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jeff samardzija featureBack-to-back Obsessive Trade Watch pieces? On two different players? Yup, it’s trade season.

The Seattle Mariners are six games over .500, and currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the American League. They are legit this year. Good for them.

But if they’re going to keep it going, and do something in the playoffs, they’re probably going to have to augment the roster a bit. The Mariners could use a big bat, and they could use another starter. The Cubs probably can’t help them with the former, but they could help with the latter. It’s no surprise, then, that the Cubs and Mariners have been connected in rumors, with the Mariners pushing for Jason Hammel at last check.

Might they prefer Jeff Samardzija?

Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs and Mariners have been in heavy communication, and although the Mariners are interested in Hammel, Heyman suggests they may prefer Samardzija. And there’s even a hint in there that they would consider including top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker in a deal for Samardzija (in the sense that it hasn’t been entirely ruled out – that’s a start).

Here’s what I wrote previously on the Cubs/Mariners as trade partners on Hammel and Samardzija:

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.

I think that all still holds. Coming into the season, Walker was a consensus top ten prospect in baseball, and believed by many to be the top overall pitching prospect in the game. He wasn’t going anywhere. And then the dreaded word popped up “shoulder.” In mid-April, Walker experienced shoulder discomfort, and was diagnosed with a shoulder “impingement.” It’s not necessarily a serious long-term issue, but any time there’s a shoulder problem with a pitcher, you get nervous. And your valuation calculation changes.

For now, Walker is pitching effectively at AAA as he rehabs, and he’s just 21. He remains an intriguing possible piece in a Samardzija deal – without the shoulder issue, there’s no way the Cubs could ever get him, so you’ve got to keep that in mind – but he’s also probably a long-shot. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on his (and James Paxton’s) heath.

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