Shark Hunting?

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As much as we like to dream on an off-season that’s going to bring us some kind of bonanza of free agent pitchers who will fix everything (well, almost everything) that ailed the 2013 Jays without touching a single piece of the club’s prospect pipeline, the reality is that Alex Anthopoulos will be working the trade market very hard to try to find him a pitcher at a palatable price.

One name that’s sure to interest him will be Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs. Like R.A. Dickey last year, he plays for a team that won’t necessarily be looking for MLB-ready players in return, and, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, there appears to be contractual strife between player and club.

“The Cubs’ most important order of business this offseason,” he writes, “would be trying to sign Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija to a multiyear extension. Without it, the arbitration-eligible pitcher is certain to be dealt by the trading deadline next summer — if not shopped this winter.”

He goes on:

Sources say an extension looks like a long shot at this point, with neither side confident a sizable gap in their thinking can be closed when talks restart in earnest this winter.

Samardzija, 28, has said repeatedly that sheer dollars will not be the primary factor for a guy who already has made more than $17 million in his career. But neither side anticipates a hometown discount, either, and Samardzija has said — and shown — he’s confident enough to go year to year and test his value as a free agent after the 2015 season.

That would force the Cubs to trade him in the next eight months before his trade value drops dramatically in his final year of club control.

John Arugello of Cubs Den, the north side baseball branch of the Chicago Tribune-backed blog network ChicagoNow, pivots off of Wittenmyer’s report, contemplating the potential trade value of the man they call Shark, while flagging the Jays as one of many potential suitors for the big right-hander. In it he ballparks Samardzija’s salary at around $5-million through aribitration next year (MLBTR projects him at $4.9-million), which could jump to as much as $9- or $10-million next year, all of which sounds about right. He then dreams on the possibilities of finding a team that’s desperate enough to give up something close to what the Rays got for James Shields last winter, but is realistic enough to figure that they’re looking at some sort of a price south of that, but north of what the club got in return for Matt Garza– top 100 prospect Mike Olt, mid-rotation starter prospect Justin Grimm, lesser prospect C.J. Edwards, and a player to be named later.

Aaron Sanchez’s name comes up in the piece, but I don’t see how that’s a realistic possibility for a pitcher who was liked by FanGraphs’ FIP-based WAR metric over the last two seasons (3.0 and 2.8 wins in 2012 and ’13 respectively), but less so by the RA9-driven WAR at Baseball Reference, which has him at just 1.8 and 1.0 in those seasons. (For refernce his RA9 wins, per FanGraphs, were 2.8 and 1.4, and over at Baseball Prospectus they have him at 2.7 and 2.4 WARP). He’s never been on the DL, though, logged 200 innings for the first time this season (after transferring out of the bullpen, where he made 75 appearances in 2010), has struck out over 24% of his batters faced in the last two seasons, while managing to to keep his walk rates manageable, if still high, and has consistently generated 10% or more swinging strikes. He’ll pitch as a 29-year-old in 2014, but still could break out in an even bigger way, as his ability to limit walks is still really rather new for him, and could improve.

Still, Sanchez is a crazy price.

What maybe isn’t, though, is where a Twitter conversation involving a couple of fans, Arguello, and Cubs Den contributor, and owner of Big League Futures, Kevin Gallo, ended up. (That is, once they get past the silly bits.)

So… Drabek and Norris for Samardzija? And Cubs fans are suggesting it? Yeah, let’s go. Do it.

Comments (51)

  1. Done. Phew, one item of the winter shopping list.

  2. In all seriousness, the Cubs have shown some interest in buying low on former top prospects in some of their recent trades – they acquired Mike Olt, in the midst of an awful year, in the Matt Garza trade, and Jake Arrietta, who has been a horrible starter, was the key piece in their Scott Feldman trade with Baltimore.

    So a player like Drabek might fit in as one of the main pieces in grabbing Samardzija.

