Now that he’s signed for 2014, the Cubs can focus on trying to trade Jeff Samardzija!
I kid, mostly, as it remains unlikely that Samardzija is moved before the Trade Deadline – if he’s even traded then, that is. The big righty remains under team control through 2015, and it’s important not forget in the swirl of rumors: Samardzija’s presence on the team helps it in 2014 and 2015. That has value. Naturally, the Cubs must weigh that value against what they might get in trade and against whether the value of Samardzija in 2014 or 2015 will help the team make the playoffs (and against whether they can get a reasonable extension done later if they keep him).
Until we see the Cubs making a spirited effort to compete in 2014 (doesn’t look likely), however, trade rumors involving Samardzija are always going to be reasonable bits for discussion. So it is with a Tribune report, in which a source tells Mark Gonzalez that the Mariners have emerged (or re-emerged, depending on what you thought of December’s rumor mill) as a possible Samardzija trade destination. With a top-heavy rotation, potential financial limitations (as it relates to signing a free agent starter, anyway), and a go-for-it type offseason (especially if they add Nelson Cruz), adding a starter like Samardzija could be an enormous boon to the Mariners’ near-term playoff chances. Having reportedly struggled to find a fit in a David Price trade when the Rays insisted on the inclusion of top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker, maybe the Mariners would indeed be willing to fall back to Samardzija.
I tend to think it makes more sense for the Mariners to try and get someone like Ervin Santana, but, if they did seriously pursue Samardzija, is a deal plausible? Well, Walker is off the table, so let’s start there. The Mariners do have some interesting arms in their system, including lefty James Paxton, who is a top 100 type, but might not be a true centerpiece. Would the Cubs take a quantity over quality return? Would they want big league pieces with reclamation value like Dustin Ackley? I tend to think the Mariners could put together an adequate package without Walker, but I question whether the Cubs would be willing to pull the trigger on such a deal right now when the possibility of picking up front-of-the-rotation pitching prospects at mid-season is still out there. The Cubs’ focus in dealing Samardzija is very likely to be impact pitching prospects with a chance to contribute within the next few years, as the Cubs’ young offensive core emerges.
I suppose the Mariners rumor is something to monitor, but not more than that right now. Setting aside trade rumors, are there any lingering hopes whatsoever for a long-term extension?
Well, Nick Cafardo reports that, despite persistent trade interest, the Cubs are holding out hope for an extension. Maybe that’s just a little bit of gamesmanship with the market, but maybe it’s true. At this point, the thing about an extension for Samardzija is this: it’s been discussed, at length, and each side knows quite well where the other one stands. Unless one of the two is willing to bend suddenly for some reason, it’s hard to see a deal being reached without more data being the thing that swings the talks (i.e., Samardzija comes out dominating, and the Cubs relent; or maybe Samardzija tweaks something – not serious enough to derail him long-term, but serious enough to give him pause – and he decides to grab guaranteed money while he can).
As I always say, a reasonable extension strikes me as the best possible outcome here. But each side has its own interests and perspectives, so I’m not so sure that the “best” possible outcome will ever be the “most likely” one.