Tag: Jeff Samardzija

Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Shopping Season Underway at Nashville Winter Meetings

1. Navigating Nashville, Music City USA and Baseball’s Epicenter This Week

You probably think the most difficult thing for a general manager at the winter meetings is completing that three-way trade to land an ace or boxing out four other teams to land a bat.

Wrong. This year, the hardest thing in this massive maze of a resort that is the largest non-casino hotel in the United States outside of Las Vegas, with some 2,700 rooms, will be actually finding someone. For example, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak could schedule a meeting with Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti on Monday at 1 p.m. to discuss a blockbuster trade, and they may not actually locate each other until Wednesday at 4 p.m. You need a GPS and a nutrition bar every time you leave your room, just in case.

Yes, signing a free agent like Jason Heyward (Cardinals? Angels?), Yoenis Cespedes (Mets? Cardinals?), Ben Zobrist (Mets? Cubs?), Johnny Cueto (Dodgers?), Chris Davis (Orioles?) or Daniel Murphy (Yankees?) will be difficult, too. It will require far more cash than clubs want to pay, especially based on what we’ve seen so far (David Price to Boston for seven years and $217 million, Zack Greinke to Arizona for six years and $206.5 million, Jordan Zimmermann to Detroit for five years and $110 million).

“I like the free-agent field. I think it’s good,” one longtime talent evaluator says, and amen to that. It is a strong and deep class this winter, especially regarding starting pitchers and corner outfielders.

But he adds, correctly: “I think it is the secondary guys who make or break a club more than the top-tier guys.”

Think back to 2012, the last time these winter meetings were in Nashville, and how Boston signed outfielder Shane Victorino, first baseman Mike Napoli and reliever Koji Uehara. All played key roles in the Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series.

In the meantime, the stage is set for an active trade market—possibly hyperactive—too. Several clubs have checked in with the Atlanta Braves on starter Shelby Miller. And rumors continue to crackle around a couple of legitimate aces: Oakland’s Sonny Gray and the Chicago White Sox’s Chris Sale.

Best part, always, are the surprise deals. Last year, nobody saw the Dodgers dealing second baseman Dee Gordon to Miami, and the Marlins wound up obtaining a batting champion.

As long as nobody goes missing, or is lost traveling the indoor river that flows through the Opryland Hotel, all should be good.   


2. NL West: Off to the Races

The question as they flew to Nashville was, will the Dodgers get left behind?

Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks and Jeff Samardzija to the Giants left the Dodgers playing catch-up, big-time. But practically before Monday morning’s coffee had cooled, Los Angeles was on the move: They were on the verge of a deal with free-agent right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma late Sunday night, according to Bleacher Report sources, then Monday morning they reportedly landed Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman for two prospects.

The Dodgers were left with no choice but to act quickly: Losing Greinke was bad enough, but watching him flee to an NL West rival was especially painful in terms of Arizona closing the gap for 2016.

Together, Greinke and Clayton Kershaw camouflaged a series of weaknesses in Los Angeles last summer. Even had Greinke returned, the Dodgers needed rotation help. Now, it’s S.O.S. time, especially with the San Francisco Giants immediately striking to sign right-hander Jeff Samardzija ($90 million) practically before Greinke had even learned what next summer’s uniform combinations will be like in Arizona (trust us, there seemingly are more offerings than the 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins).

The Diamondbacks and Giants both would like to add another starting pitcher, and both, according to industry sources, are targeting Mike Leake.

In San Francisco’s favor, perhaps, is that Leake pitched for Bruce Bochy during the second half of last year after Cincinnati traded him.

In Arizona’s favor, perhaps, is that with Greinke aboard, the Diamondbacks clearly have momentum going into ’16, and Leake played in Tempe at Arizona State.

The Dodgers? Adding Chapman to closer Kenley Janssen not only adds intrigue internally (Which one will close? Would Janssen accept a move to the eighth inning?), it signals the club’s post-Greinke plan: Clearly, building a strong bullpen now is a necessity given a rotation that likely will be weaker. Their sticking point with Greinke was they did not want to add a sixth year to their offer for a pitcher who already is 32.

One thing that has to rankle the Dodgers is that, with a payroll of around $300 million, they pumped $44 million worth of competitive balance tax into this year’s pool, and the D-backs were only too happy to be one of the recipients. In a way, the Dodgers helped finance Arizona’s poaching of Greinke.


3. Strong Secondary Pitching Market

Beyond David Price and Zack Greinke, the market is loaded with options—though things already have started to move. Even with Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers), Jeff Samardzija (Giants), John Lackey (Cubs) and Hisashi Iwakuma (Dodgers) off the market, Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chen, Bartolo Colon and Mat Latos all are available.

And already, Cueto reportedly turned down a $120 million offer from Arizona (the D-backs, of course, rebounded nicely with Greinke).

Beyond the free agents and the aforementioned starting pitcher trade options, even more could flood the market. Cleveland is desperate for offense, and some wonder whether the Indians will fix that by trading from their starting pitching depth. The names of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer all have made their way to the rumor mill, so whether Cleveland finds a deal it likes will be one fascinating part of this week.

As the Padres look to fill holes, they are believed to be making James Shields very available. Failing that, don’t be surprised if the Padres move Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross (for a whopping price only).

Might Tampa Bay move one of its excellent starters, Jake Odorizzi or Matt Moore? Might the Yankees deal Ivan Nova as they look to reshuffle and upgrade their rotation?

