This is part 2 of a 3 part blog breaking down anything and everything Jeff Samardzija. In part one, White Sox insider Brian Bilek joined me to break down the White Sox off season acquisition of Shark and his current value as trade bait for the organization. Part one was purely a statistical breakdown of Shark’s season thus far, as well as a compare/contrast to similar trades in recent seasons.
Now, for part 2, we dive into hypotheticals. As we mentioned in part one, we are in the midst of one of Major League Baseball’s best sellers’ markets in a long, long time. With as many teams conceivably in contention as they are, and with the White Sox owning one of the best assets in baseball in Shark, Rick Hahn’s phone will undoubtedly be ringing off the hook in the next 14 days.
Brian breaks down potential suitors both in and outside of Barstool’s jurisdiction, so it will be a great read for not only White Sox fans, but also fans of the Cubs, BoSox, and Orioles. I have
DAVE: So you are officially on record as saying you believe shark will be dealt at or before the deadline. In recent trades, Hahn has landed big league ready players in Eaton, Garcia, and at the time, Matt Davidson. Is this something you’d expect to continue?
More than likely, I’d say yes. It’s conceivable the team acquires someone who is further off and who has more upside, but given the state of the team and the “three-year plan” I would expect them to add players who are close to being MLB ready, if not already Major League ready.
I will say that White Sox fans should not be entirely set on the team acquiring a bat as opposed to a pitcher. Obviously the White Sox have been struggling to make any position players of their own but that shouldn’t permit them from taking the best player available. If the White Sox were able to nab a pitcher who could say, replace Jeff Samardzija’s spot in the rotation sooner than later, or step into the back end of the bullpen and thrive almost immediately they should do it. The idea is to maximize value, not have your deficiencies limit the pool you pull from. Bringing in another young pitcher, or even a few more young pitchers, can also make pitchers already in the organization more expendable (particularly Jose Quintana and Frankie Montas) at another juncture when a coveted position player(s) could be on the table.
Dave: Break down some potential trade partners for me. You know not only the White Sox system inside and out, but others’ as well. Who may come calling for Shark’s services in the next two weeks? What can they offer? What will the Sox command for him?
As the primary contenders, I’ll highlight the Astros and Blue Jays.
Astros: The Astros currently hold the second Wild Card spot and are a ½ game behind the Angels in the AL West. They are definitely in the thick of things and definitely interested in Samardzija. Ken Rosenthal reported them scouting Samardzija as early as April.
Mock Deal: White Sox trade Jeff Samardzija to Houston for OF Domingo Santana C Max Stassi and RHP Asher Wojciechowski.
Rationale: Astros have a loaded farm system and have been considered the front-runner for Samardzija for months. They are particularly stacked with outfield prospects and Domingo Santana would be the top get in this more depth- oriented mock move. I am sure the Astros fans would hate seeing this move at first but most fans hate losing any of their prospects. There would be plenty of risks on both sides of this deal. The White Sox success would be contingent on Santana’s power being real and that his contact rate (~30% K%) won’t curtail him into a AAAA-type player.
Santana doesn’t turn 23 until next month. He has serious contact issues but has moved through the system quickly and shown great on-base skills to mitigate some of those concerns. Santana brings the White Sox much-needed MLB ready, offensive potential from the right side.
Stassi is a defense first catcher who carries some power. He’ll never be an AVG/OBP guy but he does have some power to pair with his defense. He’s struggling heavily as he repeats AAA but that’s largely in part to a silly- unsustainable BABIP.
Wojciechowski is a pitcher who is now 26 and hasn’t quite figured it out. He may be a good “change of scenery” guy who, at this point, doesn’t have the out pitch to match his respectable 93-94 MPH fastball.
***With all three players you must consider that they play in the AAA Pacific Coast League, which is the best hitting environment in all of the minor leagues. Their stats should be judged on a curve.
Blue Jays: Following a terrible road trip, the Jays have fallen to 4.5 games back in the revolving door that is the AL East. Given the nature of that division and that the second Wild Card spot is four games within reach, the Jays still look like buyers to this point. That designation is very much dependent on their play out of the ASB, so he team finds itself in a very sensitive position here.
It is almost every July their tortured fans opine for the biggest deadline targets only to have their management strikeout. Their need is significant as they are 25th in projected WAR for starting pitchers from here on out. Acquiring a frontline pitcher would certainly improve their chances at reaching the playoffs for the first time since the first George Bush was in office.
What makes the Jays a particularly interesting candidate is the glut of players they have that are either on the cusp of the Major Leagues, or in the Major Leagues already. That includes players like Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, Dalton Pompey, Miguel Castro and Kevin Pillar. Given that Alec Anthopolous is at risk of a second straight flop following his second big offseason, it’s rumored he may be fighting for his job so you could assume there’s less of a chance of him being a conservative with playoff spots up for grab.
Mock Deal: White Sox trade RHP Jeff Samardzija and RHP Zach Putnam to Toronto for RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Miguel Castro and RHP Sean Reid-Foley.
