In the first big trade of the trade deadline season, the Chicago Cubs sent righties Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for top prospects Addison Russell, Dan Straily, and Billy McKinney as well as a player to be named later or cash. The deal's completion was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.
Samardzija has long been a trade candidate due to his pending free agency in 2016, Samardzija, a former wide receiver for the University of Notre Dame, has put together his best season in the first half of 2014. In 17 starts, Samardzija has posted a 2.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .245 opponent batting average, 103 strikeouts and 31 walks in 17 starts and 108 innings pitched.
The 29-year-old has been one of the most coveted players on the trade market over the last two years. Before becoming a starter, Samardzija was a valuable pitcher out of the bullpen before developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Hammel has seemingly blossomed in his first year for the Chicago Cubs. Hammel previously pitched for the Tamba Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles before signing a one-year, $6 million contract in the offseason. In 2014, Hammel has posted a 2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 97 strikeouts and 21 walks in 102 2/3 innings pitched in 16 starts. His 2.9 wins above replacement in the first half of the 2014 season is greater than any WAR he posted in any full season in his career.
Russell, the 11th overall draft pick in the 2012 First-Year Player's draft, represented the top prospect in the Oakland farm system. Prior to the 2014 season, Keith Law of ESPN ranked Russell as the third best prospect in all of baseball, behind only Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins and Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox. Russell has an incredibly mature approach at the plate and has the potential to be an impact bat at shortstop.
McKinney was the 24th overall pick of the A's in the 2013 First-Year Player's Draft. McKinney, an outfield prospect, projects to have a plus-power tool and is a complete player. McKinney is a solid defensive outfielder and is an above-average baserunner despite average speed.
Straily is a former 24th round draft pick from the 2009 First-Year Player's Draft. In his career, Straily has posted a 4.11 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 41 career starts.
The trio of prospects heading to Chicago represent Oakland's top two position player prospects and one of their top pitching prospects. Cubs general manager Theo Epstein appears to have garnered a significant coup for his two most valuable trade chips in his ever-continuing rebuilding project in Chicago.