Beyond Price and Greinke, there are no sure things. While Bochy and San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti stand every chance of getting Samardzija launched in the right direction, he is coming off of a rock ’em, sock ’em year in which he led the majors in hits allowed and earned runs allowed, and produced a ragged 4.96 ERA.

“The thing that’s attractive about Samardzija to me is that he’s a super athlete,” one former GM says. “He’s going to go out there, and he’s probably going to get you 200 innings a year for the next four or five years. So at least you’re getting that.”

Yeah, but…

“I think the team that signs Samardzija will be horrified with the lack of what he gives you,” says one scout. “I understand he gives you [innings], but you lose. The most wins he’s had in a season in his career is 11. He’s a .500 pitcher at best, and he’s never proven anything beyond that.”

See, in baseball during the winter, as in modeling, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


4. Where Will Jason Heyward Go, and Whatever Happened to Yoenis Cespedes?

Let’s not allow pitching to hog the entire spotlight (hey, this is Nashville, and even on the television show by the same name, there’s plenty of room for both Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere).

With runs per game and hits per game dwindling to early 1970s rates, few teams out there do not need hitting. And there are a handful of difference-makers, starting with Heyward. The Cardinals would love to bring him back. The Angels have a big need for an impact, left-handed bat. He fits several other places, too, and is projected by at least one handicapper to hit $200 million or more over 10 years.

“He is interesting to me, but the money they’re talking about with him I just don’t believe,” one industry source says. “This isn’t Mike Trout we’re talking about.”

So let’s raise a question: What if, instead of paying Heyward that, a team in the market for an outfielder who can get on base went for Dexter Fowler instead?

“If I wanted to get two guys out of this, I’d go get Fowler and then somebody else for the same money I’d have to pay Heyward,” the source says. “The market is there to go ahead and do that, to get two of what is considered second-tier players.”

Heyward is 26 and batted .293/.359/.439 with 13 homers, 60 RBI and 23 steals last season.

Fowler is 29 and batted .250/.346/.411 with 17 homers, 46 RBI and 20 steals last season.

In their same list, mlbtraderumors.com projects Fowler to go for $60 million over four years. Sure, Heyward is younger, but one size doesn’t fit all in the Hot Stove League.

Speaking of which, there is remarkably little buzz, so far, surrounding Cespedes. Partly because….


5. Ben Zobrist, Darling of the Hot Stove League

The Mets are pursuing Zobrist hard, according to Bleacher Report sources, and he fits well with several other clubs, too, including the Angels, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals and Giants. Take your pick; Zobrist is versatile in the field, he’s a switch-hitter and he’s a leader in the clubhouse.

As of now, Cespedes is holed up waiting for clubs that don’t get Zobrist to turn to him.


6. The Unknown Factor in This Year’s Meetings

Introductions, please:

Ten clubs have changed GMs (or point men in charge of baseball operations, if you factor in those with a “president of baseball operations”-type of title) in the past few months, including the Angels (Billy Eppler), Red Sox (Dave Dombrowski), Tigers (Al Avila), Mariners (Jerry Dipoto), Blue Jays (Mark Shapiro/Tony LaCava/Ross Atkins), Brewers (David Stearns), Braves (John Coppolella), Marlins (Michael Hill is still president of baseball operations but the GM position is vacant), Phillies (Matt Klentak) and Reds (Dick Williams, with Walt Jocketty moving up to director of baseball operations).

Some of those names are familiar and experienced (Dombrowski, Dipoto), but many are just breaking ground in their new roles. How quickly will they move? How difficult will it be for them to navigate the landscape at the winter meetings and deal? And will they get lost in Nashville like so many hotel guests seen aimlessly wandering around?


7. Revisiting Closers

Already, Boston has traded for Craig Kimbrel and Detroit has acquired Francisco Rodriguez, and with teams such as the Chicago Cubs looking for a closer, there are several to be had via the trade market.

Early Monday morning, the Dodgers reportedly acquired the sexiest name on the trade market, Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman, but Monday night a bombshell dropped: Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown and Jeff Passan reported of a domestic violence incident at Chapman’s Florida home in October that put the trade on hold and well may lead to bigger and far more serious issues.

The Yankees are said to be listening on Andrew Miller as they look to upgrade their rotation. The Phillies are listening on Ken Giles, the White Sox might be enticed to deal David Robertson, one of their prizes from last year’s free-agent market, and the Nationals are widely expected to trade Drew Storen this winter and make a strong push to deal Jonathan Papelbon.


8. Other Points of Interest Beyond the Johnny Cash Museum

• Credit the Cubs for identifying a need and zeroing in on it quickly: John Lackey was a great under-the-radar buy before the Cubs snapped him up with a two-year, $32 million deal. “He’s one of the best out there,” one scout told B/R a couple of hours before he landed with the Cubs. “I know he’s 37, but this guy gives unbelievable effort and quality starts, time in and time out.”

 The Padres are expected to be much quieter than they were last year when GM A.J. Preller stole the show at the winter meetings, but they still need a shortstop (Ian Desmond?) and bullpen help (Fernando Rodney?).

 The Blue Jays traded 11 pitchers this year (including Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd to the Tigers in the David Price deal). They are looking to replenish their supply of minor league arms.

 They are done with their major moves, the Red Sox say, but some in the industry still expect new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to dump erstwhile slugger Hanley Ramirez at some point. “I would get Hanley as far away from that ball club as possible,” one executive says. “Panda (Pablo Sandoval) is a follower, not a leader. When he was with the Giants, he wasn’t a guy you worried much about. Yeah, he was overweight, but he played hard. Then he gets with Hanley and has one of the worst years of his career. Gee, I wonder if there’s any correlation. David’s got to unload one of those two, and my guess is he unloads Hanleyand he’s going to pay for a bunch of it.” Ramirez is still owed more than $69 million over the next three years.

