The calendar hasn’t flipped to May, let alone June – the increasingly “normal” beginning of the heavy trade rumor season – but that isn’t stopping teams from turning to the Chicago Cubs bazaar for their ever-available supply of quality goods (of course, as the Matt Garza trade demonstrated last year, the goods aren’t always available at reasonable prices – tough noogies, and all that).
Carrie Muskat reports that the Cubs have already received calls about three of their starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, and Travis Wood. Each starter has had a great April, and each would have a great deal of value to a contender. (SEE THE UPDATE BELOW: Perhaps the Cubs haven’t yet received calls after all. The rest of this post will remain, since, as a discussion piece, this is all still useful.)
You know the story with Jeff Samardzija, who has been discussed at length as a possible trade candidate. In some ways, I probably wouldn’t describe the Cubs as getting calls on Samardzija so much as “never stopped getting calls” after an offseason full of trade rumors. Without an extension forthcoming (and it’s seriously unlikely), the Cubs could look to capture Samardzija’s value by way of a trade this season. He’s under control through next year, but his value could be peaking, and the Cubs could try to grab a couple top young arms to pair with their top positional prospects, who could emerge over the next few years.
With respect to Hammel, the calls are unsurprising, given his one-year, $6 million deal, which was necessarily evocative of the Scott Felman deal the year before. Feldman pitched well to start the year, and was flipped to the Orioles on July 2. The same could happen to Hammel if the Cubs don’t catch serious fire over the next month. If the calls are coming already on Hammel, who has looked dominant this month, it’s conceivable that he could be deal even before July.
On Wood, the discussion feels quite different. In just his first year of arbitration, the Cubs have Wood through the 2016 season. Even if the Cubs don’t view him as an extension candidate – although it’s debatable, given the nature of pitcher extensions – having him under reasonable control for another two and a half years could line up with the Cubs’ competitive window. And, of course, Wood’s performance seems to be improving year after year. At 27, he’s probably not going to improve too much more over the pitcher he is today … but the pitcher he is today is a clear 2/3 type that any team would love to have in its rotation, including the Cubs. The fear that he was just getting lucky – outperforming his peripherals – and that a serious regression was coming seems more unjustified after each start.
In other words, it’s very hard to see the Cubs seriously entertaining dealing Wood, absent a killer return. As for Samardzija and Hammel, however, well, if those reported calls have already started, I wouldn’t expect them to stop until some deals go down.
If the Cubs aren’t going to be a playoff team this year – they didn’t look like one before the season, and nothing that has happened so far could really persuade you otherwise – then at least it’s nice to have some guys performing in a way that makes them, or keeps them, interesting trade chips. I know it’s been a tiring path over the past few years, but this is the way it is right now. And, come August 1, the future could look even brighter. On its own merits, that’s not a bad thing.
UPDATE: Carrie Muskat has updated her piece to indicate that the Cubs have *not* received calls on the three pitchers. Here is her comment on the edit: “I was told they had received calls by other sources, and a Cubs spokesman told me that is ‘inaccurate.’ The post has been updated.” Whether the Cubs have been contacted yet or not (it sure did seem early), the discussion is still interesting and useful. Eventually, if the losing continues, paired with good performances by the pitchers mentioned, the calls will come.