As I wrote on Saturday, the Jays have been linked to Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, and most of the chatter about that has continued to centre around Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez. A quick search of Twitter for their names finds– in addition to a bunch of delusional Jays fans, delusional Cubs fans, Jays fans ready to commit hara-kiri, and self-styled prospect gurus cluelessly offering their opinions on players they clearly know nothing about– respected baseball guys like Jason Collette and Ben Badler making the obvious connection that so many of us are loath to think about.
Badler singles out guys like D.J. Davis, Mitch Nay, Dawel Lugo, Alberto Tirado, Richar Urena, and later adds possible Rule 5 candidate Tyler Ybarra, as prospects who have some appeal, though they are very clearly delineated as secondary pieces.
Unfortunately, he’s probably right. I mean, I remember having the conversation last year, when rumblings about R.A. Dickey talks were being heard everywhere, about just how much we could stand to give up for the Cy Young-winning knuckleballer, and coming up astronomically short of what Alex Anthopoulos eventually caved to. Twelve big league seasons of d’Arnaud and Syndergaard seemed– before we all got caught up, quite rightly, in the notion of flags, and their ability to fly forever– a pretty fucking unfathomable price for one season of Dickey and the right to sign him to a below-market extension, but it was a price that Anthopoulos– under far less pressure than he is now, having already pulled off his Marlins coup– felt needed to be paid in order to get the win-now player.
Naturally, then, speculation is all over the map.
For example, Callum Hughson of Mop Up Duty scoffs at the idea of including either Sanchez or Stroman for Samardzija, but does so while calling him “below-average,” pointing to his ERA+, and noting the fact that he’s coming from the National League.
The latter point– while excruciatingly frustrating to hear trotted out over and over again by local media, to the point of making people think it’s some kind of a fucking disease, or that we can’t use our brains and account for the differences in leauge– actually isn’t unfair. We can look at Samardzija’s splits against pitchers and non-pitchers to see that, naturally, he gets a bit of a boost. His OPS against in 2013 jumps from .736 to .762 when pitchers are removed from the equation, and his K/BB dips slightly, from 2.74 to 2.58, when removing the 23 Ks and four walks he racked up in 65 plate appearances for opposing hurlers.
And yes, FIP was certainly kinder to Samardzija in both 2012 and 2013 than ERA or RA9, which is why his fWAR numbers are so much better for those seasons. By that metric he ranked in the top 75 of big league starters this season, and in 2012 was among the top 35.
Those are the kinds of numbers that, along with his power arm and stunningly clean injury history, lead to the other side of the coin– like Cubs blogger, Chicago Tribune “employee” (according to her Twitter bio), WGN contributor, and owner of Aerys Sports, Julie DiCaro, guessing “both plus” when asked if Sanchez and Stroman would be the price.
I’d rule such talk out as insanity– and probably point to her citing a source that said no offer was on the table, several hours after Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden as much– but who the hell knows? The Dickey trade, and the subsequent hype that followed Noah Syndergaard around this season, was truly a game changer– just maybe not in the way that Anthopoulos had hoped. At least, not yet.
Now I think I could believe just about anything here, which is probably good, because there sure as fuck are all kinds of whispers out there to believe.
DiCaro, in a subsequent tweet, says she hears that the chances of the Jays putting together a package that could entice the Cubs is “pretty remote”– which, to me, in my most hopeful, suggests that the Jays probably made the two crown jewels of their farm system off limits.
Meanwhile, though, Tom Loxas– a blogger at the Tribune-owned Chicago Now– was saying yesterday that he was hearing a deal “may be close.” He also lays this on us:
The Jays know any package has to include top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez. They also desperately want to go the trade route. Toronto doesn’t want to lose any draft picks to acquire the pitching they seek, and they do not want to dip into the pricey free agent market.
I’m also hearing the aforementioned Garza would likely be the Jays Plan B if they lose out on Samardzija.
This, to me, is just mind-bending. Garza would be the plan-B??? Why would they be more willing to get rid of prospects if splashing cash on a guy like Garza is a possibility??? Maybe if they’re hoping to trade for someone and make a signing, I guess?
