Every once in a while an issue comes up that becomes heavily debated among Toronto Blue Jays fans. This recently happened after a tweet from Bruce Levine of Score 670 in Chicago, which insinuated the Blue Jays were in pursuit of Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija and also said that Toronto was “putting together a package of young players”, which immediately sent Toronto fans into a frenzy. Everyone was curious about the players that could possibly be involved from the Blue Jays organization.
We decided to throw the question out to our Jays Journal staffers to see what they could come up with. It was a fun exercise but I should probably qualify our opinions before we get started.
None of us truly have any idea of what the prospective asking price could be for Samardzija and are purely hypothesizing potential packages that could be sent to Chicago. We asked everyone to try to make the deal as fair as possible for both sides but as Blue Jays fans it will most likely end up with a Toronto tilt.
We also have no idea if the rumour is even true and if the Blue Jays actually “putting together a package of young players” as Levine tweeted over the weekend but that’s not going to stop us from spit-balling potential trade bait for the Shark.
Now, the Cubs are pretty stacked in terms of outfield depth and on the left side of the diamond, as both areas feature some of the best prospects in the game. However, the Cubs will be looking for help in three areas; pitching, catching, and the right side of the infield. Their window of competitiveness is also a couple of years away, meaning that Toronto doesn’t necessarily have to part with anything that is close to a finished product.
So what would a reasonable package include:
Sean Nolin – Nolin may be more of a finished product than the Cubs would really be looking for, but that could play out well for the Cubs, at least in terms of pitching. Nolin showed some solid promise last season at Double-A, but he tends to fall down the depth chart a bit, so the Blue Jays could see fit to part with him.
Mitch Nay – Nice power option with a quick bat, Nay currently plays third base, but could move across the diamond on a deeper team. The Cubs could use that profile at first base, right across the diamond from Kris Bryant.
Chase DeJong – Toronto is going to have to give up a young arm that they are high on, and DeJong may be that guy. Just 19-years-old, he’s made short work of the rookie leagues and could be tough to part with.
Andy Burns – A 23-year-old, Burns had a solid showing in 2013, making the jump to Double-A. Another third baseman by trade, Burns worked out at first in the AFL and has also seen time at second base, which may make him attractive to the Cubs.
My proposed package for Samardzija would be as follows:
My premise is definitely “quantity over quality” but avoids the issue of having to part with either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman. Blue Jays fans may feel that I’m being too generous but I’m skeptical the Cubs would bite on this offer without at least Stroman involved.
I cherry-picked a few (okay, most) of those names based on tweets from Baseball America’s Ben Badler (which were picked up by Chicago Now) who dropped Ybarra’s name and referred to D.J. Davis, Mitch Nay, Dawel Lugo, Alberto Tirado,and Urena as “secondary trade chips”.
Drabek and Gose would most likely contribute to the Cubs in 2014 and as former top prospects may still have enough shine to bring something back of value to Toronto.
Norris probably saw his stock drop a bit across baseball after he struggled with fastball command in Lansing this season but was much better in the second half and is still oozing potential.
Urena is a 17-year-old defensive wizard that MLB.com ranked as the ninth best International prospect in 2012. For a teenage he handles the bat well and his MLB.com profile refers to him as “soft-spoken and humble” and makes note of “his good makeup and overall character.”
That all being said, if I were the Cubs I probably would not accept my package (at least not yet). I see them holding out for basically a better collection of young players and the Blue Jays may not have enough highly regarded to make this deal work.
For all accounts, the going word is that the Chicago Cubs are looking for 3-4 top young prospects in a package for Jeff Samardzija. That said, the Blue Jays will need to put together a solid package if they intend to acquire the right-hander.
If the Toronto Blue Jays make a trade with the Chicago Cubs, it should be a blockbuster. Let me preface this by saying I am AGAINST trading our young arms, but realistically we’re more-than-likely going to have to for a trade like this. I’m hoping to come up with a fair remedy for that dilemma however. I’m familiar with Theo Esptein trades during rebuilding phases and the man does not stray from the plan. Since it’s obvious what Toronto needs at this time, what are the Cubs weaknesses and Toronto’s strengths?
First and foremost, the Cubs are looking to go cheap during the rebuilding phase. With Jeff Samardzija going into arbitration at already $2.64M this past season, he’s probably going to see a significant upgrade in pay (Editor’s note: MLBTR projects $4.9M). Typically, Epstein tries to avoid arbitration and if he’s trading somebody like the Shark, it’s because he can’t hammer out some pre-arbitration agreement. So enter Toronto.
Yes, this sounds a bit crazy, but why not dangle the potential of Brandon Morrow out there. The Cubs still need a pitcher. They do have starters in the pen like Justin Grimm, old Jays friend Carlos Villanueva, and if they’re very desperate, Daniel Bard. With Travis Wood as the Cubs current #1 (I refuse to call him an Ace), Morrow’s 1 year at $10M with a 2015 buyout of $1M might appeal to Theo. Epstein has no young arms ready and it may prevent the Jays from having to give up a guy like Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez, or both. As stated before, it sheds Toronto of $10M. If Toronto wanted to make the offer look more appealing however, they could pick up some of that Morrow money for the Cubs.
So while we’re at it, Toronto’s need for catcher won’t be filled through the Cubs organization, but their 2B spot could be. The Cubs have a plethora of young middle infield talent, but not as much in the outfield. SS Javier Baez is more than ready for The Show, is practically untouchable, and could be up sooner rather than later. He probably won’t move to 3B because the Cubs will most likely give Mike Olt the shot to play 3B being that he’s 25. Behind Baez is SS Arismendy Alcantara, another guy the Cubs are high on. This makes Starlin Castro, who took a step back last season, expendable. He is signed to a lengthy, back loaded contract through 2019, with a team option for 2020. Moving Castro to 2B would immediately stop the train of 2B coming through Toronto, especially if he’s committed and focused. It’s because of that lack of focus and maturity that has possibly put Castro on the outs in Chi-town and he may be obtainable with a decent (ie, NOT Stroman or Sanchez) pitching prospect and Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra.
Like I said, I know this trade sounds a little crazy. I know that plenty of writers this offseason have killed the “you have to give something to get something” phrase to justify their means. When you’re Toronto however, teams around the league know this team is desperate to be a contender. AA showed his hand last season. Doing anything this offseason with a high payroll, last place finishing team, is not going to be easy. So a little outside the box thinking can’t hurt.
Now we want your opinion – what would you give up to bring Jeff Samardzija to Toronto?