    • Yeaaaaaah but Theo isn’t a moron. And there’s NO way they don’t get a better offer somewhere. Norris is supposedly (from what I remember) looking increasingly like a #5 or reliever, and Drabek isn’t even a lock for the BLUE JAYS rotation (enough said).

      • Yeah, I’m not saying Drabek is the main piece, obviously. But he’s a big question mark for a team that needs some certainty, and would have more value for a team like Chicago that can use the upside over the certainty.

      • Norris had a much better second half. I think hanging 5/reliever on him is maybe a little premature here, though I don’t doubt that somebody somewhere has said it.

        Which isn’t to say I think the Cubs would actually do this, of course.

  3. God in a HEARTBEAT. :p

  4. As an aside, here’s Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs’ response to a question that’s been debated here (from his FanGraphs chat)

    Should Josh Johnson get a qualifying offer?
    Jeff Sullivan: oh man no

    • Oh boy

    • Yeah… I saw in Law’s most recent chat that he doesn’t think the Lincecum deal has as much impact on the market as some people feared, because it’s just so insane.

      Either way, Johnson will get what he gets. Still can’t see the Jays letting him walk.

      • For the longest time I wanted to get him back with a QO but now realize that it would take a bit less than that. $10M 1 year deal?

        I’d do that in a heartbeat, loads of his peripherals point to a rebound year, good for Jays, good for him and his next contract.

        Dickey
        Morrow
        Smard
        Buehrle
        Johnson

        Could be great, could be crap but I’d go for that right now.

        • I just worry that without the qualifying offer, it will be hard to get Johnson to re-sign here.

          If you were taking a one-year deal to rebuild your value, would you want to do it in a poor pitcher’s park in the AL East? If teams from the west coast, or even his hometown Minnesota, come calling with offers even a couple million dollars less than the Jays offer, isn’t that a better scenario for him than trying to rebuild value with Toronto?

          Make the qualifying offer and it’s pretty much a slam dunk – his agent has already said he’d take it, and even if we take Lincecum’s deal to be a market-setter, no one is offering close to $14M and giving up a draft pick for a year of Josh Johnson.

          • No way they QO Johnson. Sosnick (his agent) has hinted as much already. He likes Gibbons and the Jays and wants to sign for a short term to get his value back up.

    • I saw that and was a bit surprised by how strongly he seemed to feel about it. In the same chat, he pointed to xFIP- as the best single stat to indicate a pitcher’s future success. Josh Johnson’s xFIP- was 90 this year, which would place him just ahead of Kuroda, Ubaldo, Hamels, Greinke, Samardzija, Verlander… I assumed that would bode well for future expectations.

  5. Throw in Romero for some A-ball kids!

    • Hey, if there’s a team that can afford to take a chance on Romero – i.e., has money and doesn’t exactly have to rely on him – it might be the Cubs. Epstein has to have a memory or two of him being a good starter, no?

    • When we look at the Jays salary obligations next year, I think we have to look at trading away Romero. With us being “all-in” and being in the AL East, I just can’t see us having the luxury of giving him any more chances with the big club. What does he make? 10M or so? Surely someone will take him if we eat 7M of that. Right? Please?

      • RR has 15 mill left on his contract for 2014 and 2015 at 7.5 mill per plus a club option for 13.1 mill for 2016. He’s already screwed up a couple of comeback attempts I can’t see anyone picking him up

    • you mean T ball right?

  6. So when its Sanchez and Stroman we are going to be super disappointed, joking aside its sad how Drabek was the star of the Halladay deal and now this. I really would like him to be good for us though.

  7. The Shark has a considerable Kentucky Waterfall going on. Admirable.

  8. Another NL stiff. 4.34 era in the NL facing pitchers? Raiding another last place team? no thanks.

    • 9.01 K/9, 3.29 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9, FIP 3.77, xFIP 3.45. 2.8 WAR.

      Maybe you should quote other stats before stating your disdain for a seemingly high ERA pitcher.

