greatsharkhunt

As I noted in last night’s Daily Duce, Jon Morosi was reporting, or at the very least tweeting, yesterday that the Chicago Cubs aren’t only willing to listen on offers for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel — the two pitchers most often linked to trade rumours so far this season — but on starters Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta as well. Chicagoland’s chief rumour monger, Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Sun Times might not be hearing some of the same things — he doesn’t say so, at least — but if Jackson and Arrieta’s availability were true, it would make sense, since, while it seems clear that the non-contending Cubs will move some kind of pitching this summer, Wittenmeyer reports that extension talks are being resumed between the club and Samardzija, their ace-that-sour-Toronto-fans-don’t-want-to-believe-is-an-ace.

The longer Samardzija has pitched into what is fast becoming his best season, the more he’s looking like the frontline pitcher many expected him to be, and the more outcry that has risen from an already grumbling fan base waiting for this rebuilding process to take traction.

Cubs officials wouldn’t comment on the subject Monday.

But the offer is believed to be for the same five years previously discussed by the parties, but at a higher number than the $60-million to $65-million range last on the table.

I’m not so sure that the fact that the fans are grumbling would be such a motivating factor for the smart and experienced front office that the Cubs employ, but if they can get him for the right dollar amount, there is obviously a lot to like in Samardzija, no matter how many Jays fans want to pretend he’s not quite as good as advertised. Granted, I’m not sure he’s the guy his 2.95 ERA (or his 2.95 FIP, or his 3.27 xFIP) makes him look, but I think a lot of the negatives about him can be misleading.

Yes, he’s pitching in the NL Central, which means he faces the Andrew McCutchens and Joey Vottos and Ryan Brauns and St. Louis Cardinals of the world more than he does the AL East’s Jackie Bradley Jrs, and Jonathan Schoops, and Anthony Goses *COUGH*, and he has the luxury of facing a pitcher a couple times per game. But actually if you look at the splits, pitchers have accounted for just seven of his 82 strikeouts this season, and his 21.8 K% against non-pitchers is just a hair below of the 22.0% it is in the overall. The dismal hitting numbers pitchers put up certainly inflates his numbers a little, so you wouldn’t expect him to be able to move to the American League and be exactly the same guy, statistically, but the whole “NL pitcher” narrative that has been drummed into the heads of local fans by hopeless old dupes is flat out wrong. For pretty much every Josh Beckett or Josh Johnson or R.A. Dickey there is an A.J. Burnett, a Hiroki Kuroda, and an Anibal Sanchez, who came to the AL and were absolutely fine. It’s almost like pitchers can be kinda volatile! It’s also almost like guys making the transition still have the same stuff, and the same ability to attack hitters that they always did, and aren’t undone by some magical American League force.

None of those things makes for a comprehensive argument, I recognize — I didn’t exactly begin this post trying to build the case for Samardzija, and a thing like that takes more time than cherry picking some examples like above — but the fact is, Samardzija is pretty seriously good, and his results are moving in the right direction towards his always-strong peripherals.

The name that’s mentioned by Wittenmeyer as a comparable is Homer Bailey, who signed a six-year, $105-million extension with the Reds back in February. However, Ken Rosenthal tweets that he’s surprised that Samardzija — who Wittenmeyer’s report stresses is not short on self-belief — might take a team-friendly deal, and thinks Matt Cain’s six-year, $127.5-million contract is probably more what he’s is looking for. Rosenthal adds that the Shark has a better career ERA than Bailey, and a “fresher arm,” which is mostly due to the fact that he spent his first years in the majors as a reliever. Bailey is a year younger, but has about 500 more pro innings on his arm. Cain, who is only four months older, has closer to 650 more.

The Cain comparison is brought up by Matt Snyder of CBS Sports, who also looks at today’s report, and makes cases for both trading Samardzija and extending him, neither of which will be music to Jays fans’ ears — especially the one where a bidding war ensues over the next several weeks.

What if the Rays don’t make David Price available? Samardzija will likely be the only thing resembling a frontline starter on the trade market this July. A bidding war between at least five teams wanting to upgrade for this season might result in a bit of a coup in terms of a prospect package.

Remember, the Cubs got third baseman Mike Olt (10 homers, 25 RBI right now, though an awful average), relievers Neil Ramirez (1.06 ERA, 26 K in 17 IP) and Justin Grimm (2.97 ERA, 31 K in 30 1/3 IP) along with now-top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards last season in exchange for a few months of Matt Garza. They even got Jake Arrieta (2-1, 2.09 ERA in eight starts) and Pedro Strop (3.92 ERA, 22 K in 20 2/3 IP) for Scott Feldman. Theoretically, Samardzija should be able to land even more in this climate — since the trading partner will get him for at least a season and a half.

