Two of the hottest commodities at the trade deadline season will be Cubs pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. Both have had fantastic seasons, which only adds to their value come July 31. The Cubs are sitting at 28-39; they will not be contending this season. It seems like it is time to sell. And they should. But, they should only sell Jason Hammel, and not Jeff Samardzija. Please, let me explain my case.
In how many years from now will the Cubs contend? The Cubs had SEVEN top prospects on Baseball America's top 100, including number five Javier Baez and number eight Kris Bryant. Many experts believe that the Cubs will be at the top of the National League Central in 2015 or 2016. Of those seven top prospects, only two, C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson, are pitchers. In order to contend, you need pitching. The Cubs are developing few pitchers, so why not keep a guy that will be almost guaranteed to be at the top of your starting rotation?
Jeff Samardzija is 29. He has a 2.77 ERA in 91 innings pitched this season. In 2015, Samardzija will be 30. Samardzija is still under contract for that season. However, he is up for arbitration, something the Cubs may not want to pay. But other than that, I do not see any other reason on why the Cubs want to trade Samardzija away. Sure, they'll get prospects for Samardzija. But prospects are not full-proof. Many top prospects have faltered, and are too risky. Who is more likely to be performing at a high level, in the major leagues, in 2016, Jeff Samardzija or some top prospect? I would go with Samardzija in a heartbeat. He isn't old, he's talented, and he's already in the major leagues.
That brings me to Jason Hammel. I have the exact opposite opinion on Hammel. He signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cubs this past offseason and wanted to prove that he still had something left in the tank. He's more than proved that this season, posting the lowest ERA and highest ERA+ in his entire career, and only allowing 6.9 hits per nine innings pitched. Hammel is pitching like an ace. And there has never been a time to sell him higher than now.
There still is a chance Hammel won't be back in 2015 with the Cubs, let alone 2016. He won't see them contend, and won't be apart of the team that makes it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It is time for the Cubs to jump the gun and trade him. The only issue with trading Hammel is his history. He has never been pitching like he is now, and many executives are nervous that he can't help them down the stretch. Regardless, there always has to be one team that thinks Hammel is worth a shot. He might not get the prospects that Samardzija would get on the market, but the value of the deal is much higher.
The Cubs have to start worrying about contending, and not dealing players away for younger talent. They have already done that. If they were to hold Jeff Samardzija to this trade deadline, it could pay huge dividends into 2015 and 2016. It could make the difference from being a wild card team to a pennant winning team. That mentality needs to start now, by dealing Jason Hammel and holding Jeff Samardzija.