Yesterday’s extension rumors sparked a wave of discussion and reaction, and Jeff Samardzija’s start last night sparked a fresh wave of trade rumors …
- First, straight from the horse’s mouth: “Honestly, there’s really nothing to talk about,” Samardzija told CSN, among other outlets. “I told my agent early after spring training that I wanted to go out with no distractions and pitch. I don’t know what speculation there is or what’s been said or what’s been done. As far as I’m concerned, nothing’s changed for me. I haven’t heard anything.” That aligns, more or less, with what Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said yesterday in a couple radio appearances. There’s probably a little bit of language gaming going on: nothing has changed in the sense that the Cubs would always be into talking extension with Samardzija, and Samardzija would always be into considering an extension, but the two sides are really far apart. And if there was one last effort to check back in before proceeding with trade plans, that would be very understandable. That’s probably what has happened.
- Jesse Rogers reports that Samardzija’s extension demands are still in excess of $100 million, which, if true, probably ended any renewed extension discussions very quickly. Over five years, including next year’s final arbitration year, I just can’t see a justification for the Cubs to go over $75/$80 million tops, even as much as I really like Samardzija on this team for the next several years. The unfortunate reality is, at a price tag beyond that, you’d much rather have whatever young talent the Cubs can bring in for Samardzija right now, and then use that money to bring in external pitching in the offseason. Yes, I’d prefer to have Samardzija be the pitcher the Cubs spend money on, but there has to be a line past which the difference in value between Samardzija (at his price) and Pitcher X (and maybe Pitcher Y, too, at their price) no longer exceeds what the Cubs can get in trade for Samardzija. And, at an extension price over $100 million, for me, that threshold has been crossed.
- (None of which is to cast any aspersions on Samardzija for betting on himself, and wanting to get as much as he can. He’s rolling the dice, but he’s earned the right to roll (especially given that he’s already made some money in his career, and is just a year and a half of healthy, effective performance away from a huge payday). By letting him go, of course, the Cubs are rolling the dice, too. That’s just the way these things work out sometimes.)
- If you’re wondering, by the way, why the Cubs have an impetus to trade Samardzija now if they can’t extend him, rather than just waiting until the offseason and seeing what happens, the primary reason is that trading Samardzija now has the potential to impact two playoff races (this and next year). To a trading team, that’s huge, huge value. After this season, when there’s just one Samardzija year to be had (and you don’t even know if you’ll actually be in the race come July, and he’ll cost a lot more money next year), the value to an acquiring team falls dramatically. There’s also the matter of Samardzija, at that point, being even more likely to spurn any extension offers, because he’s even closer to free agency.
- On the trade rumor side, it’s no surprise that scouts were out in force for Samardzija’s start last night. Like Hammel’s the night before, the results weren’t great, but the pitching performance was actually pretty good, with 8 K and 3 BB over 6 innings (it was a 1.92 FIP performance, if you want to look at it that way). He got 76.5% grounders, for crying out loud. It’s just that a bunch of them made their way into the outfield.
- Gordon Wittenmyer, who’s extension report kicked off this chain of responses, says he hears the Cubs are telling teams that Samardzija (and Jason Hammel) is available, despite the renewed extension discussion. In other words, it remains likely that Samardzija will be dealt. Wittenmyer says scouts from the Blue Jays, Giants, Royals, Angels, and Tigers have had scouts following the Cubs. Sources say the Yankees and Red Sox are not major players for Samardzija, despite previous rumored connections. If true, my guess there is that the price is too steep for the Red Sox to consider, and the price is too steep for the Yankees to actually be able to meet. (Ditto Angels, in my opinion.)
- Wittenmyer reiterates something he mentioned in his original extension piece: at least two teams, one of which is the Blue Jays, have had the kind of preliminary trade talks with the Cubs that actually involve identifying and discussing players that would come back to the Cubs. That’s definitely a significant sign, but, before you take it too far, understand that we don’t quite know how detailed those discussions got – it could simply be the Cubs confirming to the Blue Jays things that everyone appears to already know (i.e., “Yeah, we like Stroman, Sanchez, and Norris. What else you got?”).
- Patrick Mooney reports that the Giants, too, are unlikely to be able to meet the Cubs’ price, something that concerned me when that rash of Giants rumors popped up this past weekend. Mooney also discounts the possibility of the Yankees and Red Sox being involved.
- A couple HOWEVAs to those teams: Ken Rosenthal says the Red Sox did scout Samardzija’s previous start, and Jon Morosi says the Giants were there last night to scout Samardzija. So … don’t rule them out yet? I guess not. Rosenthal adds that, at last night’s start, the Reds and Indians had scouts in attendance.
- Jon Heyman says he expects the Samardzija trade talks to go until closer to the Trade Deadline, and believes the Cubs will get more than they got for Matt Garza, though not two or three times as much. I don’t quite know how you quantify those kinds of things, but not getting twice as much for Samardzija isn’t really a disappointment. Maybe 1.8 times as much? That should do it.
- So, your running list of teams that are reportedly interested in Samardzija (and make sense based on standings, and *might* have enough to get him): Blue Jays, Orioles, Braves, Mariners, Royals, Red Sox, and Giants. The teams that might possibly fit are the Indians, Yankees, Marlins, Dodgers, A’s, Rockies, and Nationals. I don’t see the Cubs dealing in the NL Central right now, but, if they did, you couldn’t rule out the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates.
- In other words, who might be in on Samardzija in the next month? Baseball teams.