 The Reds aren’t necessarily looking to deal third baseman Todd Frazier, but given the rebuilding and desperate need for pitching, anything is possible with Cincinnati.

• The Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Committee fired a shutout, failing to elect any of the 10 candidates they were considering. Charged with reviewing those who played before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the committed reviewed, among others: Wes Ferrell (who pitched for 15 seasons and finished second in AL MVP voting in 1935 with Boston), Sam Breadon (an early Cardinals owner who hired Branch Rickey and created the blueprint for the modern farm system), slick-fielding shortstop Marty Marion (1944 NL MVP with the Cardinals), first baseman Frank McCormick (1940 NL MVP with the Reds) and right-hander Bucky Walters (who won the 1939 NL MVP award with the Reds).

 Sending all the best to Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who is battling an undisclosed form of cancer and is embarking upon 12 weeks of chemotherapy, and will not be in attendance in Nashville. Good thoughts and prayers his way.


9. Who Is Kenta Maeda and Why Do You Need to Know Him?

He is a 27-year-old right-hander posted last week by his Japanese team, the Hiroshima Carp. Being that he is at least two years younger than the best free-agent starters available right now and given that he won the Japanese version of a Cy Young Award this year (he surrendered only five total homers while facing 821 batters), he immediately becomes a very interesting player.

The Diamondbacks are looking for another starting pitcher, and GM Dave Stewart raved about Maeda last winter. “I love Maeda,” Stewart told MLB.com. “I love him.” The Dodgers need pitching, the A.J. Preller-led Padres always are in the market for international players, the Yankees could absolutely use him (though they again apparently are determined to stay under the $189 million competitive balance tax threshold and may not make a big free-agent move).

Any interested major league club can bid up to $20 million for the right to negotiate with him, and the winner would earn exclusive negotiating rights. If that club signs him, it pays the posting bid to the Carp, plus the contract to Maeda. If Maeda goes unsigned, that club does not owe anything to Hiroshima.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Jeff Samardzija Is Giants Upgrade, but Disappointing Fallback Option to Greinke

The San Francisco Giants did not land their man. 

Zack Greinke was the team’s No. 1 target this offseason, locking them into a battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the ace’s services. But the Arizona Diamondbacks undercut both division rivals to swipe Greinke, leaving both to reassemble their offseason game plans.

The Giants have already executed part of theirs by signing free-agent right-hander Jeff Samardzija to a five-year contract for $90 million Saturday. The deal is pending a physical. It’s not the impact move that Greinke would have been, but it just might be a solid start to building a good rotation behind ace Madison Bumgarner for the next handful of years.

History shows the soon-to-be 31-year-old is not a consistent front-of-the-rotation starter, but it also tells that he is capable and talented enough to be one.

“Even in tough times [last year] he still put 200-plus innings on the board,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans told Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area. “You look at his track record, you look at his presence that he brings on the mound, you look at back-to-back-to-back 200-plus [inning] seasons, and you realize this guy is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a reason why we targeted him and a reason why we focused on him as one of our top priorities.”

Samardzija entered last season with massive earning potential coming off a year in which he had a 2.99 ERA and made his first All-Star team pitching for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s.

But after being traded to the Chicago White Sox in his contract year, Samardzija struggled for most of the summer, putting up a 4.96 ERA and 4.23 FIP in 214 innings. He also led the American League with 228 hits allowed, 29 home runs allowed and 118 earned runs allowed. His strikeout rate also dropped to a career-low 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings as a full-time starter.

Things could change with the Giants, and in the National League West, where he will pitch in three parks that favor pitchers, including his new home, AT&T Park. The innings totals—647.1 over the last three seasons—are also attractive to the Giants, a team that dealt with several injuries in their rotation to just about everyone not named Madison.

And the innings to come should be aplenty since Samardzija spent his first four seasons in the majors mostly as a bullpen weapon.

“You’ve got a guy who has made the conversion from reliever to starter and has done that well,” Evans told Pavlovic. “There are a lot of innings left in that arm.”

The quality of those innings is unknown and unpredictable at this point in Samardzija’s career. Last season highlighted those facts and severely limited his value on the open market.

Samardzija is not seen as a front-line starter at this point, and that is why his signing is a definitive downgrade from what the Giants were shooting for with Greinke. But that does not mean the deal is destined to be a bust.

The Giants believe in Samardzija’s stuff. He still carries a fastball that sits at 94 mph and topped out at about 98. The Giants have one of the more renowned pitching coaches in the game in Dave Righetti, a big reason why they believe they can get better results out of Samardzija.

The Giants also feel, according to Pavlovic, that Samardzija suffered last season because he pitched in front of the worst defense in the majors. The White Sox had a minus-41.5 overall defensive rating, according to Fangraphs, easily the worst in the game. The Giants were at 30.2, the second best in the majors behind the Kansas City Royals.

However, Samardzija cannot be the Giants’ only get this offseason. While the club might be confident it can fix whatever has made him inconsistent, it would be foolish to totally rely on that for next season, especially with the Dodgers already being linked to Johnny Cueto, Kenta Maeda and Hisashi Iwakuma and with the Diamondbacks having Greinke in their rotation.

Since the Giants will not be spending the money on Greinke, they might use it to not only ink Samardzija, but also possibly an arm like Mike Leake, who pitched for the Giants last season.

