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jeff samardzija featureHow’s this for some Saturday fun?

There are a few pieces out right now that touch upon Chicago Cubs trade rumors involving pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, widely expected to be among the top trade chips on the market this year. You can read more in this Sun-Times piece, this CSN piece, and this Tribune piece. The Sun-Times piece, from Gordon Wittenmyer, is the most detailed and pointed, but it’s interesting that three rumor pieces with some overlapping information all dropped at roughly the same time. It’s a healthy amount of smoke.

The gist, and some thoughts:

  • Wittenmyer writes that the Cubs, according to sources, have already had trade talks involving Samardzija and Hammel, have already received offers, and are finding that the Blue Jays, Braves, and Mariners are among the most interested teams. The Blue Jays come up again and again with respect to Samardzija (and also Hammel), and we heard about the Mariners and Braves as potential Samardzija suitors in the offseason. At a game over .500, the Mariners are very much in playoff contention right now for the first time in a while, so you can see some urgency there.
  • Those same three teams are mentioned by Patrick Mooney as involved in “the Samardzija sweepstakes,” according to major league sources.
  • Mark Gonzales points out that the Red Sox, the Reds, and the Blue Jays have had scouts in attendance recently to check out the Cubs. There is no clear indication, however, of what player(s) those teams might be scouting. (While the Cubs are in Philadelphia, I’d point out that the Phillies are likely to be sellers as well, so there’s a bit to scout on them, too.) The Reds have a number of needs, and they’re just a couple game under .500, so kicking the tires on the Cubs is plausible. The Red Sox have previously been attached to Samardzija (though their primary need seems to still be the outfield).
  • Wittenmyer also adds that one source flat-out expects Hammel to go to the Mariners. While we can’t say that the rumor is clearly true or anything like that, without knowing the particulars, I do think it’s reasonable to conclude, when there is that level of confidence from a source, that the two sides have at least had some fairly advanced talks.
  • If the Cubs do engage the Mariners in trade talks, their return would obviously depend on which pitcher was being discussed. Top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker would be off the table for Hammel, but is theoretically in play for Samardzija (especially now that he’s battled shoulder issues this year – but, query whether he’s worth the risk at that point). There’s lefty James Paxton, but he was just moved to the 60-day DL with an ongoing (muscular) shoulder issue. Dustin Ackley continues to struggle offensively, despite all the promise, and has been moved to the outfield. He’d be an interesting piece, but not necessarily a focus, even in a Hammel deal. On the positional side, the Mariners’ top prospect is D.J. Peterson, a third baseman in High-A. Victor Sanchez, a BIG 19-year-old righty is already at AA, and is a really interesting guy. I could go on. Long story short: I see the pieces there for a Hammel deal, no problem. Samardzija is a bit trickier without Walker involved, and that is pretty tricky because of his shoulder and his prospect standing.
  • (To me, unless the Cubs are going to get an elite arm, I’d like to see them focus their trade talks on big-league ready outfielders with big bats, rather than decent, not great, young starters. That’s actually become a strength of the organization already. Get that kind of pitching in the deal? Sure. But don’t make that the target. Elite pitching, big bats, and then the rest; in that order.)
  • In the end, the primary takeaway here is that the rumors are heating up, and there’s a lot of chatter going on behind the scenes. I still wouldn’t expect a move until July 2 at the earliest – that’s the first day of the next international free agent period, and the first day that IFA bonus slots can be traded. As we saw last year, that can spur some activity, with the Cubs making three trades on July 2, 2013 (Feldman/Clevenger/Arrieta/Strop/IFA slot, Marmol/IFA slot/Guerrier, and Torreyes/IFA slot). A trade before then, however, is always possible – especially if Wittenmyer is correct, and the Cubs are already fielding offers.
  • You can expect, by the way, that the Cubs are likely to trade one of Samardzija or Hammel earlier than the other one, to try and maximize the market and prevent their assets from competing with each other. That assumes, of course, that the Cubs plan on trading both pitchers.

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