The Oakland Athletics were already considered to be the best team in the American League, if not all of baseball, at the halfway mark. However, the recent move to acquire starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a trade with the Chicago Cubs makes them the clear favorites to win the World Series. In fact, the Athletics downright expect to win their first world championship since 1989 after the outstanding deal.
The Cubs have reportedly sent Samardzija and Hammel to the Athletics for starting pitcher Dan Straily and shortstop Addison Russell. A majority of fans may have never heard of Russell, but the fact he’s the top prospect in Oakland’s organization is a great sign for the improvement of Chicago’s team going forward. However, this isn’t about what the Cubs plan to do a couple of years down the road. It’s about what the Athletics should accomplish in 2014.
It should not be a secret to anyone that both Samardzija and Hammel were dealt, as the right-handers have been involved in trade rumors for quite some time. In the case of Samardzija, it has been since the Cubs realized they were not going to be able to retain him, which was something the organization was hopeful could happen.
Samardzija’s 2-7 record is alarming to the casual fan, but the reality is his numbers have been off the charts. The reason for the dismal record is simply because Chicago has one of the worst run-producing teams in the majors. His 2.83 ERA and 8.58 strikeouts per nine innings is a more accurate depiction of what he has been able to accomplish on the mound in 17 starts this season.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Hammel has been just as fantastic. On July 4, he held the Washington Nationals to just two runs on five hits in six innings. His 7-5 record, 2.98 ERA and 8.50 strikeouts per nine innings have combined to put him on pace for a career year. In actuality, Hammel’s 2014 performance could blow away anything he has ever accomplished in the big leagues.
It is true that Straily is a talented young pitcher with a bright future and Russell should turn out to be a quality infielder. With that being said, there’s no question the Athletics came out ahead in the trade as they have significantly increased their chances of winning it all. At the very least, they should win the AL pennant. They have to after pulling off what could possibly be the best trade of the season.