Samardzija is not Greinke, obviously. But the signing shows the Giants are serious about upgrading to stay in the mix in the NL West with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. And they might not be done adding pieces.

That being the case, losing out on Greinke and adding Samardzija does not look as bad. And this deal could be the start of the Giants again constructing a quality rotation that keeps them among the league’s elite.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Who Might Be the MLB Team Willing to Make Jeff Samardzija a $100M Man?

David Price just became the highest-paid pitcher (by average annual value) in baseball history. Zack Greinke is about to join him in that stratosphere.

Jeff Samardzija isn’t in line for that type of $30 million-plus-per-season payday. But he might have already received an offer north of $100 million, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark:

Notice I said “might.” Stark’s tweet indicates Samardzija himself is the source of that $100 million tidbit. It could be true. It could also be a fairly transparent negotiation ploy. That’s CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa’s take. As he points out, “Agents lie all the time.” Gasp!

Either way, it’s worth asking: Will someone give Samardzija that kind of dough? And if so, who?

The first question is tricky. On the one hand, Samardzija is coming off a rough season with the Chicago White Sox that saw him lead the big leagues in hits (228) and earned runs (118) allowed and tie for the AL lead in home runs surrendered with 29. Not the way you draw up a contract year.

On the other hand, he played his home games at U.S. Cellular Field, a hitters’ park that ranked as the eighth-most home-run-happy yard in baseball, according to ESPN’s Park Factors statistic. 

And he was backed by a White Sox defense that was the worst in either league, according to FanGraphs.

That doesn’t guarantee a bounce-back to Samardzija’s excellent 2014, when he posted a 2.99 ERA and 1.065 WHIP with 202 strikeouts in 219.2 innings for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s. But it leaves the door open.

Then there’s the matter of his arm, which he hasn’t used as much as some other pitchers entering their age-31 seasons. He didn’t become a regular starter until 2012 and didn’t eclipse 200 innings until 2013. That could be attractive to clubs wary of paying a pitcher only to watch him break down, as ESPN’s Buster Olney posited:

Samardzija’s velocity also remained consistent last season, per FanGraphs. Many of the typical red flags that suggest a hurler in decline simply aren’t there. 

Jordan Zimmermann, who is younger than Samardzija and has a longer track record as a top-shelf starter, got $110 million over five years from the Detroit Tigers. So $100 million over a similar time period for Samardzija feels like a stretch, given his 2015 struggles.

But it’s entirely possible the cat they call Shark could eclipse the five-year, $80 million deal MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes predicted and at least sniff nine-figure territory.

OK, so now to our second question: What team might be willing to pay so handsomely for Samardzija’s services? If he really does have a $100 million offer in hand, who could it be from?

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are locked into a bidding war for Greinke, as USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale (among many others) reported

The loser of that showdown could turn their attention, and checkbooks, to Samardzija. Both teams play in pitchers’ parks, which would fuel hopes of a resurgence.

The St. Louis Cardinals, surprise runners-up in the Price sweepstakes, also could make a move. And add the Toronto Blue Jays, Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks to the list of teams that need pitching and should at least come around for some tire-kicking. The D-backs, remember, offered six years and $120 million to Johnny Cueto, which Cueto turned down.

The likeliest scenario, though, might be a reunion between Samardzija and the Cubs. Yours truly recently proposed an offseason plan wherein Chicago adds Samardzija and veteran John Lackey to round out its rotation. 

The Cubs were connected to Price early, but with NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta backed by Jon Lester, they don’t need an ace. They need solid, high-upside supporting pieces, and that’s what Samardzija would provide.

Would Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein be willing to shell out $100 million to make it happen? Perhaps not. But he did give six years and $155 million to Lester last winter, so we know he’s not averse to spending when needed.

“We need quality pitching,” Epstein said, per Sports Illustrated. “I’m not going to rule anything out or anything in.”

And consider this, from CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine: “The Cubs are looking to add at least two starting pitchers to their rotation mix for 2016. Those additions will come through a possible combination of trades and the free-agent market. The rumblings for adding former Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija appear to be stronger now than any time in the recent past.” 

That doesn’t guarantee he’ll be wearing Cubbie blue once more. And it certainly doesn’t mean he’ll automatically get that $100 million windfall.

If you’re the betting type, though, lay your dollars on Shark swimming back to the North Side. Then again, this stuff is always in motionso make sure you don’t bet Price, Greinke or even Samardzija money.


All statistics and contract information current as of Dec. 2 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Cubs Should Chase Jeff Samardzija-John Lackey Duo over Greinke

The Chicago Cubs missed out on Jordan Zimmermann. Then they whiffed on David Price. Now they need to go hard after Zack Greinke, right?

They just returned to relevance with a trip to the National League Championship Series, after all, and could use another starter (at least) to push them over the long-awaited championship hump. Heck, they proved their willingness to spend big on pitching last winter by handing a six-year, $155 million deal to Jon Lester.

“We’d love to have him,” Cubs ace Jake Arrieta said of Greinke—the man he bested for NL Cy Young honors, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times

Titillating as a Greinke signing is, however, the Cubs appear to be out of the running along with 28 other clubs, according to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale:

The Cubs could still gallop in as a dark horse. But they might be better off spreading their resources around and grabbing a couple of arms from the second tier of this deep free-agent pitching pool.

There are multiple options, but here’s an intriguing duo: Jeff Samardzija and John Lackey.

