The Fourth of July brings fireworks in the sky and apparently this year fireworks on the MLB trade front as well. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Oakland A's have acquired one of the top starting pitchers believed to be available on the market in Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. The A's have also landed starter Jason Hammel, who also comes over from the Cubs, in exchange for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, right-hander Dan Straily and a player to be named later.
Both Rosenthal and CBS Sports.com’s Jon Heyman reported that discussions were serious early Friday evening and that a third team and several more players may be involved. That possibility remains, but it's said both Samardzija and Hammel have been informed they're headed to Oakland.
We can definitely gather from this trade that A's general manager Billy Beane believes he has a special roster and wants to give his team every chance to get over the hump and play deep into the postseason with an eye toward a World Series championship.
Samardzija, 29, is 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 108 innings this season. He's set to hit free agency following the 2015 season, so it's not necessarily a three month rental. He'll finish the season in Oakland and then they can decide if they want to dangle him in the offseason or make another run with him in 2015. A long term contract is not realistic given Oakland's financial restrictions, but he could pay off nicely for them even with a short stay.
Samardzija gives them a strong No. 1 to pair with resurgent veteran Scott Kazmir and emerging right-handers Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. Meanwhile, Hammel, though not a consistent top of the line starter, is having a career year at 31, posting a 2.98 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings. He'll provide excellent depth.
In baseball dealings, you have to give a little to get a little, so the A's will part with shortstop prospect Addison Russell. He's the gem of the return for Chicago as he entered the season ranked Baseball America's No. 7 prospect. He's viewed as a potential All-Star with extraordinary upside defensively. He's currently hitting .333/.439/.500 with three doubles, one homer, eight RBI in 13 games for Double-A Midland, so obviously he can hit a bit too.
It may not be long before Russell joins Chicago's prospect party at Triple-A Iowa. That is, if the Cubs keep him. Keep in mind, they have Starlin Castro already in place and another top prospect in Javier Baez, who also plays shortstop. It's possible Russell is flipped to another team based on the three team rumors, and it's possible the Cubs are just stockpiling elite prospects so they'll have more flexibility down the road. Either way, they stand to gain nicely from this deal, as it appeared unlikely Samardzija was going to agree to an extension.
Wonderful job by team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. Now we sit back to see what else may develop from the season's first blockbuster deal.
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