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jason hammel featureAlthough Jeff Samardzija will dominate the top-line of trade rumors this year (and extension rumors!), rotation-mate Jason Hammel will be discussed at least as frequently in actual trade discussions. As an impending free agent who is pitching exceptionally well this year, Hammel is a very attractive candidate for a contender to target, and a very attractive piece for a non-competitive team to shop.

You’d love to be in a position to talk about an extension, but, at 31-years-old and with a potentially significant payday on the way after the season (especially if he’s traded and thus uncoupled from draft pick compensation), Hammel may not be interested in signing a short-term extension that makes sense for the Cubs right now. Plus, if you’re the Cubs, it’s awfully enticing to try and capture Hammel’s value in prospects/young players right now, and then try to find his replacement on the market after the season (because then you’re double-dipping, so to speak).

And so the story goes for Hammel’s start last night in Miami, for which Mark Gonzales reports there were at least six team scouts in attendance. It’s a good thing, then, that those scouts saw Hammel pitch well in Miami, despite so-so results.

Among the teams represented, according to Gonzales, were the Blue Jays and the Royals. We’ve discussed the Blue Jays at length, and it does seem like they’re going to get a pitcher one way or another this year. (And the Toronto Sun reports that, indeed, one of the organization’s top scouts was in Miami last night to watch Hammel in action.)

The Royals are a new-ish entrant in these particular rumors, but they’ve popped up intermittently over the past two years as a possible trade partner for the Cubs with respect to various pieces. Being that they really “went for it” in 2013 and into this year, you can see why the Royals would be considered potential buyers. Until recently, however, it didn’t look like they were going to be in a position to buy this trade season, as they were falling further and further out of contention. But they’ve won eight in a row, and now stand just a half game behind the Tigers in the AL Central.

The Royals have a full rotation, though Danny Duffy is young and unproven, Yordano Ventura just got back from the disabled list, and Jeremy Guthrie hasn’t inspired much confidence at the back of the rotation. I can see a spot for Hammel in there. And the Royals’ farm system offers plenty of interesting options in trade for the Cubs, so there’s a perfectly plausible fit here.

But hey, that’s just one of the six teams in attendance to see Hammel last night. There are many more interested (including a very specific recent tie to the Mariners), and that’ll be fleshed out in the coming weeks. Or maybe just two weeks, if the Cubs trade Hammel in early July, as some speculate they will.

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