Yesterday, we discussed some of the possible buyers in the Jeff Samardzija market this Summer, should the Cubs yield and make their best efforts to trade the 29-year-old right-hander while his value is at its highest. One of the teams I added to the pot was the Colorado Rockies – and why not? They need pitching, they’ve got a solid offensive core in place (with a window potentially closing in the next couple years as Troy Tulowitzki exits his prime and Carlos Gonzalez reaches free agency), and they should have enough flexibility to take on a reasonable contract like that of Samardzija. The Rockies sit five games over .500, and in second place in the NL West. With a better rotation, they could legitimately go places this year.
And, what do you know, today, Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla is pushing hard for the Rockies to pursue Jeff Samardzija.
To be quite clear: my read is that this is simply a local columnist arguing that the Rockies should be “going for it” this year, and using Samardzija/Gray as the template for that conversation. Don’t misconstrue this as a report that this kind of thing is actually being discussed.
That said, it is relevant in the sense that, where there is a columnist making this push, there is some sentiment in the market for a buyer’s course of action. Does that push a team to actually buy? Not entirely on its own, but it’s a small part of the calculus (smaller/larger depending on the front office, the market, the fan support and revenue relationship, etc.). So it’s relevant. That’s as far as I’m going.
As for a specific deal, Kiszla suggests that the Rockies should part with Jonathan Gray, the big-time right-handed pitching prospect whom the Rockies took in the draft just after the Cubs took Kris Bryant last year. Setting aside the procedural hurdle to a trade like that – Gray cannot be traded until one year after he signed, which is June 12 – it’s an interesting question for Cubs fans and Rockies fans alike. Is that a fair swap?
On the one hand, you’ve got a guy pitching out of his mind, and who has already established that he can be an upper tier starter in the big leagues. On the other hand, you’ve got a guy who is under control only for a year and a half more, and who doesn’t have a long track record of that previously-mentioned success. Both hands there belong to Jeff Samardzija.
Jon Gray is a top 15/30 prospect in all of baseball, and one of the best pitching prospects in the minors. He’s likely to be able to contribute meaningfully in 2015, and is an ideal trade target for the Cubs. But, knowing what we know about pitcher injuries, would the Cubs want to put all of their Jeff Samardzija trade eggs into one basket like that? (For what it’s worth, the Rockies have another top 30 pitching prospect in Eddie Butler, but there’s no way they’d part with both in a Samardzija deal.) And would the Rockies really be willing to trade an elite young arm, knowing how hard it is to get those guys to come to Colorado if you don’t groom them yourself?
In some ways, this is merely a thought experiment, because we’re still several weeks away from any kind of serious trade discussions/rumors/activity. And a lot can happen in that time.
For now, though, it’s interesting to think about this kind of one-for-one swap. It’s also interesting to think about the Rockies emerging as serious bidders for Samardzija, if and when he becomes a highly sought after trade piece. Not only do the Rockies boast some interesting upper tier arms, but they’ve also got some nice bats that could slot into the Cubs’ outfield sooner rather than later (Corey Dickerson certainly comes to mind).
I’ll dig in more on specific names and possibilities if and when this becomes a legit trade rumor. For now, just something to mull.