Like I say, I like Samardzija, but not at any price. It’s going to be a tough, tough decision.

And yet, decisions may already be made in a lot of respects. Going back to Wittenmeyer’s report, we’re reminded that the Jays had two scouts on hand in Miami this week, watching starts from both Samardzija and Jason Hammel, and he tells us that “At least two teams, including the Jays, already have had preliminary trade talks involving potential players who would come back in a deal, according to sources.”

That may simply be the stuff we’ve heard all along — the Stroman/Sanchez stuff — so I’m not sure that there’s anything new here, but by every single report, the Jays are certainly interested. And for damn good reason! He’d be a hell of an addition to the club, for both this year and next. Yet that’s exactly what the Cubs have apparently started to think.

“That same rising trade value has caused the Cubs to rethink his replacement value as they look at the cost of acquiring a similar pitcher,” Wittenmeyer explains, “and whether somebody as good would even be available.”

Interesting. Posturing? It’s hard to say, but it sure is nice to not be debating whether or not the Jays should be sellers, isn’t it?

So… there’s that.

Comments (68)

  1. Love the pic.

  2. “I’m not so sure that the fact that the fans are grumbling would be such a motivating factor for the smart and experienced front office that the Cubs employ..”

    Maybe not, but it sure as fucking hell ought to be. Think Jays fans have it bad because we’ve suffered for 20 years? Try visiting Wrigleyville…

    • That’s not how you run a business if your aim is to, y’know, be successful.

      • You don’t think paying to keep a good pitcher is a good way to be successful?

        • How did you get so lost on this so quickly?

          The issue is making decisions based on worrying about what grumbling fans think. Doesn’t matter what the decision is, the fans’ grumbling should have no bearing.

        • That’s not what you said. You said the cubs front office should listen to the fans. The dumbest people he has available (people like you).

      • I guess it would depending if ‘grumbling fans’ means that the fans will stop buying merchandise, tickets to games, or supporting the teams with their dollars in any way. I would guess this is not the case, ever.

  3. I’d be shocked and angry if the jays didn’t trade for a pitcher this deadline

    • Congratulations.

    • And I’ll be surprised if they do.
      AA has a price/value point (OK, let’s call it how it is – ROGERS has one) – and I can’t see him getting anything that resembles a “deal” anywhere that doesn’t include giving up the few remaining arrows in his minor league quiver.

      • I agree with you, fastball. I would rather see the jays build a perennial contender from within than fuck the farm system for another decade by overpaying for Shark. He’s a decent pitcher, but not one I’m willing to blow the farm for.

      • No, he doesn’t. No need to regurgitate that kind of narrow nonsense. He overpaid by many accounts for Dickey, for Happ, for the Marlins guys.

        • I know that AA’s mandate was to rebuild the farm system and use it when needed to go for it. Given the way the offseason played out, do you still see him emptying the farm to go for it?

    • I’m shocked – shocked! – to find gambling in this establishment!

    • I’d be fine provided Morrow is stellar, Buehrle continues, Dickey doesn’t give up a few runs early in every start, Stroman rules, and Happ keeps keep’n on.

  4. After a pretty hot start, Samardzija has been pretty mediocre (that’s being generous) for a while now…surprised I haven’t heard more about this. It’s an important thing to keep in mind though.

    I was fully 100% in the “sign Ubaldo” camp before the season just because I thought we were desperate for a pitcher at all costs. Jays didn’t bend to his demands and I doubt they’ll bend to the Cubs either..that is to say, no way Stroman or Hutchison go to the Cubs. I’d trade Sanchez though. Not much more than him though.

  5. If the Jays do trade for him, you think Rogers will be willing to pay Matt Cain or Homer Bailey money to keep him? That will probably factor into their thinking, too.

  6. This could be good news for the Jays. If the options are

    a) give up Sanchez/Stroman for him

    b) see him go to an AL rival, or

    c) watch the Cubs lock him up long term, I’m fine with C

  7. The Jays have to be careful they don’t do something like the old Loiaza for Michael Young deal. Sure Jeff SZ would help, butassuming you dealt for him around June 30, he would get approx 15 starts. Truthfully, how much impact can he be?
    I agree it would be positive but would it be worth giving up 7 years of control for say Sanchez and 7 more for Norris plus some other prospect (SMORAL?) . Conceivably 21 years of control for 1.5 years of one guy. I think that w/b stupid. Let teh Yanks do it.
    Guys to look at IMO are Burnett of Philly who will be moved for sure as his contract runs out( I kinow sore groin and all but he can be had cheap if Rogers absorbs the 8m+ owing) and Cliff Lee. He would cost 0 in prospects if Rogers would absorb next years 27m option. Perhaps Philly could be persuaded to absorb some of the 13m still owing for this year in return for a lower prospect.
    Failing that look at Kennedy of SD or other middle objects. I say forget SZmnmanam

    • Most prospects bust.