Let’s start with Samardzija, who wore a Cubs uniform not so long ago. That’d be 2014, precisely, when the right-hander put up easily his best season.

In 219.2 innings that year between the Cubs and Oakland A’s, Samardzija posed a 2.99 ERA and 1.065 WHIP with 202 strikeouts.

Then the A’s, who’d acquired him at the trade deadline for their ultimately doomed postseason push, shipped him back to the Windy City—this time to the White Sox.

Pitching for a payday, Samardzija mostly bombed on the South side, as he led all of baseball in hits (228) and earned runs (118) allowed.

It’s tempting to look at that and conclude 2014 was an anomalous blip. But there are mitigating factors. The White Sox’s home yard, U.S. Cellular Field, is hitter-friendly. But so is Wrigley Field, so that’s mostly mitigated.

What can’t be ignored is the utter clunkiness of the Sox’s gloves. They were the worst defensive team is baseball last year, according to FanGraphs, while the Cubs were the second-best.

That doesn’t mean Samardzija would return to the Cubbies and be automatically cured. But a resurgence is possible, especially considering Samardzija’s velocity remained consistent, per FanGraphs, and he’s put less stress on his arm, as ESPN’s Buster Olney noted:

Samardzija, recall, didn’t become a regular starter until 2012. Injuries are tricky, fickle things, but he’s more likely than some to have ample gas left in the tank entering his age-31 season.

The gauge may be running a bit lower on Lackey, who’s 37 years old and has logged more than 2,400 big league innings. 

Lackey, however, cranked back the clock last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, posting a career-best 2.77 ERA in 218 innings and finishing in the top 10 in Cy Young Award balloting. 

Snatching the veteran right-hander away from their hated division rivals should add motivation for the Cubs, but Lackey makes sense regardless. And Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested a Chicago/Lackey marriage is “not out of the realm of possibility.”

“It was [Cubs president of baseball operations] Theo Epstein who signed him as a free agent in Boston,” Cafardo noted. “Lackey is also a close friend of Jon Lester, who will push Epstein in that direction.” 

Lackey played for the league minimum, plus incentives, last season, but will command much more in what might be his final major league contract.

Still, his and Samardzija’s price tag isn’t likely to approach the $31 million average annual value the Boston Red Sox gave Price, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Greinke, meanwhile, might match or even exceed that figure if the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are truly in a bidding war.

Imagine a rotation fronted by Arrieta and Lester and rounded out by Samardzija, Lackey and either Jason Hammel or Kyle Hendricks. That’s a deep, balanced, high-upside group. Add the Cubs’ burgeoning, playoff-tested lineup and you’ve got the makings of a billy-goat-curse-busting bunch.

Price or Zimmermann would have been a shiny prize. And Greinke to Chicago would grab headlines—no argument there. But, as Epstein acutely understands, building a winner is about being prudent as well as splashy.

A Lackey/Samardzija tandem would be a little bit of both.


All statistics and contract information current as of Dec. 2 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Jeff Samardzija: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent P

Jeff Samardzija spent his first six-plus years in the major leagues pitching for the Chicago Cubs, and a comeback could be on the horizon.

Continue for updates. 

Samardzija Meeting with Theo Epstein

Thursday, Nov. 19

The longtime Cub and free-agent starting pitcher was spotted with Cubs president Theo Epstein in Chicago on Wednesday, and the Cubs have interest in bringing him back, according to Phil Rogers of MLB.com.

Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2014. The 30-year-old right-hander was then traded to the Chicago White Sox on Dec. 9 in a six-player deal. Samardzija went 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA in 32 starts for the White Sox.

For someone who has pitched in the majors for eight years, Samardzija has only pitched one winning season in his career. That came in 2011 when he went 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA.

Samardzija’s return to the Cubs would make plenty of sense, per CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine.

“The good news for the Cubs and other teams looking to add a solid rotation starter is that Samardzija is healthy,” Levine said. “His fastball still averaged around 94 mph last year despite his bad stat line, and Samardzija topped 213 innings for the third straight season.”

If the Cubs are interested, they surely need to be aware that they’re not getting the same raw prospect who once played football at Notre Dame. Samardzija led the American League in home runs allowed last year with 29, and the 4.96 ERA was his highest since 2010. It’s a risky move but one that could pay off given Samardzija provides a few quality starts at the back end of the rotation.

Samardzija would fit perfectly in the fifth spot of the Cubs rotation should he decide to come back.

Kyle Hendricks is a 25-year-old right-hander who could be asked to pitch after Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Jason Hammel went 10-7 last year with a 3.74 ERA, which is a sign that there’s plenty of decent baseball left in the 33-year-old. Samardzija could slide into the fifth spot of the rotation and be a reliable veteran in that role.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Buzz as Offseason Begins

The World Series may be in the books, but the MLB offseason should be as lively and dramatic in the four short months before pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

There are plenty of marquee free agents hitting the market—139 total, according to the MLBPA, up 18 from 2014—with plenty of shuffling afoot among the baseball landscape. 

Will the four blue-chip starting pitchers get the nine-figure deals they’ll seek? How much turnover will the champion Kansas City Royals endure? Which team will be last year’s San Diego Padres in making the most surprise splashes?

Winter is coming, but the baseball offseason is heating up, and here is the latest buzz to prepare.

Marlins Won’t Pursue Top Aces Greinke, Price

The Miami Marlins will not contend to claim top starting pitchers such as Zack Greinke and David Price, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

Both are expected to command deals exceeding $200 million, which doesn’t necessarily fit into the Marlins payroll, currently at $31,450,000, per Spotrac. Though that figure will assuredly increase before Opening Day, the Marlins splashed last November when inking superstar Giancarlo Stanton to a backloaded, 13-year deal for $325 million.