      • exactly, dickey did so fucking well for us with all your fancy fucking bullshit numbers. when he was a met he had an LMNOP of who gives a fuck and an XIOU of whoopty fuckin doo!! the only stat i give a wooden fuckin shit about is WHIP, that will tell you if hes got the cajonies to fuck the devil in the arse all night long in the A.L. east….god bless beer, amen!

  9. Norris and Drabek? Ya – of course.

    I do however think that if it ever meant anything – the Jays have to be “DUE” for one of these young pitchers to figure it out. Drabek has always intrigued me as a guy who has great stuff. But the Shark is worth more than that perceived trade. The wouldn’t get Sanchez. And if they were offered Sanchez they certainly wouldn’t get anything else of prospect value. That’s a crazy notion that Adam Miller has. All it will take is 4 or 5 good games to start the year next year in AA for Sanchez and he’ll be right back near the top of everyone’s lists.

  10. With Dickey,Buehrle,Morrow as incumbents and a possibility of JJ on a 1or 2 year deal,Happ signed.
    The knock on Drabek and Hutch,before they were injured,is that they were young and inexperienced.
    Is Samardzija that much of an upgrade on JJ or Happ?I dunno just askin.
    If you go with JJ and Happ and they’re shitting the bed 2 months into the season would Drabek or Hutch provide a better option in June?Maybe Stroman?
    Glad I’m not making the decisions.

    • He would be a huge upgrade on Happ, but not quite at JJ ceiling, though Samardizja is younger so he has upside.

  11. Now that I think about it – maybe AA’s aiming to “expand the deal” to land Wellington Castillo?

  12. Drabek and Norris? DONE

    If i was AA lol

  13. 48.2% ground ball rate last year, that’s not too bad for a pitcher at Wrigley. I do want to see the Jays target ground ball pitchers given the stadium here. Samardzjia wouldn’t be a terrible option but it depends on the price, no question.

  14. His numbers aren’t exactly out of this world – especially for the NL Central. A package built around Drabek and Norris might not be so nuts.

  15. Man I do that deal all day long even with another lesser prospect tossed in

  16. I realize Sanchez took some steps back, bu he’s also working through mechanical adjustments, those don’t just happen overnight.

    I don’t see how Norris has surpassed him yet with 1 good half.

    I think the key for AA this year will be to not giving up prospects with high ceilings for marginal players. Obviously he is going to have to give up prospects, but go after top talent, its better to overpay for top talent.

  17. If that is the deal,,, TAKE IT but if it turns into a farm raping extravaganza then I would be hesitant.

  18. Do it – make all the trades lets just get next season started!

    I thought watching the Jays lose was the most unbearable part of the summer but watching the Red Sox win is worse.

  19. He sounds like a great idea. But I would prefer to get someone who has pitched in the AL against the other guys in the East. That’s why I’d rather get Garza then this one.

  20. PS Garza won’t cost a prospect or two.

  21. Realistically the cubs likely will want a package around Stroman. Would Stroman and Anthony Gose be worth it?

  22. Are you guys serious Smard is a #4 in AL east at best. To give up that much quality potential for that is wrong on so many levels. At worst gose is Jon Jay speed and defense

  23. I would prefer Lynn over Samardzija. With the Cards starting pitching depth the Jays could work out a package built around Gose. That is of course if Lynn will even be available this offseason. plus he has 4 years of control.

  24. Can’t wait to get my hands on a Jeff Samardzijersey!!

    • Just have “Shark” as the name on the back, and you’re set!

      I agree with booster. As a Cubs and Jays fan (dear god…this World Series matchup is horribly depressing…holding my nose for a Red Sox win, though secretly hoping that both teams get caught up in some sort of bizarre betting scandal, a la 1919 ‘Black Sox’, which sees both teams forfeit the right to be declared WS champs…suck it Farrell), I don’t see The Shark as being more than a #4 starter, maybe a #3 in a really good season, in the AL.

  25. [...] in a package for the Shark. Anthony Gose fits that bill. Last week, Andrew Stoeten covered the more recent reports at DJF, some Cubs insiders/bloggers said a package of Drabek and Norris would get it done. I added Gose [...]

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