Following Tuesday’s shocking loss to the Kansas City Royals, the Oakland Athletics and general manager Billy Beane likely won’t sit pat – and could be exceptionally active this offseason – potentially even looking to deal former Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, as well as third baseman Josh Donaldson, according to Ken Rosenthal.
"Samardzija, a free agent after next season, would be one of the best starting pitchers available in trade. Donaldson, under club control for four more seasons, would be a dramatic entry into a market starved for offense."
The 29-year-old right-hander was traded to Oakland by Chicago along with fellow pitcher Jason Hammel in early July in exchange for top prospect Addison Russell, right-handed pitcher Dan Straily and outfield prospect Billy McKinney as the A’s looked to shore up for a deep postseason run that ultimately never came to fruition. While the trade worked out well for Chicago, which was in a rebuilding mode in 2014, Beane and Oakland are now taking a long look at the team, and with good reason, the former Cubs’ ace keeps coming up.
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Prior to the trade, Samardzija was just 2-7, largely because of a lack of run support, as he sported a 2.83 ERA in his 17 starts. Although he was criticized from time-to-time as a member of the Athletics, he pitched well, posting a 3.14 earned run average and an unthinkable 8.25 SO/BB ratio in 111 2/3 innings of work. Between his time with Oakland and Chicago, the right-hander surpassed the 200-strikeout mark for the second straight year, while also pitching a career-high 219 2/3 innings – only increasing his value as a trade chip this winter.
"Beane acquired Samardzija with the idea that the A’s would be strong again next year. Now that prospect looks iffy, and Beane might at least consider going in reverse."
Oakland is losing left-hander Jon Lester, who was acquired midseason in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox, as well as Hammel, and, as Rosenthal points out, the team will not receive compensation for either’s departure because they are exempt from qualifying offers, given their midseason trades.
As many Cubs fans have pointed out, Samardzija could potentially return to Chicago next winter when he reaches free agency and the team is a legitimate contender in the National League Central. However, a possibility exists that the right-hander may have another change of scenery prior to that potential reunion.
With a pitching-heavy free agent class, and record-level contracts anticipated for at least one of the top three free agent starters, there could be a high demand for a pitcher such as Samardzija this offseason. It seems unlikely that the Cubs will be players for their former ace this offseason, but, again – don’t rule out a reunion tour between Chicago and this fan-favorite in 2016.