The report that Greinke and Price won’t be in the Marlins mold surfaced the same day that Miami ace José Fernandez turned down an undisclosed multiyear deal months before returning from Tommy John surgery in July, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald

Jackson reported team president David Samson said negotiations dwindled over money, not years:

He was offered what we thought was a very fair, tremendous amount of money. I don’t believe he had any interest in having another offer [this winter], but we always will talk. He is ours for three years at a minimum. Building around Jose and [Giancarlo] Stanton is two smart things to do, but it takes two people to sign a contract.

As Samson noted, Fernandez, 23, cannot hit free agency until after the 2018 season, though he is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, per Rotoworld. When healthy, he’s one of the best in the game—22-9 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.014 WHIP and 10.5 K/9. 

Under new manager Don Mattingly, the Marlins should see increased success but could be handicapped by starting pitching—particularly in the ace-full National League East facing remarkable rotations within the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. 

That’s not exactly what vocal owner Jeffrey Loria hopes to hear as his team seeks its first winning season since 2009. As Mark Bowman of MLB.com showed, Miami hasn’t been a home for stability:

The Marlins not pursuing Price or Greinke doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t chase a second-tier free-agent starter such as Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir or Doug Fister. That trio each hopes to cash a nine-figure deal, though ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian indicated the three “are going to get paid, but maybe not as much as they’d like.”

The Marlins could also be preparing for the hefty bill in the coming years for Fernandez, a client of Scott Boras, who notoriously hauls in heaps of cash for his clients and rarely ever agrees to terms before they hit free agency. 


Alex Gordon to Opt Out of KC

The heart of the Royals clubhouse could be on his way out of Kansas City, as Alex Gordon is expected to decline his $14 million option and hit what should be a hungry market for the outfielder. 

Gordon is coming off a four-year, $37 million contract, per Spotrac, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported he will likely get a similar offer in years but with a large uptick in dollars. 

Gordon, who turns 32 in February, has a respectable career slash line of .269/.348/.435 and has averaged 17.1 home runs, 68.7 RBI and 77.5 runs in the seven seasons over his nine-year career he’s played at least 100 games. 

But his pedigree is rooted in defense. Gordon posted an eye-popping .995 fielding percentage with just five errors over the life of his last contract, according to baseball-reference.com, which was such a focal factor in the Royals’ success. 

Heyman reported the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros as possible landing spots should the Royals not be able to re-sign him. 

Christopher Smith of MassLive.com also speculated the Red Sox could utilize Gordon under new president Dave Dombrowski, who admitted to seeking a fourth outfielder though outright committing to Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo to go along with sure starter Mookie Betts. The Red Sox are coming off a last-place finish and will be active to rebound this offseason, and Gordon could certainly help.

But Gordon has said he wants to be back in Kansas City, where he’s spent his entire career, per the Associated Press (h/t KCTV5 Kansas City):

“I want to be back, trust me,” Gordon said. “This is my home. I love Kansas City. I love the fans. I love everything about Kansas City. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. So, I hope it works out.” 

While his opting out may say otherwise, Heyman added perspective that could give KC fans optimism:

However, the Royals are hoping to keep him, quite likely with an offer of about four years. Since he accepted a team-friendly four-year deal last time, there is reason to hope. And while he got only four while in his 20s, he can probably find five if he’s open to leaving.

Gordon faces a tough decision, as Kansas City is where he hopes to be, and the Royals will be contenders again next year. But if he sacrifices, he’ll have a thicker wallet to lean on. 

Shark to Big Apple?

Jeff Samardzija is expected to receive a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Chicago White Sox, according to Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com, but he’s likely to reject that and hit the market. 

The 30-year-old right-hander has maintained his desire to hit free agency since being traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Oakland Athletics in the middle of last season.   

However, Samardzija won’t be nearly as coveted as he was then, coming off an awful 2015 in which he went 11-13 with a career-high 4.96 ERA, career-low 6.9 K/9 and MLB-worst 228 hits allowed. 

Once thought a nine-figure pitcher, that seems a stretch. He certainly won’t get that from the White Sox, who have a stable of southpaws in Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana to build around. 

Hayes noted as many as eight teams could be in the mix: the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. 

Heyman noted an alliance with the Yankees could manifest based on old roots:

Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, a Yankees executive, is a big voice in the organization now, leading to even more speculation Samardzija will be on the agenda. Hendry was the one who plucked Samardzija out of Notre Dame, and gave him a $10 million signing bonus for the Cubs (a wise call in hindsight). 

ESPN’s Buster Olney, however, doesn’t necessarily agree:

The Yankees will likely be in the market for starters in free agency to surround Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia but may not necessarily chase the big-ticket item. 

Samardzija is coming off a career-worst season, but perhaps playing in a contending clubhouse for once—a half-season with Oakland notwithstanding—could be just the change he needs to return to dominant form.

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MLB Rumors: Latest Free-Agent Buzz Amid 2015 World Series

While two teams spend the next week battling for the 2015 World Series title, 28 other organizations are focused on finding ways to get to that point next season.

The good news for those looking to improve their rosters is the upcoming class of free agents features a bunch of impact players who can instantly turn around fortunes. The challenge will be getting those stars to sign with plenty other competition for their services.

There is a lot of time for negotiations, and a lot can change over the next few weeks and months. But here is an early look at some top free agents and the latest buzz surrounding them.