    • I saw Kennedy this weekend in the pitcher-friendly Citi Field. He looked like hot garbage. Leaving stuff up, getting smoked all over the place, walking dudes. He was lucky to escape with three runs and probably would have gotten hurt more if it hadn’t been the Mets.

      • Certainly get a better perspective by being there in person. Thanks JB. Looks like I’ll have to revist that thought

      • That’s only one start, though. He COULD be hot garbage, or he could have just had a bad game.

  8. I know most prospects never make it, and I get that a proven major league pitcher can help immediately, but as a fan I would. rather see our core extended (bats and EE) for a bit of time past their contracts to give some of our on the cusp (Nolin + Sanchez) and our young MLB pitching (Stroman + Hutchison) a chance over the next few years. I would much rather see sustained success over the next decade and bitch about not winning the world series many times over, instead of bolstering our chances this year with so many of the Jays prospects so far away still.

    • Nolin???? Even dreaming that much on Sanchez is a big stretch. Plus, as the bats decline, those pitchers finally start to be as good as a Samardzija. Timing.

    • The chances of the Toronto Blue Jays becoming the next St. Louis Cardinals are rather slim.

  9. Any move the Jays make at the deadline is surely going to sting. Thing is, it almost kinda fucking has to be done. Especially when you are potentially looking at 1.5 years of a Samardzija or Price.

  10. I’ve been wondering myself why Epstein would want to just ship out his quality starting pitching. Rizzo and Castro are sick and the Cubs are rich aren’t they? Isn’t it time to start spending some money on FA’s and field a contending team yet? Is their farm crap?

    • Castro is OK.

    • Cubs don’t have a ton of cash flow right now. They have a pretty large debt to service because of the Tribune bankruptcy a few years ago (and MLB rules about how to service that debt). Also, they’re planning a huge renovation ($300 M+) of Wrigley and can’t put up in-stadium advertising because of the deals they’ve made with the rooftop operators near the stadium (which is turning into a litigation mess). Throw in some weird tax consequences of the bankruptcy (the Rickett Family Trust can’t pay off the debt because that would make the transfer a taxable event), and you’ve got some cash flow issues.

      Based on comments from Theo and other team officials, the plan seems to be to keep payroll down until 2020, at which time the renovations will be completed, the debt serviced, and the farm ready to go. Based on Chicago media (I live here), I’d be surprised if the Cubs keep Shark without a hometown discount.

  11. One thing that bothers me is that contracts are often based on comparables. So you look at Matt Cain and say he makes $20.8M per season. Samardzija is better than him at the moment so boom – the Shark is a $22M dollar player. Of course this ignores the small fact that there is only a 20WAR(!) difference in their career so far. Cain has thrown 1130 more innings in MLB. That is a not insignificant sample size I would say.

    • In Cain’s favour? Not necessarily. Certainly not when your aim is to pay for future performance and not past.

      • I just don’t think Cain is a comparable. The fact that Samardzija has thrown fewer innings is a bonus for the team that is paying him is a potential bonus. but Cain has 7 seasons at 3WAR or greater. The Shark has 1.

        In what way are the two pitchers comparable? One of them has proven since 2006 that he is worth big bucks and one has proven it since 2012. Bailey is far more appropriate as a comparison in my mind. Doesn’t really matter though because I think his value was over-estimated as well.

        • If I could edit that would say: The fact that Samardzija has thrown fewer innings is a potential bonus for the team that is paying him.

  12. Where is Steve Delabar tonight?

  13. Kennedy’s name has been thrown around…but are there any indications that San Diego is in sell mode? I mean, yeah, terrible record, but would they be looking to sell any starting pitchers?

  14. So if Delabar has been sent down to clear room for Kawasaki – that’s potentially good news about Lind and Goggles, right?

  15. If I recall correctly, AJ Burnett was not ‘absolutely fine’ when he came to the Jays from the NL. He was extremely erratic. And Mark Buehrle wasn’t absolutely fine last year either. The NL to AL thing may not be a huge factor. And may not be a factor at all for some pitchers. But I think there are pitchers that look wonderful in the NL but aren’t quite as wonderful when they come over to the AL. Problem is that you’ve no idea if that’s the case with The Shark until you buy him and find out. If it’s possible to get a decent AL pitcher, that’s the route I’d rather go.

