Completing the first major trade of the season, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to send two of their biggest trade chips to the Oakland Athletics. The deal will see both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel join the A’s, while the Cubs will receive a trio of players – Addison Russell, Dan Straily, and Billy McKinney.
Acquiring both Samardzija and Hammel instantly strengthens an A’s team that already has the best record in baseball. Adding the pair into the A’s starting rotation will certainly help make them a tougher opponent to overcome as the season continues on. Samardzija has made 17 starts on the year, posting a 2.83 ERA and 1.204 WHIP with a career-low 2.6 BB/9. Hammel, meanwhile, has a 2.98 ERA and 1.013 WHIP in 16 starts. The pair are both in the midst of career seasons.
Samardzija will be under team control next season through arbitration, but is likely looking at a raise to close to $10 Million. Hammel will be a free agent at season’s end. Both were expected to be moved before the trade deadline, as the Cubs had arguably two of the top arms available to deal but few would have expected them to be moved in the same trade.
As for the return the Cubs will receive, it’s a quality one.
Russell and McKinney ranked as the A’s top two prospects heading into the 2014 season. Russell is widely considered one of the Top 10 prospects in the game.
The shortstop has only appeared in 18 games on the season, hitting a combined .297/.400/.422 in 75 plate appearances. He’d been slowed by an injury to start the year and was at Double-A leading up to the deal. Most reports suggest that he’s got a strong combination of speed, power, and solid defense but it does remain to be seen where he ends up long term position wise. The A’s seemed to expect the 20 year old to stay at shortstop, potentially even taking over for Jed Lowrie next season but in a Cubs system loaded with infield prospects the possibility of a shift is now in play.
McKinney was Oakland’s 1st Round pick in the 2013 draft. The 19 year old center fielder was at High-A before the deal, where he was batting just .241/.330/.400 with 10 HR in 333 plate appearances.
Straily has bounced between the major leagues and Triple-A for much of the season. With Oakland he’d made seven starts, posting a 4.93 ERA and 1.252 WHIP. His numbers in the minors were fairly similiar: 10 starts, 4.71 ERA, 1.270 WHIP. He will likely step right into the Cubs’ rotation to fill one of the two openings created from this deal.
While McKinney is highly unproven and Straily appears to just be a throw in, the true prize of the deal is certainly Russell. A shortstop prospect with the potential for five tools, his inclusion is also a surprise. Numerous reports over the past two weeks have suggested that the A’s were looking to add a starting pitcher and a second baseman prior to the trade deadline. The team was believed to be willing to deal any of their prospects with the lone exception being Russell. To move him for a pair of pitchers, neither of whom is under team control for an extended period of time, seems like an uncharacteristic move for the organization.
The A’s have the best record in baseball and this move certainly indicates that they are going to do what it takes to reach the World Series. A’s fans just have to hope they didn’t mortgage their future for the chance.