A common theme running through the industry seems to be that teams are looking to trade rather than pay big money for free agents. Ken Rosenthal added the White Sox to that mix today. That is not to imply that the Cubs would trade with the White Sox. I haven't heard anything of that nature, but it goes along with the kind of overall industry trade-focused mentality I'm talking about.
One source said he believes this could be the most trade happy winter meetings in years. With young talent and inexpensive productive players like Nate Schierholtz on the roster, I expect the Cubs to be right in the middle of the frenzy. Teams will be calling them on a number of players and it may put the Cubs in a good position to acquire multiple pieces.
The most talked about player will undoubtedly be Jeff Samardzija and I've heard at least 1o teams plan to call the Cubs to at least inquire on him. I think you can pretty much say that any team looking for pitching with a chance to contend in the next two years would be interested. We've mentioned teams like the Pirates, Nationals, Royals, Diamondbacks and we also told you about the possibility of the Orioles interest a week ago using Matt Wieters as bait, and that rumor resurfaced again today, though there was no new information there. Meanwhile, the word is that the Diamondbacks may be falling back in this race.
The Cubs will soon reach a tipping point in their negotiations with Samardzija. While many believe the Cubs prefer to keep Samardzija (and I am among them), they would only want to keep him if he's a long term asset. There are two years of cost-control left with Samardzija and while that theoretically gives them two years to make a deal. it must also be taken into account that Samardzija's trade value goes down the closer he approaches free agency simply because the team will get less cost-controlled years. Until he is extended, the Cubs have to treat Samardzija as if he is a short term asset and in that sense he'd be more valuable to a team capable of winning within that two year window.
We can say that Samardzija is about as good a pitcher as Matt Garza -- and I've talked to some scouts who like Samardzija better for a multitude of reasons. The Cubs were able to get a haul of C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Neil Ramirez, and Justin Grimm for two months of Garza. Think about what they could get for 2 years of a potentially better pitcher. We know that the Rangers were ready to give up both LHP Martin Perez and Olt for 1 year and 2 months of Garza. At the time both were top 50 prospects and perhaps even top 25.
The Cubs haul for Garza was superb under the circumstances but none of the prospects are without their flaws. The Cubs took on a good amount of risk with each player -- even the heralded Edwards who draws concerns about his build and stamina.
I think if the Cubs were to make the same kind of trade, there is almost no question the Cubs would like to do it earlier this time rather than wait until nearly all the cost-control value disappears. The feeling I get is that while the Cubs would like to re-sign Samardzija, they have no intention of going down to the wire, but it also means taking on more risk by giving up two years of a productive, talented pitcher. However, that in turn would would also mean the Cubs would demand getting prospects with less risk. They have every intention of bringing back a package that starts with at least one top 25 prospect, probably involving MLB ready or near ready young pitching.
The Cubs have plenty of young talent on their active roster and while a team in their position wouldn't normally look to trade young players, we've said repeatedly that nobody is at untouchable status. The Cubs have unprecedented farm system depth and it gives them the luxury of at least being able to listen.
And we'll be following closely.
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