If you have been following the Major League Baseball rumor mill this winter, you know there is a 28-year-old pitcher two years away from free agency who can be had for the right price.
No, not David Price.
I speak, of course, about Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. The team was ready and willing to take offers for their No. 1 starter at the winter meetings, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
Even though nothing came of those discussions, it does not mean the Cubs are skittish on dealing Samardzija. They are a team with a lot of pitching needs in their system, and a pitcher like this, with two years of control left, is going to command a hefty return.
Many teams need starting pitching, especially one who has struck out 394 hitters in 388.1 innings over the past two years, but few have the ability to entice the Cubs with a desirable package.
We are here to show you which teams have the need, and prospects, to make a potential deal for Samardzija work.
Trade proposal: Blue Jays trade RHP Aaron Sanchez and LHP Daniel Norris to Cubs for RHP Jeff Samardzija
We know the Cubs and Blue Jays have had some talks about a Jeff Samardzija trade, though we don't know how far they got.
Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reported the Cubs' request for Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, the top two players in the Blue Jays' system, was turned down.
The Blue Jays are built to win, or at least compete, now. They dealt all of their MLB-ready prospects last season for a chance to play in October for the first time in 20 years, but injuries and poor performances ruined that dream.
Losing Josh Johnson and being unable to trust Brandon Morrow to stay healthy leaves two huge holes in Toronto's rotation that must be filled if the Jays hope to compete with a loaded Boston Red Sox team, an improving New York Yankees squad and the always-solid Tampa Bay Rays in that division.
Trading Sanchez is not something the Jays have been willing to do in the past. It's easy to understand why when you see he's just 21 years old and boasts a mid-90s fastball and tremendous ceiling.
Unfortunately Sanchez has had problems throwing strikes consistently that are starting to make you wonder if he can ever reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter. There are mechanical adjustments, like taking a longer stride toward the plate and finding a consistent release point, that would help fix some of those problems.
Daniel Norris, while not boasting the same type of ceiling as Stroman, had a solid bounce-back campaign in 2013 after struggling through 13 starts two years ago. He's a good athlete with a low-90s fastball and potentially plus slider who could make him a really good No. 3 starter.
The Cubs have pitching depth in the upper levels of the minors, but most of it projects to end up in the bullpen. Their position players, especially at the top of the system, are as good as it gets in baseball.
In order for their rebuilding plan to bear fruit sooner rather than later, the Cubs need to find starting pitching upside and depth. This package would help solve both needs, though there is notable risk attached, since both Sanchez and Norris have yet to pitch above High-A.
Trade proposal: Braves trade RHP J.R. Graham and RHP Lucas Sims to Cubs for RHP Jeff Samardzija and 1B Dan Vogelbach
The Braves are in an interesting spot where they don't need another starting pitcher, but could use a guy who misses bats. Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor make a very good, cost-effective trio at the top of a rotation.
It also doesn't help my case that the Braves are a team so restricted by a budget, being owned by a media corporation, that adding a player in his second year of arbitration like Samardzija could be too rich for their blood.
However, sometimes things just fit together so well that you have to find some way to make it work.
Once again, the Cubs would be betting on a pitcher, J.R. Graham, with a lot of risk. He is older, turning 24 in January, undersized at 5'10" and coming off an injury that limited him to 35.2 innings in 2013.
But those negatives tend to overshadow the positives in Graham's game. He's undersized, but has good movement on the fastball and keeps it down in the zone. His slider and changeup are equally effective weapons, giving him a deep arsenal to keep hitters off balance.
Adding Sims into the deal gives the Cubs insurance and the high-ceiling starter they need. He doesn't turn 20 until April and hasn't pitched above Low-A, but has a great, fluid delivery with a mid-90s fastball and potentially above-average changeup.
Sims' breaking ball needs work, as the curve lacks consistency, but when it's on, it can be a monster.
In return, the Braves would get Samardzija to lead a very good, young starting rotation. I also included Dan Vogelbach in the trade.
Vogelbach is a fascinating prospect. He's built like Prince Fielder, but lacks the athleticism and bat speed. He's got tremendous raw power and could hit 25-plus homers with a solid on-base percentage in the big leagues, though the 21-year-old adds no value defensively.
The Braves may not be able to keep Freddie Freeman long term, which would make Vogelbach a potential replacement candidate in a few years.
Trade proposal: Diamondbacks trade LHP Wade Miley, RHP Braden Shipley and SS Chris Owings to Cubs for RHP Jeff Samardzija
This proposal would have been a lot easier to construct if the Diamondbacks didn't sell low on Tyler Skaggs by trading him to the Angels at the winter meetings.
I admit right off the bat that the deal is sketchy because Braden Shipley was a 2013 draftee, meaning he isn't eligible to be traded until one year after signing his first professional contract. That means there is seven months of potential injuries and/or poor performance before Arizona could even include him in a deal.
That said, Shipley's profile is fantastic. He's got prototypical size (6'3", 190 pounds), superb athleticism and the potential for three plus pitches. The Nevada product isn't as polished as you want a college draftee to be, because he started pitching full time only two years ago.
As insurance for Shipley, the Cubs would also receive Wade Miley. He could step into the MLB rotation today, doesn't cost much and will be under team control through 2017.
Miley, 27, isn't an overpowering lefty, with a fastball that averages 91 mph, but he's keeps the ball in the park thanks to an extreme groundball rate.
I also felt that a third prospect was needed for the Cubs, which is why Owings is here. He's more than a throw-in, as an above-average defensive shortstop with above-average raw power. There are some concerns about the hit tool, but he should make enough contact to be an average player.
The Cubs have their share of shortstops, with Starlin Castro in the big leagues and Javier Baez moving rapidly through the system, but it's unclear if either can stay at the position long term.
An insurance policy like Owings, who could also be used in a subsequent trade to fill another need, has tremendous value for a team like the Cubs.
The Diamondbacks are still looking for one more starting pitcher, according to general manager Kevin Towers. It's unclear if/when Masahiro Tanaka will be posted for them to bid on, or if they even want to match Matt Garza's asking price, so getting creative in trades will be their easiest path to getting an impact arm.
Trade proposal: Mariners trade RHP Taijuan Walker to Cubs for RHP Jeff Samardzija
I am playing fantasy baseball with this trade, as I think the Cubs would come out so far ahead in this deal based on future value that it would probably be wise to throw in another player for the Mariners.
But it's my list, and I can make an argument for both sides getting exactly what they need in a one-for-one deal involving Taijuan Walker and Jeff Samardzija.
First, the Mariners need to win now. Every move they have made this offseason, most notably the signing of Robinson Cano, suggests this is a franchise that desperately wants to make a move in the competitive American League West.
Seattle's rotation has a very strong one-two punch at the top, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Walker would fit nicely as the No. 3 starter, but his required development doesn't fit with the team's need to win right away.
Samardzija has more present value than Walker, and would give the Mariners three starters capable of throwing 200 innings, with Samardzija and Hernandez having the potential to strike out 400 hitters combined.
(Steamer projections have Samardzija accounting for 2.8 Wins Above Replacement with a 3.71 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 173 innings. Walker is projected to have 1.6 fWAR, 4.43 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 144 innings.)
The Mariners would still have to find more offense in order to compete with Oakland and Texas in the division, but adding Samardzija would bring them closer in case they aren't able to get another bat.
For the Cubs, they don't get the volume of prospects they may want for Samardzija, but getting an MLB-ready arm, one of the top right-handed pitchers in the minors, who is just 21 years old gives them a rotation stalwart to build around.
They would also save money not having to pay Samardzija's last two arbitration years, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting him to earn just less than $5 million next season.
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