    • Buehrle only pitched in the NL for a year. Seriously, anyone who invokes the going-from-NL-to-AL crap needs to be banned from posting. It’s almost as dumb as the leadership and chemistry nonsense.

      • In the nl, all things being equal; a lineup is 8/9ths as difficult to pitch to. When you factor in that you are replacing at least 2 pitcher ab’s per game with a 2 dh ab’s…it’s quite opviously easier pitching in the nl from a lineup basis

    • Mark Buehrle pitched ONE year in the NL in his entire career — producing his second-least valuable (full) season by fWAR.

      And I’ll take Burnett’s 10.7 WAR over 3 seasons right now, thank you very much.

  16. *The above is not a slur against Buehrle who has been amazing this year. But I think he needed a year to re-adjust. Whoever we get needs to hit the ground running…er…pitching!

  17. Personally, I hope they resign him, I’d rather him re-sign with the Cubs than either: a) trade some package of Stroman, Sanchez, Norris and Pompey or b) him get traded to the Orioles or Yankees. Just for the record Stoeten, just because teams like the Orioles COULD trade more than us to get someone like this, doesn’t mean their stupid enough to do it.

    • obviously I meant “they’re”. Who’s the former high school English teacher? That’s right. This guy.

  18. why wouldn’t the cubs at least try to extend him?
    someone has to pitch for them, and if they can get him for what a market price is, or less, they’d be stupid not to try.
    I’m sure sometime in the next year or two they’re going to try to make a push, he’ll surely help them then.

  19. If they can’t get what they want for him they may as well extend him. No point trading him just because. But that having been said, putting the word out that they are trying to extend him might gee his market up a little. So I’m not surprised we are hearing this.

    • I’m surprised too….wasn’t it just yesterday they had a Chicago pundit on the Fan 590(?) who said trading him was essentially a done deal because he didn’t fit into their longer-term plans. And why would he stay anyways….he would sign for several years that are almost certainly going to be losing years. The Cubs aren’t going to spend major money for a while, as someone just noted above.

  20. Can anyone think of a contending team in recent memory who acquired a starting pitcher during the season as an insurance policy in case someone in their rotation were to go down?

    And if so, how did that play out?

    The 2011 Cardinals is the only example I can think of, but they traded for Jackson (via TOR) only after somebody got injured.

    Maybe in a way you could think of an acquired SP this year as a replacement for Morrow and Stroman goes to the pen for the rest of the season? Also, isn’t there concern whether Hutch can pitch into October?

  21. Our starters have been totally fine lately. The price to acquire anyone who’s a significant upgrade over who we have now – be it Shark, or whatever else – is almost certainly not worth it.

    Even if we bring in a guy like that and extend him, that means we don’t have money for Melky and/or Rasmus – and face the potential of 2 black holes in the outfield.

    If we bring in anyone, it should be an affordable insurance piece to prevent future Redmond/Hendriks starts, or an affordable non-black hole infielder should they completely give up on Fat Juan.

    Totally pointless to bring someone expensive aboard, compromise the future, and then either lose said expensive piece or one of the others we’ll need next year.

  22. im all for shark. except i do not include either stroman or sanchez, and definitely not Hutch. So that makes it pretty un-doable i think. unless they want nolin norris romero and a position player? maybe a gose?

  23. My dad isn’t speaking to me because I called his theoretical “Stroman + Sanchez for Price” trade “bonkers.”

  24. Re: magical American League force

    I looked at team OPS going back to the beginning of 2008 (Samardzija’s MLB debut) and calculated a combined OPS for each division (for each season)

    6 divisions @ 7 seasons (2014-2008 inclusive) = 42 ‘data points’

    Of those, the top 7 were AL divisions (6 of those being the AL East)
    14 of the top 18 were AL divisions
    10 of the bottom 13 were NL divisions

    I don’t think there’s any mystery that there is a tangible difference when pitching to an AL lineup vs. an NL lineup – and it becomes even more clear when you consider a pitcher moving to the AL East and facing consistently strong offences . This isn’t anywhere near a perfect (or even really good, for that matter) analysis, but there are numbers out there to support this hypothesis.

    Having said all of that, so far this season the AL East is performing, as a division w.r.t. OPS, WELL below where they have in previous seasons. And as far as NL divisions go, the Central accounted for 3 of the 4 NL divisions in the top 18 (2008, 2010 and 2011) – so Samardjiza HAS faced some AL caliber lineups consistently over his career (especially when you account for the anemic Cubs lineups bringing down the total OPS of the NL Central that the Shark hasn’t had the luxury of facing).

    Of course, as you said, it ultimately comes down to the individual pitcher and his ability to pitch against the tougher lineups, and Samardjiza has the stuff to potentially make that kind of transition a smooth one.

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