Rationale: The Jays get a starter in Samardzija who would immediately become their best starting pitcher. Unlike Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels, Jeff Samardzija has already proven that he could pitch in the big leagues, aka the American League. Samardzija has more than a full season data set in the AL with a 3.36 FIP and almost 6 strikeouts-to-walks in 237 innings pitched. In Putnam, the Jays get a guy their fans have probably never heard of. That being said, he’s had some of best swing-and-miss stuff out of all MLB relievers. Putnam is fourth of all relievers in contact%, that sandwiches him between Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Putnam gets both righties and lefties. So whether the Jays are in New York facing a row of lefties or in Baltimore facing Adam Jones and Manny Machado they have a guy who can come in and miss bats.
The White Sox packager’s rationale here is simple: power. Most any scout’s favorite tool. Both Sanchez and Castro have vicious fastballs but lack refinement. Aaron Sanchez has had varying levels of success but has seen his K% fall at every level. He’d be tough to give up if you’re the Jays but you have to give to get. He’s lacked the polish to be a threat out of an MLB rotation to this point but the White Sox are a perfect match to try and manicure him into the pitcher his overall package could bring. With Castro, the White Sox buy-high and add a big arm to a bullpen of finesse pitchers. Sean Reid-Foley, the third piece of this trade, is no throw-in. He’s a significant risk with his arm action causing concerns for long-term health implications but these matters have never deterred the White Sox’ brain trust. He’s not an “open-open” guy so the White Sox wouldn’t shy way.
Royals: They need a pitcher. Their defense is awesome, bullpen is ridiculous and offense is sufficient. Even so, I don’t see Samardzija going to KC and it’s not because of the fight in April. Where the Blue Jays have plenty of different packages they could send the White Sox, KC has very little that makes sense for both sides. I think they’re more likely to pick up a middling pitcher and hope he thrives with their elite defense and their pitcher-friendly home park.
Orioles: In about the same situation as the Jays, the O’s are on the outside looking in. They have more free agents than any team in baseball and will have holes to fill this offseason. I would guess they are simply not in a position to move the depth they’ll sorely need to replace their looming holes.
Cubs: It’s interesting that Cubs fans really hate Samardzija already. They should be happy he was enticing enough that Theo Epstein was able to take advantage of Billy Beane’s Moneyball ego for Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. In any case, I don’t see a fit here. Epstein and Hoyer have worked too hard and have been so patient to get to this and blow their load on a rental. Just like the Sox are in their three-year plan, the Cubs front office has a plan of their own and it did not involve winning the World Series in ’15. That’s not to say they won’t improve and try to win a Championship, but they’re not going to move their surplus for a rental they will inevitably buy next offseason. Unless Detroit makes David Price available, Cubs aren’t trading for a top rental. On the White Sox end, I wouldn’t say they won’t trade with the Cubs but this would not be a strong PR move for the psyche of their fickle fan base.
Red Sox: The Red Sox really have no business buying rentals but I’ll include them to appease the Stoolies. General Manager Ben Cherington still has his team in as good as a position as any team over the next few years but the abortion of a rotation he put together will hold them down for at least this year. With both Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on pace for career highs in innings, Clay Buchholz facing a lingering injury, Porcello struggling and Wade Miley having a sloppy face it’s hard to see them overcoming all of the rotation issues to compete.
I do think the White Sox-Red Sox relationship is one to keep an eye on though, but more so for the offseason than the deadline. There is certainly a working relationship between the two front offices and juxtaposed with their teams’ respective strengths and deficiencies, the potential for a move is there. If the White Sox were to make pitchers like Jose Quintana or Carson Fulmer the Red Sox carry the type of youth on the position side that could push the White Sox to make a move. Guys like Deven Marrero, Christian Vazques and Ryan Hanigan would all make sense for the Southsiders moving forward.
I highlighted a handful of teams, but as Dave said, there were more than ten teams represented at Samardzija’s last start. The Yankees, Tigers, Pirates and Dodgers could all make a push of their own to win the sweepstakes for Shark.
The MLB trade deadline is one of my favorite days of the year. The White Sox, under Kenny Williams, are usually active as the deadline approaches, but this year I expect to be as wild for fans as ever. Even after riding a hot streak before the All Star break, I, like Brian, fully expect the Sox to move Shark and other pieces and reinvest into this newly coined three year plan.
My biggest grip with the White Sox over the course of the last 3-4 years is that it seemed like they were more or less just a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. That it didn’t seem like they had plan at all. That they were reactive, not proactive and just made knee jerk decisions. Admittedly, this was in comparison to what has been consecrating on the North Side of town and somewhat out of jealousy. When the Sox made the moves they did in the off season, I, like other Sox fans bought into the “win now” mentality that seemed to come along with the signings of Robertson and Cabrera and the trade for Shark. But the more I think about it, the Sox, barring a complete fuck up at the deadline, are playing this “three year plan” pretty well right now. Their farm is has very intriguing prospects, they have a great crop of young talent already in the Show and locked up for cheap, and Shark could wind up netting a return that blows their sale of Semien and Phegley out of the water.
These next two weeks will be incredibly interesting for Sox fans. Big shout out to Brian once again, he worked his ass off breaking down the current state of Shark and the Sox for us and I can’t thank him enough for it. I dare you to try and find a better analysis of the Sox and Shark right now on the internet. You won’t be able to.
We’ll go into a much more laid back format for part 3 of the blog where we answer twitter questions on Shark for anyone who has them. Hit us up at @barstoolWSD and @chisoxraBBit