David Price, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays

He was a key cog for the Toronto Blue Jays’ surge to the postseason, but the future is unclear for David Price. General manager Alex Anthopoulos, who acquired the ace at the trade deadline, said he wants to keep him north of the border:

However, Anthopoulos could be departing Toronto, with ESPN‘s Buster Olney reporting he has the GM has turned down an extension with the club.

While both sides have said the right things, it seems the chances of Price actually staying in Toronto are not high, at least according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

“No matter how many times someone with the Blue Jays says David price may return, sorry, I’m having a hard time seeing Price and the Jays getting back together,” Heyman wrote. “The smart money has the Cubs and Dodgers as the most likely teams for Price.”

ESPN Insider Jim Bowden noted the Los Angeles Dodgers would be interested in signing either Price or Jordan Zimmermann if Zack Greinke were to opt out of his current contract. Meanwhile, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago also predicted the Chicago Cubs will be interested in adding another top-level pitcher this offseason.

There will likely be a lot of interested teams in Price after he posted a league-leading 2.45 ERA this season. Playoff question marks aside, he is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate who eats up innings and strikes out a ton of batters.

With big-market teams like Chicago and Los Angeles in a bidding war, Price could end up with a huge payday.


Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles were hoping Matt Wieters would be behind the plate with the team for 15-20 years, but it seems like he is now on his way out after six.

Although the three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner has obviously shown in the past he can be an elite backstop, he missed about a year with Tommy John surgery and only played in 75 games this season. In that time, he only hit .267 with eight home runs with a caught-stealing rate that was below league average, per Baseball-Reference.com.

Despite the down year, there is still interest from around the league. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “The Braves, Dodgers, Rays, Astros and Mariners could bid for Wieters.”

One of the big questions will be whether the Orioles want to give him a qualifying offer (one year for $15.8 million) and whether Wieters will accept it. Steve Melewski of MASN broke down why he might consider it:

Some believe there is no way that Wieters – a Scott Boras client – would accept a qualifying offer. No player has yet accepted one. But Wieters could be a unique case. If he took the offer, he could then use the 2016 season to re-establish himself as a top catcher and, if he can do that, he would hit the market after next year with potentially much more bargaining power than he has right now.

Most players will choose more guaranteed money and future pay over a one-year risk, but this makes a lot of sense for Wieters as he tries to get back to his old form. At least he knows there is interest on the open market if he does test the waters.


Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago White Sox

Another player looking to bounce back from a bad year is Jeff Samardzija. The former Cubs ace came to the Chicago White Sox on a one-year deal that turned out to be a disaster.

Samardzija finished the season 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA, allowing the most hits, earned runs and home runs in the American League. Despite these struggles, he still has interest from teams that don’t want to spend big on a pitcher. Surprisingly, this includes the New York Yankees.

According to Heyman, “The Yankees are interested in a right-handed bat, middle-relief help and perhaps one starter. Jeff Samardzija could be that guy, though apparently not Price, Johnny Cueto or Greinke. They aren’t high at the moment on $200 million deals for pitchers.”

New York isn’t known for being thrifty on the free-agent market, but this could make a lot of sense as a low-risk, high-reward deal for a team already spending money in other places.

For all of his problems in 2015, Samardzija did pitch 214 innings, marking the third year in a row he reached 210 for a season. He also had two complete-game shutouts and has shown plenty of brilliance throughout his early career.

The potential for a big season is there, with a worst case being a solid end-of-the-rotation starter who gives a team a lot of innings. The Yankees—or any team—would be smart to sign him at the right price.


Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for more year-round sports analysis. 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Ideal Destinations for Top 5 Players on the Market

For the next few days, it’ll be All-Star season in Major League Baseball. And that’ll be fun.

But after that comes the really fun part: trade season. The July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching, so we should see the top players on the market start flying off the shelves in the very near future.

Our purpose here is to ponder the ideal destinations for the five best players on the market. That means establishing a profile for each player and narrowing his suitors down to the best possible fit.

Another thing: When we say “five best players on the market,” we mean realistically on the market. As fun as it would be to talk about destinations for guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gomez and Aroldis Chapman, a careful study of MLB Trade Rumors leads one to believe they’re likely staying put.

We’ll start with the least desirable of our five players and work our way to the most desirable player. Step into the box whenever you’re ready.

Begin Slideshow

MLB Trade Rumors: Buzz Around Jeff Samardzija, Gerardo Parra and More

As we rapidly approach the All-Star Break, most teams in baseball have a pretty good idea of where they stand compared to the rest of the league.

While no team has technically been eliminated or clinched a playoff spot just yet, there is only so much a season can turn around in the second half, so teams are either looking to the now or to the future with the trade deadline on the horizon.

Although the deadline is still a decent way off, that doesn’t mean the rumor mill isn’t able to fire up now and again and provide us with some tasty little nuggets to consider before July 31 rolls around.


A number of teams interested in Jeff Samardzija

For teams looking for starting pitching at the trade deadline, a top option isn’t going to come cheap and although Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto are both on underachieving teams and being shopped, it is White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija who could garner the most interest.

Samardzija joined Chicago in the offseason from the Oakland Athletics, and while he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, he is a strong addition to any rotation and could change a team’s fortunes once the postseason rolls around.

There are a number of teams interested in bringing Samardzija on board, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, and he could have a serious impact on the rest of the season if the White Sox do decide to deal him away:

There’s always so much debate on where he fits on a pitching staff. He’s not a No. 1 and he’s not having the best of seasons, yet he’s one of the more discussed and desirable pitchers on the trade market.

