The Cubs will be doing some serious listening on starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija during the next week, unsure that they will be able to sign him to a longterm extension (though they've reportedly made him a 5-year, $55 million offer), and knowing that if they're not going to trade him, he'll bring back a far better return while still under team control for two years.
Samardzija (whom I still remember best as a wide receiver at Notre Dame, from the days when I paid far closer attention to football than I do anymore) has been starting pitcher for only two years, but in that time he's had a strikeout rate of 9.13 per nine innings, sixth-best among all starters, while his walk (3.11) and home run (1.04) rates are right around the MLB average, all in 388.1 innings. His run prevention has lagged a bit behind those peripherals, with a 4.10 ERA, but Steamer projects him at 3.69 for 2014.
If he were on the Indians, he'd slot right behind Justin Masterson, serving as the team's #2 pitcher. He will likely earn ~$5 million in 2014, and while his 2015 salary could fall into a pretty wide range, depending on what kind of season he has, it's probably fair to think of him as being signed to a 1-year, $5M deal, with a team option for $8M in 2015. Look at the contracts pitchers are landing this offseason (Ricky Nolasco: 4 years, $49M; Jason Vargas: 4 years, $32M; Phil Hughes: 3 years, $24M; Tim Hudson: 2 years, $24M Scott Kazmir: 2 years, $22M), a durable starter like Samardzija, with a 95-MPH fastball and a very good slider, would command at least as much as any of those guys, so his current 'contract' makes him a bargain.
The Cubs are in a rebuild, so if they trade Samardzija, it's future value that they're interested in. The Indians are hoping to contend again in 2014, so on that level, the two teams are a fit. I can't say that I know for sure what kind of return package it would take to get him. He's not on the same level as Doug Fister, so it shouldn't take as much to land Samardzija. On the other hand, the Fister deal has been seen by most as a steal for the Nationals, so the return package likely wouldn't be dramatically different from that one.
Washington gave up one of its top 6 or 7 prospects, who most view as a back of the rotation starter (Robbie Ray), another prospect, who might be a decent reliever someday (Ian Krol), and a replacement-level position player with about a season's worth of MLB service time (Steve Lombardozzi). The closest comp to Ray in the Indians system is probably Cody Anderson (with Trevor Bauer and Dace Kime being the Tribe's other best pitching prospects, each of them in a different place in their development). Every organization has lots of guys like Krol, so take your pick on that. Lombardozzi's closest comp is probably either Lonnie Chisenhall (though Lombardozzi has been less productive, and was never as highly rated as Chisenhall) or Jose Ramirez (who doesn't have as much MLB experience, but is a closer comp in terms of prospect rankings.
Anderson, Ramirez, and a possible future bullpen arm would be a fairly comparable package to what was sent for Fister (am I wrong about that? Am I mis-valuing any of these guys?)
Would you be up for dealing whichever of the Tribe's top pitching prospects the Cubs prefer (someone under team control for 6 years), along with Ramirez and a bullpen prospect, in order to land 2 years of Samardzija?
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