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  • Starting Pitching Trade Target: Jeff Samardzija

    A week ago, I looked at the available starting pitchers who are free agents and I distilled the long list of names to three who the MInnesota Twins should target this off-season. The premise is that other than Alex Meyer and maybe Kyle Gibson, the Twins do not have any "sure bets" for the top of their rotation for next season and the near future that will coincide with the coming of age of uber-prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. So, in order to compete in 2014 and to not waste that future, the Twins need three starting pitchers better than Kevin Correia and Kyle Gibson (today) who will occupy the last two spots in the Twins' rotation for 2014.

    These pitchers should be young enough to be around for three years, maybe longer. The two other criteria I used to trim the free agent list, in addition to age (31 next season or younger) were characteristics sorely missed by the Twins' rotations since Johan Santana's departure and Fransisco Liriano's injury and eventual departure: Hard throwing (FB 92 mph or better) and striking people out (K/9 rate of eight or better.) I also excluded pitchers in rehab or mostly in the minors or in foreign leagues in 2013. From the list of 54 free agent pitchers, I ended with an "A" list of five names who meet the criteria and a "B" list of four names who meet some of the criteria.

    It is unlikely the Twins will acquire three free agent pitchers, yet there is a good opportunity to acquire one pitcher who would had been on the A list (and near the top of that list), were he a free agent. It's not Detroit Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello, who is potentially available and young enough, but his fastball is too slow and he does not strike enough people out to even make the "B" list. It's not Cincinnati Reds hurler Homer Bailey, who has enough characteristics to make the "A" list but likely will cost someone like Alex Meyer to acquire, which would defeat the purpose. And it's really not Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, who would likely will cost the farm, and a bit more.

    Who is the mystery pitcher and what would it take for the Twins to acquire him?

    The Twins need to start thinking about selling high (without destroying the team) and buying low. Unfortunately this front office has not been implementing the strategy well, from the Willingham non-trade after a career season, to the clearance sale of Fransisco Liriano, to the giving up of Delmon Young, Kevin Slowey and Jim Thome.

    The proposed trade is Brian Dozier, Casey Fien and Darin Mastroianni to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija.

    Why would the Twins want this trade?

    Samardzija is 29 years old, listed at 6'5" and 225 lbs, is arbitration eligible and under team control for the next 2 years. His estimated 2014 salary is an affordable $5 million. He has top of the rotation stuff, including a fastball that averages 94 mph and K/9 around or higher than nine the past three seasons. And he is durable (175 and 214 IP the last two seasons) and has a negative W-L ratio and ERA in the 4s, which are not top of the rotation results, which is the buy-low part. Given that his xFIP is about a full point lower than his ERA, his SIERA is 3.60 and his xPE (19.8) in the number 2 starter range, his actual results are worse than his potential and were likely influenced by the Cubs' bad defense and their horrible-for-pitchers ballpark.

    Twenty-eight-year-old Brian Dozier is coming off a career season that has cemented in the minds of many the idea that he is the Twins' second baseman of the future and the Twins should move 22-year-old Eddie Rosario back to the outfield. But Dozier's results are likely unsustainable - thus the sell high. Dozier's season with the bat, even though it seems Ruthian among the Twins' hitters, was a league average .726 OPS, resulting from a .244/.312/.414 slash line, that propelled his OPS to average because of his slugging percentage.

    But that slugging percentage was influenced by a ridiculous HR/FB rate that is not sustainable. If it drops a conservative 30 points and a .244/.312/.384 (with a .696 OPS) does not look quite as Ruthian. He is a prime candidate for regression - sell high. Twenty-five-year-old Eduardo Escobar, who quietly had a stellar 2013 AAA campaign and is repeating it in the Venezuela Winter League, can be an immediate replacement with potential shift to shortstop when Eddio Rosario is deemed ready, which could be as soon as September of 2014.

    Thirty-year-old Casey Fien, who in the minds of some is a prime candidate to be the righthanded set-up man (and whom was used partially in that role last season), is the poster boy for selling high. His peak was before the All-Star break (and the Twins lost the opportunity to trade him at the deadline before he regressed) but still has some sell high potential. I explained the reasons to sell high on Fien here then, and they stand, albeit the attractiveness is slightly reduced. The Twins have plenty of pitchers including Michael Tonkin who can replace Fien with potentially better results.

    Why Mastroianni? Because the 28-year-old's future with the Twins as a defensive replacement/pinch runner/fourth outfielder was nulled when the Twins acquired 25-year-old Ryan Pressly. Mastroianni might be the sweetener of the deal for the Cubs.

    Why would the Cubs want the trade?

    Samardzija has shown flashes of brilliance but he has not really translated the potential and expectations into actual wins. There is pressure to win in Chicago and the clock is winding down for the new front office leadership to produce a winner in a division where the Reds, the Cardinals and now the Pirates provide tremendous competition. Thus, the Cubs might soon be in "win-now" mode and spending some real money in free agency.

    Second base was a black hole for them last season. Dozier, who will likely sustain his high HR/FB rates in Wrigley, will help close that hole and continue with his stellar defense. Their 'pen was a mess and Casey Fien, with a l bit of continuation of his luck, will help them fix it. Their outfield, especially centerfield, was very inconsistent. Mastroianni can hold down centerfield in late innings for them. Also, last but not least, all three players are under club control for five years and would cost only about league minimum the first two, helping the Cubs divert that money toward the acquisition of costly free agents

    Is it a fair trade?

    On first look, five years (two at minimum wage) of each of Brian Dozier, Darin Mastroianni and Casey Fien for the last two arbitration years of Jeff Samardzija seems like a slam dunk for the Cubs. However, the Twins are buying low and selling high, making this a fair trade for both teams

    Just in case this happens, for the Twins' fans: The D, Z and I in Samardzija's name (whose nickname is "Shark) are silent, and pronounced Sah-MAR-jah.

    Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch
    This article was originally published in blog: One Starting Pitcher the Twins should target in a trade started by Thrylos
    Comments 23 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      What on earth is that picture!!!!???? Haha.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Mastroianni has zero value, Fien has minimal value. Dozier plus a legit prospect would be a starting point, maybe.
    1. drunksam's Avatar
      drunksam -
      It looks like my high school yearbook picture, but less mullet. Not sure if that is a positive, much like this potential acquisition.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Would only want it if we could sign Samardzija to an extension, otherwise he is a two year rental, not worth the price. Rosario is still unproven though likely and the others are expendable, but would not give up Dozier for a two year rental.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I think the Cubs hang up pretty quick on that one. The Cubs have a ton of middle infield prospects, I don't think Dozier could be a key to this trade, nor do I think he has all that much value.

      The Diamondbacks are reported to be hot on Samardzija and while they won't have to give up Archie Bradley, the rumor is that they should expect to part with Tyler Skaggs. Prospect-wise, you would have to think the Twins would have to give up Alex Meyer to counter. I'm not interested in doing that.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      The Cubs are in practically the exact same position as the Twins. The only reason they'd entertain trading him is because they won't be WS contenders in the next 2 years and they are trying to expedite their rebuild. I highly doubt they'd want MLB talent (ie Dozier), let alone MLB scraps (Fien, Mastroianni). They're going to want prospects. Otherwise, why trade him and still be in the same position?

      If anyone doesn't think Theo is smart enough to see his real value (ERA be damned), you're fooling yourself.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Don't see the Cubs doing this, but it's a good idea if the Twins can get him cheaply. Problem as I see it is that Theo would be very much aware of the same issues you cite.
    1. Big City's Avatar
      Big City -
      Any GM offering that for Shark would be the laughing stock of MLB. The Cubs are in the same position as the Twins in that they're stacked with positional prospects but are thin at pitching prospects. If the Cubs trade Shark, they'll want at least 1 TOR SP which would equate to Meyer or Berrios and May. I'm predicting they target a LHP like Skaggs and/or Corbin from the DBacks.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Wow, if Ryan called the cubs with that package they would laugh at him and then hang up on him. That package isn't in the ball park of what they want. Here is what Heyman said at the deadline after talking rival executives about what the Cubs want for Samardja:

      "Well, the Cubs are basically requesting of teams that they "take whatever they want'' when it comes to a potential Samardzija deal."

      The Cubs need pitching prospects. A realistic package starts with Meyer and might have to include Rosario. Pass.
    1. whosafraidofluigirussolo's Avatar
      whosafraidofluigirussolo -
      Hey, minor thing: Dozier will start the 2014 season at age 26 and play most of the season at 27. You're basically just a year off, but the year makes a difference when players are usually expected to establish themselves as MLB talent or not by their mid-20s.
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      I would make that trade in a second, but the Cubs wouldnt.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      The Cubs would laugh at such an offer.
    1. 34skidoo's Avatar
      34skidoo -
      Unintentionally hilarious picture aside, I too think the Cubs would laugh at that offer.
    1. AussieTwin's Avatar
      AussieTwin -
      I too agree with the consensus that the cubs would laugh that trade off pretty quickly, but the shark isn't even the most interesting pitcher I'd inquire about. I'd be looking specifically at potentially great pitchers who had down years last year (in no particular oder)
      1. Jeremy Hellickson
      2. Ricky Romero
      3. Chad Billingsley
      4. Yovani Gallardo
      5. Dan Hudson
      6. Trevor Cahill
      7. Brett Anderson
    1. TopGunn#22's Avatar
      TopGunn#22 -
      I for one would gladly take a "2-year rental" of Shark. However, if he performed, I'd make every effort to sign him longer term. AussieTwin's list is a good one, but I think "Shark" would be near the top for me. It's an interesting trade, but if I'm the Cubs, I just feel like I'd want a little more, a little "something else." Is Dozier that much better than Darwin Barney (current Cubs 2B)? Fien is O.K. I'd hate to lose him, but give him up in a split second to get "Shark." But to make this possible we have to come up with something other than Mastro, who I think is a dime a dozen kind of guy. It would have to be a minor league pitcher of some note.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      I think the Cubs would be a tough trade partner for the Twins, because their needs and strengths are similar and they, too, are rebuilding. Billingsley and Gallardo both look intriguing to me. I suspect there is something seriously wrong with Ricky Romero, and the Twins record with reclamation projects seems to have bottomed out lately.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Why not include E.Jackson in the trade as Theo has stated he was mabye premature in signing him (code for that didnt work out )this would allow the Cubs to chase Tanaka or who ever Else they taget...and we get 2 pitchers who were better then Half of the players we ran out to the mound last year as starters. Include Correia(cheaper and better then Jackson) Duensing (gonna save Ryan some green) Fien and Bard, Since Theo signed his brother this looks like a good match or landing place for him
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It would take Dozier, Berrios, and Harrison.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by beckmt View Post
      Would only want it if we could sign Samardzija to an extension, otherwise he is a two year rental, not worth the price. Rosario is still unproven though likely and the others are expendable, but would not give up Dozier for a two year rental.
      Isnt he under team controll through the 2016 season?
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      It would take Dozier, Berrios, and Harrison.
      So with Castro already on the Cubs and Bryant and Baez soon to join them , you think sending them a 2b and 3b is something they are interested in? Look to fill the holes they have,not to add depth to there minor leaques.As for Berrois , sure trade him.Adding Jackson to the trade is about the same as signing Nolasco , but with only 3 years instead of 4...
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