With the draft and trade deadline approaching in the next couple of months, the baseball rumor mill seems ready to heat up after a couple of quiet early-season months. We are less than two months away from the trade deadline, and rumors about starting pitchers who could become available are starting to fly. The latest from around the league:
Don't rule out Samardzija extension
The top name on the trade market at this point is Cubs' ace Jeff Samardzija, who has been linked to the Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and pretty much every other team who could use a front-end starter. Samardzija is under contract for next season as well, making him a very attractive candidate for teams who could use a jolt this season and are trying to contend in the near future. But it's not a foregone conclusion that the Cubs will deal Samardzija, especially considering how is a homegrown talent and viewed highly by many within the front office.
Samardzija is not Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza or Scott Feldman, who all pitched elsewhere before joining the Cubs midway through their careers. He has played his entire career with the North Siders since being drafted in 2006. He is viewed by many as the face of the franchise, and at 29, could be a rotation cornerstone for years to come.
That's why, as sources have mentioned since trade rumors about Samardzija started last summer, the Cubs are still considering an extension for him. Word is that the club has had "continued dialogue" with Samardzija about an extension despite the possibility of a trade, and would still love to keep him in Chicago if the sides are able to reach a middle ground in talks.
Oh, and about that rumor from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that the Cubs could deal Samardzija before Thursday's draft in exchange for a competitive balance pick: I'm told that it's "possible, but unlikely" at this point. I bet the Orioles wished they had their 37th pick (which they traded to Houston as part of the Bud Norris trade last summer) right about now.
McCarthy could hit trade market
Samardzija and teammate Jason Hammel are the pitchers most often mentioned in trade rumors, but Diamondbacks' righty Brandon McCarthy would make sense for a lot of teams looking to add a veteran arm to their rotation. The 30-year old has struggled this season, posting a 5.20 ERA in twelve starts so far, but is a free agent after the season and would be a fit for a team like the Blue Jays, who are looking for rental starters. Sources indicate that the Jays have had interest in McCarthy in the past, and that it's "very likely" that the D-Backs shop him given his contract status and the team's position as sellers on the trade market.
Another team to watch on McCarthy is the Red Sox, who were finalists to sign him at the Winter Meetings two years ago. Before inking a two-year, $15.5M deal with the D-Backs, McCarthy had serious discussions with the Red Sox, who were willing to offer the same deal as he got from Arizona--without the second guaranteed year. He chose the D-Backs and the Sox signed Ryan Dempster, but the sides could finally unite if the Boston is looking for starters this summer.
Shields could become most coveted starter in trade talks
The Royals have been one of the most disappointing clubs in baseball, currently sitting in last place in the AL Central with a 27-30 mark after being thought of as a World Series contender before the season. Because of their struggles, ace James Shields could hit the trade market and become the most coveted pitcher available this summer.
Word is that if the Royals continue struggling, trade talks will heat up quickly for Shields in July. He is a free agent after the season and has an excellent reputation as a workhorse throughout the league, and seems like the perfect candidate to join a contender for the season's last two months. If he is shopped by Kansas City, expect the Blue Jays, Angels and Dodgers to be the most interested teams, followed by clubs like the Red Sox, Yankees and Cardinals.
Will you get the prospect you want in the draft?
Rehabbing hurlers could make impact
Major league pitchers on the trade market will make headlines from now until July 31, but there are plenty of rehabbing pitchers out there who could help teams down the stretch. Veterans Jair Jurrjens (Reds), Todd Coffey (Mariners), Kevin Gregg (Marlins) and Jason Marquis (Phillies) have found homes in recent days, and plenty of other guys could sign minor league deals in the near future.
Among them are Cristhian Martinez (who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and is expected to throw for teams soon), Clayton Richard, Jeff Niemann, Jeff Karstens, Octavio Dotel (who has been rehabbing in the Dominican with an eye on returning this season) and Ryan Madson. For teams looking for minor league depth, ex-Twin Alex Burnett has thrown for the Royals, Red Sox and Mariners in recent weeks and could sign soon.
Polanco call-up coming soon
With top prospects George Springer and Jon Singleton (Astros) and Oscar Taveras (Cardinals) coming up to the majors, calls from Pirates' fans for the promotion of Gregory Polanco have never been louder. One source indicates that the Super Two cutoff deadline is likely to be around June 10, meaning that Polanco could finally get the call then. Indications are that the Pirates would like to promote him while at home, meaning that their seven-game homestand from June 6 to June 12 would make the most sense. It is doubtful that they will wait as long as their next roadtrip, which begins in Miami on June 13.
Singleton deal angers people around the game
Jon Singleton's five-year, $10M deal with the Astros was an unprecedented one due to the fact that he has zero major league service time, and it heralded some strong reactions from around the league. Agents with young players in similar situations were furious about the team-friendly market being set for top prospects looking to sign long-term deals. Some quotes from certified agents, who asked to kept anonymous:
"Disaster deal. He basically gave away his arbitration years and a year of free agency for $7.5M. After taxes, agent fees and stuff, he's left with $3.5M.
People don't realize how expensive life in the big leagues is. Yes, if I made $100K a year and lived in Iowa I would live like a king but if I moved to Bel-Air I would go broke in two months.
It's the same thing. $10M is not money at that level. After everything, he's left with half and after buying a home and playing a little bit he won't have any money. When that deal is done in five years he won't have a penny."
"The dirty nature of the industry leads to bad deal for players. The agents talking smack are the ones who play the dirtiest. Guaranteed money works for smaller agencies and "some" players. Ironically, greed has led to less guaranteed money."
Even ex-Astro Bud Norris, who is now with the Orioles, hated the deal. He sounded off on Twitter last night, later noting that "the kid can flat out play" and "should have been in the league months ago".
Sorry but this Singleton deal is terrible. Wish the Jon listened to the union and not his agent.— Bud Norris (@BudNorris25) June 3, 2014
On the flip side, some think that the deal was the safe way to go for Singleton, who is viewed as a risk because of his alcohol- and marijuana-tainted past. A source close to Singleton says "he's in a great place and really turned it around", and I can understand how it would be hard for a 22-year old to turn down a $10M guarantee that could reach $35M.
But his teammates did turn down similar offers. As Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported in his eye-opening piece on the Astros' front office last month, Robbie Grossman (24 years old) turned down a six-year, $13.5M deal with two club options, and Matt Dominguez (also 24) turned down a five-year, $14.5M deal with two options. And as we all know, George Springer turned down a four-year, $7.6M deal that could have been worth $23M over seven years.