Jeff Samardzija Would Help Blue Jays, But Deal Cannot Include Drew Hutchison

With the Toronto Blue Jays playing some of their best baseball in years and currently leading the wide open AL East division speculation will once again heat up that the Jays are seeking help for their starting rotation.  The current rotation features RA Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison, JA Happ and the recently called up Liam Hendricks who has taken the place of Dustin McGowan.

Dickey, Buehrle and Hutch have all performed admirably and perhaps above expectations thus far this season.  Happ has been strong recently but it is hard to envision and contending team showing complete faith in him given the rather weak track record in terms of major league success.  Hendricks was only recently called up and the fifth starter spot has been a sore spot all season.

This leads me to the point of this piece.  The Blue Jays will be looking for external help and all indications are they have at the very least kicked tires on acquiring Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs.  The man they call ‘Shark’ is having a career season in terms of ERA (1.46), WHIP (1.09) and ground ball rate (51.6%).

Samardzija, currently 29 years old is a very solid starting pitcher but if the rumored price of at least two of Drew Hutchison, Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman I think Alex Anthopoulos should tread carefully.  First off trading one of our best current starting pitchers just to add another makes zero sense and perhaps the Cubs are trying to set an early high price to see if a team blinks first.

Second this would be buying a pitcher at likely the peak of his value.  Thru 68 innings in 2014 Shark has seen his K-rate dip to a career low 7.15 K/9 and his BABIP is at a career low .264 (career .294 mark) which has certainly helped his overall stat line.  His current HR/FB rate is 3.9% – which is not sustainable compared to his 10.5% career rate.  His strand rate is also at a career high 82% compared to his career rate of 72%.

This has all added up to a career best ERA and WHIP.  Now he has taken a bit of a different approach this season as witness by his pitch selection.  In 2013 he utilized his four-seam (straight) fastball 25.1% while in 2014 that has dropped to 17.1%.  This season he has tried to use his two-seam (sinking) fastball much more (39.6%) more than last year (27.7%).  This has helped lead to a higher overall groundball rate but overall he has not missed as many bats at in years past.

His current swinging strike rate is 8.2% (10.1% for his career) as batters are making higher overall contact.  Yes some of that is likely by design but it is never a good thing for a pitcher to suddenly start missing less bats.  According to Pitch FX data his fastball has seen about a one mile per hour dip – nothing huge but at age 29 his velocity will continue to decline going forward.

Finally bring any pitcher into the AL East and there is bound to be a bit of a learning curve.  Yes it is not the division it once was but that is more due to the injury prone starting rotations and not the overall level of offense.  There is no guarantee Samardzija comes over to the AL East and the Rogers Centre and pitches like an ace – which is the type of production needed to justify the current asking price.

I hope the price comes down but with so many teams still gunning for the playoffs that seems doubtful.  Shark would be a great addition to our rotation and could go a long way to solidifying our starting rotation but that addition cannot come at any cost.  If the price for Jeff Samardzija (3.46 xFIP, 1.5 WAR in 68 IPs) begins with Drew Hutchison (3.56 xFIP, 1.5 WAR in 60 IPs) the price is already much too steep and the answer must be no.


18 Responses to “Jeff Samardzija Would Help Blue Jays, But Deal Cannot Include Drew Hutchison”

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  4. 4 japester June 1, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    when I heard, at the beginning of spring training, that it was Stroman and Sanchez, I thought it was a little on the high side. When Rosenthal broke that over the winter that it was actually Hutch and one of Stroman or Sanchez, the price was too high. Given that Hendriks was just sent back to AAA, Stroman is staying up here for a while. I just can’t for the life of me understand trading 2 of our rotation for one guy.

    Don’t get me wrong, Samardziji is a talent but there is a risk reward factor to be considered. He’s never faced the potent offense the AL offers and until this year has had a higher fly ball to ground ball rate. Certain death in the hitter friendly parks of the ALE.

    Shields would make a fine addition to the Jays. Top of the rotation guy, experience in the post season, experience with the AL (including the ALE), all the right pedigree. Two things stand in the way though. Will the Royals be out of the race by the end of July and do the want to trade him or hold onto him a get the draft pick when he his free agency?

    I think the best move for the rotation is Masterson. Him and the Indians are a mile apart on a dollar figure for an extension and the Indians look like they are already out of it and don’t have the dollars to get back in it. Give them a Nolin or Norris and a sweetener.

    • 5 @ALEastbound June 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Maybe they could also target a cheaper guy like Jason Hammel. Having a decent season. If the price was a mid-tier prospect that the Cubs like I might look there.

