With the Chicago Cubs making closing out the season and with all the decisions of next season looming there is one decision that should not be hard… Trading Jeff Samardzija.
I know a lot of the things I have been posting lately maybe considered out of my element and a bit more bold but I think going into the next season that is what the Cubs need to do. The need to be more bold. What move is more bold than trading the “Ace” of the current Cubs staff Jeff Samardzija. Jeff Samardzija has been an interesting player since his 2008 debut going from a good reliever into a better starter. Not only that but the wear and tear on his arm at the age of 28 is pretty much nonexistent because of the low amount of innings pitched. It should also be noted the at the age of 28 Jeff is arbitration eligible for 3 more years and a free agent in 2016. This year’ in Samardzija’s first arbitration year; he is making $2.64M which is he due a significant jump next year and the years followed. But even so’ for the next 3 years the Cubs are in good shape contract and money wise. Shark had an opportunity to cash in on last season’s 28 games started with a 3.81 ERA and 180 SO but choose to play through this season so the Cubs front office could get a better look. Well it looks like the plan backfired on Jeff Samardzija. Shark is now posting a 4.44 ERA and 195 SO in 30 games started this season which looks somewhat similar to last season minus the ERA. But the intangibles is what jumps off the page as negatives. First you had Shark earlier this season criticizing moves made by the front office and even coming to Jim Hendry’s aid several times. Then you have the very public contract turn down and making it known he does not want to discuss a long-term deal until this offseason. Now you are seeing a poor trend with Shark with him not “thinking about his pitches,” having big bad innings, and just not pitching like an ace. In Jeff Samardzija’s last 10 starts he has given up 4 or more runs in 7 of them and only gotten past the 6th inning 3 times. This is a poor trend we are seeing both on the field and off the field with Shark which I think leads to a trade.
The good news is regardless of his down season if Jeff Samardzija is trade bait this winter he would be better than any free agent pitcher available because of his health, age, contract, arm, stats, and upside. The only players that would come close to his caliber on the free agent market would be James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Matt Garza which all will require a lot more money and have various issues of their own that put them below Shark. Now the trade market could cause of flux in the Samardzija market but only time will tell in that case. I look at Shark’s trade value to be at a better return value than that of Matt Garza, Anibal Sanchez, and even James Shields. I believe the Cubs asking price of 2 top prospects in the 30-50 range plus more (they were looking for the same package during the deadline) is what they are looking for during the off-season. I also believe the Cubs will get the return they are looking for if they do in fact make Jeff Samardzija available. Hard to say no to a package around 2 top 50 prospects plus more.
The other good news on the Cubs side (beside the fact that if they acquired two guys in the top 50 prospect range) is the Cubs can yet again afford to deal pitching. Next year again will be tough year but I won’t go as far as saying a lost one like this season because the development of prospects could change the route dramatically. Right now the Cubs have 4 players locked into the rotation even if Shark left which are Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Chris Rusin, and Jake Arrieta. Plus the emergence of other pitching prospects and minor leaguer that could easily fill a spot in the rotation, most notably Vizcaino. Lets also not forget the Cubs could acquire (we hope) a near ML ready arm for Samardzija who fill that spot as well. Even if the Cubs decide not go in house and trade Jeff they could look to free agency for a high upside low cost piece they could essentially flip like they have done so many times before. Some starters who could fit that mold for next season are Barry Zito, Josh Johnson, Bronson Arroyo, Scott Baker, Roy Halladay, Phil Hughes, Colby Lewis, and/or Edison Volquez just to name a few. This makes it again very easy to deal Shark.
By trading Samardzija the Cubs are essentially saying they are truly committed to the future and do not see Jeff being a part of that for one reason or another. We have heard the rumors of the current front office essentially purging the old front office’s players but I find that hard to believe. I feel the Cubs front office are purging player that just do not fit the mold or direction they are looking for which Hendry did a great job of finding players that don’t work out in this current front office’s direction. Jeff may just be another casualty to this. This season was suppose to be the season that Jeff puts everything together, his breakout season; but that does not look like the case. Jeff, his agent, and the Cubs were banking on this season for the next step and it looks like it cost Shark millions and could save the Cubs millions. Now I do not want you to think I am really down with Shark; I am not. But looking at the road ahead for the Cubs and the front office. I think the best route is to acquire more young prospects for a guy who is good but not great while his value is still sky high. Even if the Cubs ended up locking up Samardzija long-term I have complete faith that the front office did their homework and feel he will become an elite pitcher for the Cubs. But as of right now I just don’t see the Cubs doing that. I do see them trying to sell high on Shark especially if he wants to hold out one more year (for money) or want more money than they think he is worth. I can honestly say that the Cubs front office contract offer from last year was going to be much bigger than any contract offer going Jeff’s way this offseason. This is just yet another reason why a Jeff Samardzija trade makes sense.
My final point has to do with the future. Currently the Cubs are in wait and see mode as far as prospects. They only have a few legitimate prospects that could make it to the ML next season and that is Olt, Vizcaino, and Baez (Bryant has an outside shot). The rest of the prospect likely will not see any ML time until the 2015 season which is about when the Cubs will start completing for the playoffs. You should also start see more impact free agency signings to fill the holes left by prospects not living up to potential. If this is the case and the Cubs do not hammer out a long term deal for Shark he would be in the final year or arbitration and on the wrong side of 30. By dealing Jeff for 2 top 50 prospects plus more you are likely to get guys who can contribute sooner and would have a bigger impact. Plus if the deal is made before the 2014 season the Cubs prospect praise and ranking would be #1 in baseball for 2014. The Cubs have 4 top 50 prospect currently plus adding 2 more from the Samardzija trade makes 6 prospects in the top 50 which is pretty much unheard of. These prospect in turn could fill the holes the Cubs need, add positional prospect depth in case one or more prospects don’t work out, or end up trade bait for an impact major league test player. By holding all the young prospect cards it would put the Cubs in a prime position to make a playoff impact sooner than 2015. Once again another reason to trade the Shark.
At least this offseason there is one easy decision… Trading Jeff Samardzija.
Until Next Time…