Lets be honest, the Chicago Cubs are going to trade Jeff Samardzija this year. The only question left is when? An argument can be made for dealing Samardzija tomorrow as well as waiting until the very last minute on July 31st, but either way, the Cubs are in a great position. The market for Samardzija has already begun to take form, as a number of teams are in desperate need of starting pitching, most notably the New York Yankees. The Yanks have 3 of their 5 starters currently on the DL and despite staying afloat for now, they are bound to be desperate for arms come July. Obviously the Cubs won’t strike up a deal with the Yankees tomorrow, but the fact that their need has arisen this early in the season will allow the Samardzija trade rumors to sizzle and gain steam for the next 2 months.
Even better for the Cubs is that Samardzija has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game thus far. The fact that Samardzija is having a career year in 2014 boosts his value exponentially. And the fact that he is winless through 10 starts is really erroneous because people around baseball have, ever so slightly, loosened their attachment to wins as the ultimate barometer for a pitchers value, as evidence by Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young award in 2010 when he went just 13-12.
The key now for maximizing Samardzija’s value lies in 3 steps. 1) Keep him healthy. Any significant injury to Samardzija will kill his trade value. Last week there was a big deal made out of Samardzija’s high pitch counts, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you are trying to trade him so that next year has a shot to actually be the “next year” that Cubs fans have been waiting for, it is a big deal.
2) Keep him productive. Asking Jeff Samardzija to keep up the pace he is on is not realistic. He has been so good this season that a start in which he goes seven innings and allows one earn run would raise his ERA, but as long as he doesn’t implode in the next two months everything will be fine. Dealing a good pitcher will get you a lot in return, but dealing a good pitcher who is pitching lights-out will get you a whole lot more.
3) Drum up more suitors. Having the Yankees seemingly interested in Samardzija is a great thing, but only if other teams get involved. The reason being is that the Yankees don’t have a whole lot to offer due to their notoriously thin crop of prospects. In a perfect world, the Yankees get into a bidding war with one or two other teams and they drive up Samardzija’s price (something the Yankees do so well). Creating an intense bidding war will be a great way for the Cubs to squeeze one more top prospect out of whoever lands the Cubs’ ace.
Bottom line is this, it is going to be tough to watch Samardzija leave, but at 29, his next contract won’t match his production, in all likelihood. Trading Samardzija now, when his value is highest, will bring in a load of young talent and could make “next year” come a whole lot sooner.
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