The Athletics are in it to win it. They want to win the World Series. They just added two pitchers who are having fantastic seasons, while giving up their top prospect in Addison Russell. General manager Billy Beane knows that it is time for the Athletics to win a World Series, and while their "moneyball" strategy can win them regular season games, Hammel and Samardzija should be able to take them deep into the
postseason and perhaps win a World Series.
The 29-year-old Samardzija was the best trade piece on the market not named David Price. The good part about Samardzija is that this is not the last year of his contract; he still is under contract through the 2015 season. He is arnitration-eligible next year, which could net him a large one-year contract, but the Athletics are not just getting a three month rental, they will have Samardzija at least through 2015.
On the year, Samardzija is 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA and a 3.07 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in 108 innings pitched. He has led the Cubs staff on the year, but has not received a ton of run support, thus the poor record. He has a 103:31 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year. He has a great fWAR on the season, posting a 2.1 mark. All of last year, Samardzija had a 2.8 fWAR. The reason Samardzija has had such a good season is because his ground-ball percentage has risen, and his home run per fly ball percentage has sunk. In Oakland, Samardzija could be an even better pitcher.
Jason Hammel was the perfect sell-high candidate for the Cubs. They signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal this offseason, and he has been worth every single penny of it. I am not sure that he can keep up his pace in Oakland, but the 31-year-old's veteran leadership should be enough to make him a difference-maker when he gets to the Athletics.
On the season, Hammel is 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA and a 3.16 FIP on the season, both career lows. However, Billy Beane must have seen why Hammel has been so productive, and why he can keep it up. His strikeout percentage has never been higher and his walk percentage has never been lower. His ground-ball and fly-ball percentages have stayed the same, but he has been able to get hitters out via the strikeout so often, and has kept hitters off the bases via a walk, which has made him look like an ace.
The New York Yankees offered the Cubs deals for Samardzija and Hammel, Rosenthal reported, but were unsuccessful in acquiring them. The one piece the Athletics had but the Yankees could not provide was Addison Russell. The top-prospect shortstop is the centerpiece of the Cubs' return for the pitchers.
The 20-year-old Russell has been the Athletics' top prospect for quite some time now. On the season, Russell, for High Single-A Stockton and Double-A Midland has been hitting a triple slash line .297/.400/.422 with one home run and nine runs batted in. He has only played in 18 games this season, due to an injury which had kept him sidelined for the first couple of months of the season. He should be in Chicago by 2015 and just adds another prospect to their deep farm system.
The Cubs will also be receiving righty Dan Straily and outfielder Billy McKinney. The 25-year-old Straily is 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA and a 5.64 FIP in seven starts this season (38.1 innings pitched). He could have a future in the Cubs rotation. As for McKinney, the 19-year-old outfielder has a .730 OPS in 333 plate appearances in High Single-A Stockton. He has advanced through the minors quickly for his age.
This is the first blockbuster of what is shaping up to be a very big trading season. The Athletics got their pitcher they wanted in Jeff Samardzija. In fact, they got an added bonus with Jason Hammel. This move could be huge for them, as it could give them a very good opportunity to go win the World Series this year. As for the Cubs, they continue to stockpile prospects, adding top prospect Addison Russell to perhaps the deepest farm system in baseball. What a trade.