By Illya Harrell on June 27, 2014
When Jeff Samardzija nixed the Chicago Cubs' contract extension it became an infallible fact that he would be part of a 2014 trade deadline deal. But who will be the lucky suitor? Among others, the Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners are salivating in hopes of Samardzija wearing their threads in October. Who are the top prospects the Cubs should target before? They're right here.
The Toronto Blue Jays are in desperate need of an ace pitcher to suit up behind Mark Buehrle. Marcus Stroman, barely two years out of Duke University, is already on the Jays roster. He's putting up decent numbers but won't be able to hold up over the course of an entire season. If packaged with another mid-level prospect, Samardzija could wind up playing north of the border.
Coming into the 2014 season, the Cubs' minor league organization is loaded with heavily-touted position players. The addition of Giants 2011 first-rounder Kyle Crick would once again put them in the playoff hunt as early as 2017. Crick's arm can dial a mid-90s fastball late into games. The managers of the South Atlantic League voted his curve the best breaking pitch in 2012.
Kyle Crick's curve was voted best breaking pitch 2012, and Lucas Sims won the same South Atlantic League honor last season. The Braves were smacked hard by the 2014 pandemic of Tommy John surgeries, losing both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. The addition of Samardzija would be the missing piece needed for the Braves to shift into the NL East's favorite slot. If the Cubs ask for more than Sims the Braves will balk.
Dylan Bundy's 2013 season went missing in action thanks to Tommy John surgery. Nearly back to full strength and performing well on rehab assignment in the minors, the Baltimore brass says he'll be with the big club soon after the All-Star break. When healthy Bundy is one of the best young guns in baseball. Samardzija for Bundy straight-up makes sense if the Orioles are willing to trade their future ace for a shot at the 2014 AL East pennant.
Taijuan Walker is by far the most MLB-ready pitching prospect in the game. He combines an explosive upper-90s fastball with a sharp breaking mid-70s curve. Those are his secondary pitches. Walker's low-90s cutter makes scouts reference Mariano Rivera. In addition to Samardzija, the Cubs would need to pile on another starter — Jason Hammel or Jake Arrieta — which, in turn, would force Seattle to add a few more prospects.
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