If you listen to Chicago media these days, a common belief is that the Chicago Cubs are guaranteed to trade Jeff Samardzija by the trade deadline. To that I say, why? Samardzija is not a free agent until after the 2015 season, so the Cubs have zero pressure to trade Samardzija this year.
It is true that Samardzija will have more value in a trade with an extra year of team control, but that has not prevented the Cubs from gaining considerable value for starting pitchers with just a couple months of control left.
The haul the Cubs received for Matt Garza is well documented, as the Texas Rangers gave up a pitcher in C.J. Edwards who became the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, as well as potential big league SPs Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez, and the projected starting third baseman for the Cubs, Mike Olt.
Samardzija has the potential to be a hotter commodity than Garza during the 2015 trade deadline, so a similar return in a trade could be expected, or even exceeded. Samardzija would be more sought after than pitchers Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman were when they were traded, and each of those trades resulted in significant value coming over to the Cubs.
There is also the possibility that Samardzija is traded during the upcoming offseason. If the Cubs still cannot work out an extension, they may shop Samardzija looking for that one offer that would blow them away enough to pull the trigger on a deal. If they do not receive the offer they’re looking for, then the Cubs can simply enter the 2015 season with Samardzija on the roster and trade him during the season.
Samardzija has professed a desire to stay and win with the Cubs. By 2015, the team should be ready to put together a group that can finish with a winning record, and Samardzija may be one of the key pieces that pushes the team into contention. At this point, the Cubs’ system is stocked with offensive talent and when they do finally go out into free agency with an open checkbook, they will likely be looking to add premium starting pitching.
Samardzija would fit the bill as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher who does not have many miles on his arm and has the competitive nature to lead a team in the postseason.
The baseball world saw this past offseason that the Cubs were not shy about spending big to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm as they offered Masahiro Tanaka a reported six-year, $120 million contract. That was for a player who has yet to throw a pitch in MLB. Are we to believe that they would not offer Samardzija a similar contract if he proves himself to be a top-of-the-rotation arm?
While the Cubs can likely acquire another prospect haul by trading Samardzija, at some point the constant recycling of players for prospects will end, and Samardzija is exactly the type of player the Cubs want to build around.