      • 6 japester June 2, 2014 at 9:30 am

        True, Hammel is having a good season. When he was pitching in the ALE, with the exception of 2012) Hammel was pitching to a near 5 ERA and eating a little over 5 innings per start. A little to high priced giving up a mid tier prospect for a #5.
        I’ve been looking at Mike Minor (ATL). He’s been mentioned in trade rumors before and has expressed his willingness to be traded. BJ Upton has been awful in CF, both offensively and defensively. It’s a gamble, but sending Rasmus and an A ball pitcher the other way might free up Minor.
        Hopefully Gose/Pillar can step up.

    • 7 Jared June 2, 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Japester, I have to respectfully disagree with your opinion on trading for Mike Minor. The Braves are in 1st place in their division, so I’m not sure why the Braves would trade one of their best starting pitchers. My humble opinion is that Mike Minor would cost more in a trade than Shark. Minor is roughly 2 yrs younger than Shark, and has more team control yrs left (Minor- fa after 2017, Shark- fa after 2015). Last yr, Mike Minor stats were (FG) 3.37 FIP 3.64 xFIP 3.4 WAR. Minor hasn’t pitched much to start the year due to an injury in spring training (37 IP- mixed stats but still not bad, SSS). Colby Rasmus was great last yr, but has -0.1 WAR this yr (SSS), however Rasmus is a fa after this yr. I believe this makes Rasmus have very little trade value at this point. I just don’t see the Braves trading a good cost controlled starting pitcher for half a season of Rasmus and an A pitcher.

  5. 9 Jared June 1, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    As you previous stated, I’m not sure AA would trade Stroman. After looking more closely at some more reports and numbers on Norris, I would like to deal for him even more. I think the Cubs will ask/try to up the price (using bidding war), but I would be very happy if somehow the Cubs got the settling price at Stroman and Norris. I know TOR fans will disagree, that is a high price to pay. I’m definitely no scout (just looking at reports, stats, rumors, etc..), so odds are my opinions are completely wrong and I am over/under valuing players. I’m just curious how other fan bases see trade scenarios/players. I appreciate TOR fans opinions on players/trades/my thoughts. It helps me make sure I am being rational and not just a biased homer. Thanks.

    • 10 @ALEastbound June 1, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      I could definitely see a deal with Daniel Norris involved at the deadline for a pitcher. He has had a fine start but Blue Jays brass and fans have seen him struggle in the past. He is definitely available I would think.

  6. 11 Jared June 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    As a Cubs fan, I can’t see TOR trading Hutchison. However, I’m interested in what you’d consider to be a fair deal. A. Sanchez has amazing stuff but is struggling big time with control (walks) at AA. I think the Cubs ask for Stroman and Norris+. Could the + include 1 or more of Osuna, davis, or tirado? Or do you feel it would be lesser prospects. I mean this in the most respectful way possible, but where did you get your stats for shark vs. hutch. According to FG and BR- Hutch has 3.91 FIP (both), 3.91 xFIP (FG- can’t find BR) WAR 1.0 (BR) 0.9 (FG). Shark has 2.80 FIP (both), 3.28 xFIP (FG) WAR 2.8 (BR) 1.8 FG. However, Shark got absolutely rocked today, so his numbers will be changing. Thanks, look forward to hearing your trade ideas.

    • 12 @ALEastbound June 1, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Hutch is an absolute non-starter. Not that he is the top arm in the majors but we need to ADD to our current rotation without subtracting. Honestly I think Shark is a tad overrated with some definite regression likely coming. Saying that he would be our top arm if we could add him.

      I don’t see how the Cubs would turn down any offer that included Marcus Stroman – especially after his shutdown start vs KC yesterday and stellar minor league numbers.

      I am not sure AA would even pull the trigger on a deal including Stro.

      I would be ok dealing Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. Not much more.

      You think that’s enough or will the trade market at the deadline raise the fair price?

      • 13 Jared June 1, 2014 at 5:46 pm

        To be honest, I don’t know if the Cubs would accept Sanchez and Norris. I think the deadline will definitely drive up the price (see Garza last yr and that was basically TX bidding against themselves), and more so if the AL East race is close (multiple teams trying to trade for him). I would love for the Cubs to get Norris in any deal. He has potential to be special. I don’t see the Cubs taking Sanchez as the centerpiece (would love to have him in our minors just not with our biggest trade asset) with his control issues (unless the Cubs get another high upside low level prospect or 2). I know it is early but he has a 6+ bb/9. Is he trying to change something with his mechanics? Trying/learning a new pitch? Cubs scouts would have to believe Sanchez control issues are fixable, which very well could be the case. I’m not sure the Cubs will take the risk if other teams are offering comparable packages. I might be completely wrong (if so don’t be afraid to tell me I’m crazy), but it seems Sanchez stock is falling slightly. Not to mention, there are a lot of rumors about the Orioles and Hunter Harvey. That is another pitcher the Cubs would probably love to get in a deal.

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