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jeff samardzija featureHis crummy start in Milwaukee notwithstanding (hopefully), Jeff Samardzija figures to be the top pitcher on the trade market this season, assuming the Chicago Cubs make him available. And, as we’ve already seen with the Yankees, the Orioles, and the Blue Jays, the AL East figures to be a particularly compelling center of trade rumors when it comes to Samardzija.

To that end, the Blue Jays have one of the best records in baseball, have opened up a 3.5 game lead in the AL East, and … could really use a top-line starting pitcher. Last week, there were thin rumors about the Blue Jays preferring to focus on rentals rather than Samardzija, but those feel awfully conveniently-timed given the obviousness of the connection between the Blue Jays and Samardzija (and the trade talks in the offseason).

Indeed, writing for the New York Daily News, John Harper hears from an AL executive that the Blue Jays are for real this year “if they trade for Samardzija. And I’ve got to believe they’ll go hard for him. They went all in last year because they thought the division was there to be taken. Well, now it is, and they’ve put themselves in position, but they probably need another front-line starter. Why wouldn’t they do it?”

Harper adds that the Blue Jays could have some AL East competition in the race for Samardzija, with both the Yankees and Orioles interested.

What I particularly like about this rumor is that it’s a New York writer (Yankees) discussing how much the Blue Jays need to pursue, and probably will pursue, Samardzija – while also noting that the Orioles and Yankees want/need Samardzija, too. This kind of public pushing each other can only be a good thing for the market.

Unlike the pool of all teams that are interested in Samardzija, which would be competing with each other for the pitcher, the Yankees/Orioles/Blue Jays (and Red Sox, too, if they decided they wanted to jump in) are also competing with each other for their division. The risk of not getting Samardzija, then, is something of a double-whammy: if you don’t land him, that’s bad enough, because you didn’t improve your team for the stretch run, but it’s also bad because one of your competitors possibly just did get him. To be sure, there will be other pitching options out there, but I’m not sure any of the realistic options will match what Samardzija could do for a rotation (and you get him for 2015, too).

Of course, there will be many other teams in on Samardzija, assuming he’s aggressively shopped in the coming weeks. But where you can pit several successful, but needy, teams directly against each other? In a way that not winning is doubly painful? That’s a good way to extract a premium price.

(Ditto A’s/Rangers/Mariners? Rockies/Dodgers/Giants? Marlins/Braves/Nationals?)

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