he will either step up his game and increase his value or he won’t. If he doesn’t demonstrate that he is a top of the rotation pitcher but is more along the lines of a 3 or 4 then we can accept him for what he truly is and offer him an extension based on his numbers. Shark then becomes limited in his options giving Theo the upperhand in negotiations. I also think that in 2 years Shark is 31 when this team competes for real. Does he fit in the long range plan at that point. Do we trust he will be average or above from age 31 to 34? I don’t know.

  • Fastball

    From a health risk perspective you can’t predict anything. But sooner or later health will catch up to Shark. I can attest that every pitcher only has a life based on his health. He is a power pitcher and that won’t be what he is 2 years from now. One day your throwing 95 and the next your throwing 89 and your done because your pitching makeup has to revolve around your junk. Your junk kills your elbow and shoulder then your done. Look at Roy Halladay. Back injuries due to physical stress led to a bunch of physical changes in motion and delivery. Then the shoulder went south on him. He was a power pitcher. He was a physical specimen yet his body broke down. It happens to all of them eventually. Zambrano is another example. He couldn’t get his arm above his shoulder at the end of his career. He threw flat 89mph fastballs. Might as well put them on a T. I personally don’t see Shark lasting very long. Last 2 years when he gets into the dead zone where his arm doesn’t bounce back all his pitches elevate and he gets hammered routinely. A flat 95mph fastball is like a big fat watermelon to a MLB hitter.

  • CubsWin

    What are the odds that the arm issues that Price had will not return? Is he going to come back to form? Is a starting picture on a losing team worth a $200 million salary over ten years? I think there are too many questions that need to be answered. I would like to have starting in 2015 and beyond. Maybe it is possible to load the front end of his contract. I would like to see the Cubs do something now pitching wise that would help set up the future of the club. Trade for Price, extend the Shark, and sign Tanaka.

  • http://None Cubbieblue29

    I think the best place to send Samardzija is the Blue Jays. They have the most minor league depth and the chance to compete now. I think a good trade would be

    Blue Jays Get:
    Jeff Samardzija, Darwin Barney, and Dan Vogelbach

    Cubs get:
    Anthony Gose, Aaron Sanchez, Sean Nolin and a PTBNL

    • C. Steadman

      i would really want to get Sanchez and Stroman…that might be asking for the moon, but I think Stromans floor(without injury) is a hardthrowing late inning reliever, with a #2 starter ceiling…he’s got a cannon of a right arm

  • LER

    Did the Shark have a dead arm episode in 2012?

  • CubsFaninMS

    Sorry Ken, your idea certainly circulates conversation (which may be the intended purpose), but there are few instances where obtaining Price and trading Samardzija would be a smart decision on our part. As opposed to looking for high-priced arms that have a couple of warning flags, our front office is clearly going the opposite route right now by obtaining low-cost, high-upside “flyers”. The only instance I see where this is worth it is the scenario in which Brett laid out: (1) The front office has a great deal of confidence that Samardzija will not progress to at least a #2; (2) has a great deal of confidence that David Price’s warning flags are unwarranted and believe he’ll continue to be an elite starter; (3) they can lock Price into a long term contract; and (4) they believe they can “bilk the market” into paying a higher price for Samardzija to decrease the disparity in impact talent that will be in our system in comparison to what we will lose for Price. From what we publicly know about Price, situation (2) is unlikely and situation (3) is perilous given the possible availability of Chris Sale and Max Scherzer in the market. They need to continue negotiating with Samardzija and, if no agreement is made, trade him at the deadline if they’re confident the market will be better at the trade deadline. Unless they know something that us informed fans don’t, they need to stay away from Price, retain our very strong farm system, continue building from within, and push hard for Tanaka. If they lose out on Tanaka, that is frustrating but Price, although not a HUGE question mark, is a big enough question mark not to gut our farm system for. Let someone else do that.

  • bobk

    I don’t necessarily agree with Trading Samarzija or going after Price. There are possible benefits or blunders in each of those situations.

    I will emphatically agree with the fact the cubs need to make things exciting again. As much as I love our group of prospects and I expect them to do well in the future, they are not exactly household names that get the average joe type fan excited. The attendance stat will continue to decline without some excitement. The tv deal needs some leverage like a competitive team that people will actually want to watch on TV. The FA we would like in the future want to join a competitive team not a rebuilding project. Lots of dominos will fall when we actually field a competitive exciting team. This year had better be a big step forward.

  • cubmig

    Pay $200M for Price? For that price (no pun intended) the guy better have robotic fixtures in his pitching parts that all that’s needed is a squirt of WD-40. All jokiness aside, it makes no sense to trade Samardzija for Price. Extend Samardzija and get on with adding players who can correct the risp problem so painfully witnessed this past season. The delay in signing Samardzija (or any high-end vet for that matter) is feeling very much like the delay in starting the renovation work.