Pay to Play
The just completed 10-game home stand was must-see for many of the game's top scouts. Bruce Levine of CBS quotes one of them on why the Cubs are so popular at the moment:
“As you look at pitchers before the trade deadline, you only consider guys you project who can pitch in the first three games of the playoffs. I look at the Cubs, [Jason] Hammel could start the third game, [Jeff] Samardzija the first game for any contending club. You have to believe these guys are better than your 4th and 5th starters or you have no business making a deal. You can find four’s and five’s in your own system.”
Jeff's ability to be the ace of the staff for any contender is the reason the Cubs are driving such a hard bargain for him. As previously reported, the Cubs are asking for four players for Jeff with an emphasis on high end pitching. Hammel is not as expensive (as he isn't quite as good) but Levine reports that he will still cost an acquiring team a top 3 organizational prospect.
The quote from the scout may seem surprising in that it implies that Samardzija would be a better choice to start a playoff game than rookie phenom Masahiro Tanaka. However, Tanaka lost last night when he chose to go after Mike Napoli with a fastball instead of his splitter on a 1-2 count. Napoli blasted Tanaka verbally and with the bat for the decision. It would be easy to shrug this off as one bad game. However, it has to concern the Yankees a little that his xFIP has climbed every month, from 2.05 in April, to 2.53 in May, to 2.78 in June.
In terms of who is interested, Levine has the Yankees with two scouts at both Hammel's and Samardzija's starts. The Blue Jays had a scout at each game and the Mariners had top evaluator Ted Simmons watching both starts. Notably absent from this list are the Royals. There are several different interpretations here:
- Levine simply didn't see or mention the Royals scouts.
- They've seen all they need to see and felt their scouts were better used at other games.
- Dayton Moore doesn't feel like paying Theo's price.
Barney to the Blue Jays?
Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun has been all over the Samardzija story of late, and has up to 10 different scouts watching Samardzija since last year, including former Cubs GM Ed Lynch. Intriguingly, he has the Jays scouting Carlos Villanueva and Darwin Barney in addition to Shark. Both fill needs for the Blue Jays who need help in the infield and in the bullpen.
It's difficult to impossible seeing either guy getting more than a token return by themselves. However, it is very possible that the Blue Jays are asking for some "sweeteners" if they are going to part with the package the Cubs are demanding for Samardzija. I have to believe, with the near constant chatter regarding a Cubs-Blue Jays deal, that they are the front runners at the moment.
One guy who is surprising by his absence from the rumors is Luis Valbuena. Perhaps, with one of the game's top offenses, the Blue Jays would like Barney to improve on defense. It's also possible that the the value the Cubs put on Luis is higher than the Blue Jays are willing to pay.
Angels Looking for Bullpen Help
We heard the Angels name last week as a possible suitor for Jason Hammel. However, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com, proposes what I see as a much more likely outcome. The Angels biggest need is the bullpen, and they could use their so-so minor league system to add a guy like James Russell or even Pedro Strop for a serious push. Strop, who Castrovince doesn't specifically mention, would be the more expensive of the two, possibly requiring the Halos to part with prized arm Hunter Green.
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