Will Jeff Samardzija Bring Value as Trade Bait?When the calendar flipped from June to July, the Chicago Cubs moved into seller mode. On Tuesday, the Cubs orchestrated a deal sending starting pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for two right-handed pitchers, Jake Arrietta and Pedro Strop. The Cubs also moved former closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for relief pitcher Matt Guerrier. All three players headed to the Cubs will report immediately for minor league assignments. The Cubs also shipping minor league infielder Ronald Torreyes to the Houston Astros. All three deals included international signing bonus slots. During the second year of a rebuilding process, the Cubs have demonstrated that they will continue selling off players who may yield value.
Following a 100-loss season last year, all trade rumors entering the 2013 campaign circulated around the future of Matt Garza. Fans and experts alike are confident he will be moved prior to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, but where will he go? What will the Cubs receive in return? With Garza's history of injuries, which delayed his 2013 debut, could starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija prove more valuable?
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 amateur draft, Jeff Samardzija reached the big league roster in 2008. During his first four seasons, he pitched out of the bullpen with the occasional spot start. During that stretch his future seemed bleak as his ERA swelled (7.53 in 2009, 8.38 in 2010). In 2011, he settled into his role and made a career-high 75 appearances. Last year, he transitioned into a full-time starter. In 28 starts he logged 174.2 innings, finished with a 9-13 record and compiled a 3.81 ERA. Not necessarily top-of-the-rotation statistics, but nevertheless respectable numbers. With the trade of Ryan Dempster in 2012 and injuries to Matt Garza, Samardzija emerged as the team's ace in 2013.
But how does Samardzija project in terms of the Cubs' future? According to baseball-reference.com, his 162-game averages equate to 8-9, 3.91 ERA and 140 innings pitched. Those numbers do not indicate a dominate starter. When the rebuilding process starts to kick in and we see the fruits of productive drafts, will Samardzija remain in the rotation? With any trade, it's better to move a player too early than too late. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know the Cubs will not be competitive in 2014, so they should consider moving Samardzija while he has peak value. Will he yield top prospects? Probably not, but I can see him easily fitting into the back end of a rotation for a team in the pennant race.