As for the stuff about losing the draft picks… while I don’t doubt that could be an issue, the fact that we’re talking about a second rounder should at least mitigate it a little, and even beyond that, why does this organization continually seem to value the unknown and far away of the draft so much more than the known and close that’s in their farm system??? It’s a shitty pretext for being cheap, frankly.
Of course, none of this likely means anything, if we even believe it in the first place (dubious at best), since it’s highly unlikely– though not because of the silly myth of AA’s stealth that we all can stop quoting now, thanks– that a deal will actually come to fruition here. Obviously.
One reason? Loxas tweets that there are other teams still involved, apparently, though the Jays are the “leader,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Elsewhere, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, who originally got this whole rumour started, tweets that the Cubs– at least in their talks with Arizona– are said to be looking at three to four “top youngsters” in return for Samardzija
Another Chicago Now writer, John Arguello of Cubs Den, has this:
Samardzija would likely be worth a top 25 prospect so we could be looking at a package headed by Aaron Sanchez. Marcus Stroman is an intriguing piece as well but probably not as a headliner. The Cubs have also shown interest in Kyle Drabek in the past. Drabek has a world of talent but injuries and inconsistencies with command have held him back.
Certainly opinions are split on Stroman– some still believe, despite the great reports we’ve heard on him this fall, that his future is ultimately going to be in relief– but that’s… I mean… jeez, not even Stroman as a headliner? Like… you can make the case that Samardzija is a very, very good pitcher, but that good? Two years of him? Six years of these prospects?
If the Cubs see Samardzija’s value the way their fans do, then, I don’t see how this is going to work out.
And shit, maybe they’re right to value him that highly, given what they got for a two-month rental of Matt Garza– who wasn’t nearly the pitcher Samardzija was during their two years together at Wrigley. Garza netted Mike Olt, who was having a down year but began 2013 as a consensus top 100 guy (back in February, Baseball America had him at number 22 in all of baseball, ahead of d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, Sanchez, and many others), plus C.J. Edwards, who Baseball America just ranked as the third best prospect in a very strong Cubs system, and a starter, Justin Grimm, on top of that!
So yeah, the cost is going to be stupidly high. Too high for me to understand why the Jays would do it outside of the win-now, #flagsflyforever mentality that so richly coloured last winter, and which… certainly still has merit. It’s just a whole lot easier to get behind that merit when you’re not thinking about the club clearing the cupboard entirely bare, or being a little too cavalier about a mess down the road that we’ll all be forced to endure, but somebody else will inevitably be cleaning up. I don’t know if AA’s job is in quite as much peril as I sometimes have the tendency to make it out to be, but whether he’s willing to go in so deeply on a trade like this will be telling, I think.
Or… I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe he’s got an eye towards recouping some of the lost prospect value in a mid-summer fire sale if things once again fall apart on the field for this club. I mean, it’s not like Samardzija isn’t also an asset himself, it’s just… try getting the same kind of value that you gave up back on R.A. Dickey now, right?
So… yeah. I couldn’t do it. Not when there is damn money that by all rights should be available to be spent instead. All that stuff about prospects being capital, and lottery tickets, and too easily dreamed on, and there not being room enough for them all to be here anyway? It’s not wrong, it’s just… some balance would be nice. We know too well that the Jays aren’t the kind of big-money, desirable location kind of club that can just go bossing around future free agent markets (which, by the way, are only bound to see prices go up as the level of available talent goes down), filling in gaps that could have been earmarked for prospects long since traded away. They can’t afford to only look shortsightedly at their “window.”
And maybe they’re not! Maybe it’s all bullshit. But if it isn’t, I can’t say it’s not disheartening– even though I know full well that the 2014 version of the club would be helped tremendously if minor leaguers are turned into quality roster pieces. Do I have a good reason for why, beyond wanting badly to stomp my feet and insist the club spend money that ownership won’t let it? Not even really. A great run in 2014 would be great, and would make it easy to forgive a whole lot. It’s just, another year with the same game plan as last winter will just take us that much farther away from the sort of Tampa-Bay-with-money ideal that we were once sold on as the only way to make it work in this division. And I think what makes these rumours resonate so much with so many people is the fear that we may already be too far gone to turn back.