According to multiple reports – originally Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi, and then Susan Slusser and Jon Heyman – the Chicago Cubs are in serious talks with the Oakland A’s about starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Yes, both of them. (SEE UPDATES BELOW: It’s a done deal.)
Top A’s prospect Addison Russell is reportedly on the table (though Jon Heyman says that’s only if Jeff Samardzija is going to Oakland), which is a pretty big deal, given that he’s generally considered a top 10/15 overall prospect in the game. Sure, he’s a shortstop, but when you can get elite talent, you worry about the positional details later.
Rosenthal notes that Russell is not playing today at AA. Having battled hamstring issues early in the year, Russell hasn’t played much this year – but he’s a 20-year-old shortstop at AA who is good defensively and at the plate (career .302/.390/.519 hitter in the minors, despite always being young for his level).
Trading both Samardzija and Hammel in the same deal would be an enormous move for the Cubs, and would require an enormous return, especially here in early July.
The A’s have been known to be interested in upgrading at second base also, which makes you wonder if there are ancillary pieces being discussed as well. As we’ve discussed before, outside of Russell, I don’t love the A’s farm system, which makes you wonder how the sides could swing a deal involving both Samardzija and Hammel as well as ancillary pieces. I’d think big league pieces from the A’s would have to be involved as well. Or perhaps other teams.
For now, I guess we’ll slow our roll on the speculating. It seems most likely that, if there is a trade, it will be for just one of the Cubs’ pitchers (and the sides are probably just discussing all possibilities before pulling any triggers).
UPDATE (9:08pm CT): Jon Morosi says that this would be the biggest deal Theo Epstein and Billy Beane have gotten together on, which says a lot – not so much about the size of the deal (their previous deals have been quite small), but about how far along talks are.
UPDATE 2 (9:11pm CT): Will Carroll says there’s “smoke” on third and fourth(!) teams being involved, but no fire yet.
UPDATE 3 (9:18pm CT): Quick thoughts on the positional implications of the Cubs netting Russell in a deal like this – most believe Russell is a true shortstop (which is part of the reason he’s such an elite prospect), and he’s just now reaching AA. If the Cubs got him, then, they wouldn’t have to worry about the positional stuff for a little while yet. Even still, sorting out Castro/Baez/Russell would be one of those great problems to have, as any of them could net the Cubs serious talent at another spot. I’ve got to say, though: right now, it seems a little silly to be going through these hypothetical issues. Yes, these trade talks are clearly happening, and yes, this is a pretty advanced rumor. But we’ve been here before: these kinds of talks and reports don’t always end in a trade, or sometimes, when they do, the trade winds up looking significantly different than we originally thought. I keep telling myself to slow my roll.
UPDATE 4 (9:23pm CT): Dave Kaplan – usually pretty tapped in during these situations – is on vacation, but he does hear from a source that this deal could (COULD) be “stunning”. I have heard some additional names (no second source, so I won’t pass on now) as having been discussed, and, yeah, it would be stunning. But we don’t know what the final iteration of the deal will look like, or if it will come together.
UPDATE 5 (9:44pm CT): Holy moly … Ken Rosenthal says the deal is done. It’s Samardzija AND Hammel, and Russell is involved. There could be more (as there absolutely must be if the Cubs really are dealing both pitchers right now).
UPDATE 6 (9:47pm CT): If Russell comes to the Cubs and, like, stays with the Cubs (far from a certainty at this point), Jason Parks says the Cubs just picked up the 6th overall prospect in baseball. Whoa.
UPDATE 7 (9:49pm CT): Gordon Wittenmyer hears from sources that Hammel and Samardzija have been told they’re going to Oakland. Holy. Shit.
UPDATE 8 (9:53pm CT): Keith Law reports the final tally: it’s Samardzija and Hammel for Russell, Billy McKinney (an outfield prospect in High-A – the A’s first rounder from 2013), Dan Straily (an up-and-down AAA/MLB starter), and a PTBNL.
Man. When the rumor buzz wears off, it’s going to take me a little while to adjust to the idea that Jeff Samardzija is now gone.
UPDATE 9 (9:56pm CT): I wonder if that PTBNL is going to be Raul Alcantara, one of the A’s top pitching prospects … who just had Tommy John surgery. Making him a PTBNL would give the Cubs time to evaluate him in his progress and return.
UPDATE 10 (10:01pm CT): Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal say that there is no PTBNL. We’ll see what that’s about.
As the dust settles, I’ll have much more on the Cubs’ return here, but the very early thoughts:
Russell is a top ten prospect in baseball, and a clear stud. He was the A’s best chip, even if he was a poor “fit” for the Cubs’ needs. But, at the same time, he’s a much better prospect than I thought the Cubs would realistically be able to get in a deal like this (so maybe the poor “fit” actually played to the Cubs’ advantage, “Yeah, Billy, we know that Addison is probably more than you want to include … but what else do you have?). I am completely and thoroughly stoked to see the Cubs get him, even if I’m not sure what happens next, positionally-speaking. For now, he goes to AA Tennessee, starts at shortstop there, and is a total stud.
McKinney is a really interesting outfield prospect, who is playing at High-A even though he’s just 19. He was probably the A’s second best prospect (probably a 10 to 12 type in the Cubs’ system (the fall-off is that steep)), and is definitely a guy to be excited about. Obviously he’s a little ways away, but he was the A’s top pick last year, and could knock on the door of top 100 lists by the end of the year if he continues to progress.
Straily is an interesting case, having had some big league success in the past at just 23. He posted a 3.96/4.05/4.42 ERA/FIP/xFIP last year in about 150 innings for the A’s at age 24. Not a huge K rate, not a great BB rate. He’s a possible back-of-the-rotation starter, but he’s cheap and he’s the right age. I’ll have to dig in on him some more to get an idea of what’s there – obviously the Cubs have had huge success on guys like this in the past.
In total, it feels like a pretty great return. To put it in context, I would have thought Russell for Samardzija was a pretty huge get for the Cubs. McKinney and Straily for Hammel would have sounded about right, maybe a touch light. So, there you go. Net it out, and keeping in mind that elite guys are exponentially more valuable … this is a great trade for the Cubs (probably – I’ll sleep on it to be sure). A’s are clearly all in.
UPDATE 11 (10:37pm CT): Susan Slusser says she hears that there is a PTBNL in the deal. So it’s Law and Slusser saying yes, PTBNL, and Rosenthal/Morosi saying no. Slusser says it’s “or cash,” though, which suggests, even if there’s a PTBNL in there, it’s not necessarily a great one.
UPDATE 12 (10:49pm CT): Jeff Passan says yes PTBNL, so it’s 3 votes to 2. Must be a PTBNL in the deal. If my earlier guess is right and it’s Alcantara, the deal is a pretty easy awesome one for the Cubs.