Kansas City, Houston, Detroit, and others are in on him.

Scouts are constantly at this games so he may be the first starting pitcher to move ahead of the deadline.

The numbers this year aren’t great, with a 4.33 ERA and a 5-4 record, but Samardzija showed what he was capable of in 2014 with a combined 2.99 ERA with the Cubs and the Athletics.

For the White Sox, who find themselves 9.5 games behind the Royals and look to be already out of the playoff race, offloading Samardzija for some young talent to jump start a rebuild would make sense and looks likely.


Will Venable and Gerardo Parra on the Cubs radar

Although starting pitching is the focus at the trade deadline, and has been a relative strength for the Cubs through the first half of the season, the same cannot be said of their bats.

Ranking 24th in runs scored, the Cubs need offensive help in the worst way possible as they attempt to stay in the race for the playoffs, and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reports that Gerardo Parra and Will Venable are two players Chicago is interested in:

Two names to watch: Milwaukee’s Gerardo Parra, a two-time Gold Glove winner, and San Diego’s Will Venable, who played for Hoyer during his tenure as general manager of the Padres. Both Parra and Venable are considered excellent clubhouse citizens — a theme of recent Cubs’ acquisitions.

Parra has been linked with a number of teams this season, with ESPN’s Buster Olney reporting the San Francisco Giants are also interested. Although his power numbers aren’t great, the .311 batting average and 26 RBI would be a big boost for the Cubs offensively.

Venable’s numbers haven’t impressed as much as Parra’s this year—the veteran center fielder is only averaging .257 with six home runs and 22 RBI—but his connection to Hoyer could lead to a possible move before the deadline.


New York Yankees not in on top pitchers

This season hasn’t gone exactly how the Yankees wanted for star pitcher CC Sabathia.

With some of his skills already starting to slip in recent seasons, the former Cy Young Award winner has been ghastly through the first half of the season, recording a 5.59 ERA and a 3-8 record.

It remains to be seen what the Yankees do with Sabathia—if they decide to stick with him or drop him to the bullpen—but starting pitching is a definite need for the AL East club when the deadline rolls around.

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNthough, the Yankees won’t be in the market for the top names like Hamels and Cueto and will look a little deeper into the talent pool:

The Yankees seem unlikely to add a top starter. Unless prices drop significantly, an ace like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto is probably too expensive. If the Yankees have an injury or want to replace CC Sabathia in the rotation, Adam Warren or Severino could be called upon.

Even with the struggles of Sabathia, the Yankees find themselves on top of the division and in prime position to make it back to the playoffs, thanks in large part to the resurgence of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

But with the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays all hot on their tails, adding another quality starting pitcher could give New York the boost it needs to survive one of baseball’s toughest divisions.

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MLB Rumors: Trade Buzz Surrounding Cubs, Giants and More

July is the month when the tension starts to ratchet up in the daily drama of big league baseball. The approaching trade deadline is an important notch in the season-long arc. The teams who are in it to win it collect whatever extra weapons and spare parts they can garner, while the also-rans pack up and start talking about next year.  


Cubs Looking For Arms

With the Chicago Cubs suddenly finding themselves ahead of schedule in their rebuilding plan, the perennial underdogs may be gearing to make a run for this year’s wild card while also improving for next year. Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reported on Sunday that most of the Cubs’ trade discussions have centered around adding pitchers, preferably ones who offers something for the future:

The Cubs would prefer to trade for a starting pitcher whom they would control beyond this year, because they lack major-league-ready starters in the upper levels of their system. If they’re going to play on a big name, Cole Hamels (signed to a long-term contract) makes more sense than Johnny Cueto (pending free agent).


Clay Buchholz and Jeff Samardzija Could Be Available

More teams than not are looking for arms at this point in the season, and there should be some talent available. In the June 28 Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo listed both the Boston Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz and the Chicago White Sox’s Jeff Samardzija as potentially on the block. 

With the Red Sox hovering at around six games back in a weak division, they may not be quite ready to throw in the towel and retool. But if they don’t start hot after the All-Star break, it might be time to shop Buchholz if they can get value for him in return. 

Buchholz has had a good season for a disappointing team. He’s struck out just over four batters for every one he has walked. His WHIP is just 1.19 and his ERA 3.27.

If the Cubs were to go across town and trade for Samardzija, they would be picking up a hurler with potential but one who has struggled this year. Samardzija has led the league in hits allowed, though his control has remained good. 

As the current project of former front office prodigy Theo Epstein, the Cubs are playing for beyond this season and hope to build  a solid franchise that will contend yearly for the post season. Slotting in a pitcher with Buchholz‘s experience and talent some place in the middle of a rotation would make the Cubs stronger immediately. 

Buchholz is due to collect $13,000,000 for the next two seasons. It works out to fair value for a playoff team, if he continues to contribute to his current level. 


Giants Trolling For Offense

While the Cubs have been chasing arms, it sounds like the San Francisco Giants are aiming to add a bat for the stretch. Sunday evening, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted:

The Giants have been able to stay above .500 this year—within striking distance of the wild card—and if they can bolster their offense, their pitching should make them competitive against a lot of teams in a short series. 

Cameron Maybin has been a pleasant surprise for the Atlanta Braves this year, and as Olney himself tweeted, Atlanta is probably not going to trade him on the cheap:

Gerardo Parra might have a bit more pop in his bat than Maybin anyway, and with the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2015 season already a runaway train wreck, he might be easier to pick up. 

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