Although I recognize it is a legitimate, necessary, and totally acceptable piece of discussion, I really do dislike the “let’s talk about a trade possibility in the wake of a serious injury” stuff. It has always felt icky to me.
But we’re observing baseball in an era of frequent and high profile pitching injuries, and we’re doing so from the perspective of a team with pieces to trade. So, discuss we must.
Earlier this week, Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez went to the disabled list with an elbow injury, later revealed to be a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery. Yesterday, the Rangers got a double-whammy of awful news: oft-injured pitcher Matt Harrison* is now dealing with a very serious back injury that could require risky (and possibly career-ending) surgery, and young lefty Martin Perez has a partially-torn UCL that will require 10 to 12 weeks of rest (at a minimum), and could lead to Tommy John surgery. The Rangers are already without lefty Derek Holland, who is rehabbing a knee injury and might not be back for another month.
Does this mean the Marlins and Rangers will come running to the Cubs for pitching reinforcements? Well, Joe Frisaro argues that the Marlins could still contend this year if they make a big pitching addition – and, specifically, he pushes for Jeff Samardzija. At first blush, the Marlins don’t look like the kind of contenders who can hold onto playoff hopes late in the year, but Frisaro makes a good point: with just two years of control on Giancarlo Stanton after this year, if the Marlins just wait out the Fernandez injury and punt, they could lose two of the remaining three seasons they’ve got with Stanton. Adding someone like Samardzija helps keep them competitive this and next year.
I could see the Marlins considering a move (and I’d sure like them to, as they’ve got some really interesting young pitching), but I’m not sure they’ll really be aggressive. Indeed, they just added Randy Wolf as a fill-in on a big league deal, so they may already be indicating a preference to try and tread water until mid-season, when Andrew Heaney might be ready and/or they might already be long out of it.
How about the Rangers? They’ve obviously been aggressive in the past, and, after adding a couple bats in the offseason, they could always have used another big-time arm. To now be without Harrison and Perez potentially all year? Although GM Jon Daniels tells Evan Grant that they’ll try to figure things out in-house, even he concedes, “we might consider the trade market at some point.” Whether that will be the higher end of the market (Samardzija), the mid-tier short-term market (Hammel), or the fill-in market (guys like Wolf) remains to be seen. At some point, though, I do think they’re going to have to do something.
How these teams respond to their injuries, and how competitive they – and other teams – remain over the next month is really what is going to drive the trade stories for the Cubs this year.
*(The coincidence here should be lost on no one: the most frequent comparable I mentioned last year when it came to Jeff Samardzija extension talks was Matt Harrison, because, as of last year for Samardzija, and as of the time of the extension for Harrison, their careers were really a near perfect match. Harrison got a healthy, but team-friendly, extension from the Rangers, and was almost immediately injured. Since then, he’s thrown 28 innings over two years for the Rangers. Even team-friendly extensions can end badly.)