The Orioles are the "leading team of interest in the Jeff Samardzija sweepstakes," according to CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine. Levine's sources confirmed that both teams are interested in pursuing a deal that would send the NL Cy Young candidate to Baltimore. Samardzija is second in the National League in ERA by one one-hundredth of a point with a 1.77 mark to the Cardinals Adam Wainwright.
Levine lists Orioles pitching prospects Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, and Eduardo Rodriguez as potential targets for the Cubs, noting that Chicago will likely insist on acquiring one of the O's top minor league arms. In January, Minor League Ball's John Sickels listed those pitchers as the top four players in the Orioles system, with Gausman and Bundy topping the list. Some evaluators are much higher on Harvey -- son of former big league closer Bryan Harvey.
Samardzija, 29, has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he will qualify for free agency in 2016. He will earn $5.35 million this season, and a substantial raise is awaiting him in the offseason due to his stellar performance so far. Even if he falters to some extent the rest of the way, his sub-2.00 ERA through May should cause him to finish the year with solid numbers -- and that's predominantly how the arbitration panel decides salary. Unfortunately for Samardzija, the panel might still put some weight in pitching wins, and since he's starting games for one of the worst teams in the game, he might lose a little money if he doesn't get credit for a few more wins this year.
Baltimore has been actively attempting to improve for 2014, perhaps more so than any other team in the league. They took a well-rewarded chance on Nelson Cruz -- who currently leads the league in home runs with 17; and they went after Ubaldo Jimenez in free agency. Both players cost the club a draft pick, and a trading for an ace would obviously cost them more young talent, but if the O's land another starter like Samardzija, they could make a run for the AL East pennant.