Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs Both Get Richer in Jeff Samardzija Deal

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Jeff Samardzija

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While the rest of the country was oooh-ing and ahh-ing at fireworks during America’s Independence Day festivities, two Major League Baseball teams decided to set off some fireworks of their own. The Oakland Athletics, contending for a World Series title in 2014, decided to go all in and make a deal with the Chicago Cubs, a team contending for the 2017 World Series (along with the Houston Astros, apparently).

The Cubs have been trying to trade away Jeff Samardzija for what seems to be an eternity. Plenty of talks between the team and the player’s representatives about long-term, expensive contract extensions were had, but none came to fruition. The Cubs’ most recent offer to the former Notre Dame football player was more “hardball” than “moneyball.” But the plan was always to trade the team’s most valuable big league commodity. And after getting some big returns in the Matt Garza deal last year, all eyes were on the front office to outdo themselves in acquiring the biggest of big name prospects for Samardzija.

Samardzija would have been the best pitching talent on the trading block, but timing is everything. Also lurking were the Tampa Bay Rays and their wishes to unload David Price, a player that the Rays would not be able to afford for much longer after this season. As a matter of fact, the Rays were talking with the A’s about trading the former Cy Young winner to Oakland. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Athletics were ready to deal their number one prospect, Addison Russell to Tampa for Price. Unfortunately for the Rays, a complete deal could not be made between the two teams.

Unfortunately for the Rays, they did not have a Jason Hammel on their squad. Hammel, who probably would have garnered one or two, mid-level prospects on his own in a separate trade, may have been the difference for Oakland. With Hammel and Samardzija on the team, the Oakland A’s, who currently have the 15th best starting rotation per FUBAR, get a huge upgrade to their rotation. This is what the Oakland rotation looks like now:

  1. Samardzija
  2. Sonny Gray
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hammel
  5. Tommy Milone

And they still have Jesse Chavez who has stepped up to fill in admirably and might be summoned to step into the rotation in the future–assuming it’s him and not Milone that gets relegated. Oakland might finally have the rotation to go toe-to-toe against their nemesis of the last two years, the Detroit Tigers.

So what was the price for Oakland to bolster their starting rotation? Only their top two prospects:

  • Addison Russell: The A’s 2012 first round pick has been heralded for his defense at short, advanced hitting approach, and overall exciting style of play. He was Oakland’s number one prospect.
  • Billy McKinney: The A’s number two prospect, he was the A’s first round pick in 2013. Scouts were impressed with his pretty, left-handed swing, plate-discipline, and good range in the outfield.

And of course, Dan Straily was also part of the deal. Straily had a decent year in 2013, but continued control issues, along with being a fly ball pitcher that gives up too many home runs, have prevented him from staying with the big league team.

And it gets even more interesting.

There’s a player to be named later involved in this deal. Per Dan Schmelzer of vavel.com, that player might actually be yet another top A’s prospect:

…the Cubs might actually land a legitimate prospect in this case. Raul Alcantara is a prospect who was rumored to be talked about in this trade. While it may not be the case, Alcantara would certainly makes sense as the PTBNL in this deal.

Alcantara was a top five prospect entering this season. He had to undergo Tommy John surgery back in May. The Cubs have shown in the past to not be afraid of acquiring minor league players that underwent reconstructive elbow surgery. They acquired Arodys Vizcaino back in 2012 in a deal that involved the Atlanta Braves and former Cubs’ pitcher, Paul Maholm. Vizcaino had also underwent elbow surgery in April of that year. It would be absolutely ridiculous if the Cubs acquire Alcantara in this deal, but considering what they had to give up to Oakland, it may not be too far-fetched of a notion.

At any rate, the biggest question asked last night by many Cubs fans was, “what is the team going to do with so many middle infield prospects?” The team already has Starlin Castro on the Major League roster and out-of-this-world prospect Javier Baez at short. Adding Russell creates a logjam at the position, but there are two possibilities that may occur:

  • Somebody is getting traded
  • Major positional shifts in the infield will be inevitable

Another top prospect, Kris Bryant might be forced to move to the outfield from third base. Baez’s defense is infamous so a switch to third or second looks to be his destiny. Russell might already be better defensively than Castro and Baez. So we might be looking at an infield that consists of Baez at third, Russell at short, and Castro at second. And we’re not even including 22-year-old middle infield phenom, Arismendy Alcantara, who owns an approximate OPS of .890. Repeat, this Alcantara is only 22 years old.

Currently, Russell ranks as the third best prospect in the Cubs’ organization, while McKinney ranks ninth, per mlb.com. With so many hitting prospects, especially at middle infield, the Cubs may end up flipping one of these prospects in order to answer the second most asked question by Cubs’ fans: “when are they going to acquire an ace-like pitcher to anchor the starting rotation?” Patience is definitely a virtue, especially when talking about the Cubs.

Two supposed “moneyball” teams had needs to fill and they reached out to each other to meet those needs. The A’s looking for championship glory in 2014 got what they were looking for. The Cubs, on the other hand, seemed to have given up a lot, but in the end, they may end up getting a whole lot more in this trade as they continue to pursue their ultimate goal: contending for multiple championships in the future.

All scouting reports courtesy of Baseball America.

Felipe Melecio was the managing editor for the blog Pathological Hate. When not watching sports, he's listening to music--or listening to music while watching sports. Keep tabs on all his knee-jerk reactions on Twitter:
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