Chicago Cubs shopping starting pitching

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to Cubs fans. After trading away Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm in 2012 as well as Scott Feldman and Matt Garza last season, this scenario was expected. So what is so interesting about this year’s version? The fact that they are listening to offers on four of their starting pitchers.

Jeff Samardzija

jeff samardzija chicago cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

Last season was a very strong one for Samardzija. While he didn’t perform as well in the second half of the season, he still logged 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. This season has gone even better so far. His ERA (2.77), home runs per 9 innings (0.5), and WAR for Pitchers (2.2) rank among the top ten in the National League.

The Cubs are still trying to extend Samardzija, but they have also been listening to offers for him since last season. With one year of team control left, Samardzija would be more than just a rental piece for the second half of the season. This could entice more teams to try to pick him up, but it could also drive up his price.

There is some speculation that a trade for Samardzija could require a bigger package than what the Texas Rangers gave the Cubs for Matt Garza last year. C.J. Edwards is one of the top pitching prospects for the Cubs, Mike Olt has provided a lot of power (and strikeouts) at third base in the majors, and pitchers Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez have been dominant out of the bullpen. That deal has been ‘haunting’ Texas G.M. Jon Daniels, and it would likely require more than that to pry Samardzija out of Chicago.

Jason Hammel

Signed to a 1-year, $6 million deal right before Spring Training, Hammel was instantly pegged as this year’s version of Scott Feldman. Feldman signed a similar deal before 2013, and was traded to Baltimore in early July. Both were not expected to provide stability to the rotation, but could get the team a nice return in a trade if they pitched well enough. Feldman did that last year, and Hammel has been even better.

So far this year, Hammel has been on pace to set career bests in several categories including ERA (3.02), WHIP (1.019), and walks per 9 innings (1.9). His WHIP, strikeouts (85), hits per 9 innings (7.254), and WAR for Pitchers (2.6) also rank in the top ten in the National League. He has been pitching exceptionally well so far this season, much like rotation mate Samardzija.

Since his deal is only for one year, Hammel would simply be a rental for the rest of the season. One thing that might attract different teams to Hammel is that his price won’t be nearly as high as Samardzija’s. With that said, Hammel can still require a very good and major-league-ready pitching prospect.

Edwin Jackson

Jackson was signed to a 4 year, $52 million deal before the 2013 season. The Cubs signed him for his durability (30+ starts in each of the previous six seasons), and hoped that he would be able to take command of his stuff and become a fixture in their starting rotation. Jackson has provided the durability with 31 starts last year (and being on pace to reach 30 again this year), but he hasn’t provided much more than that. Sometimes he has been able to pitch very well and make people think that he is worth $11 million per year, but then he will follow it up with one or more bad starts.

In his time with the Cubs Jackson’s inconsistency has resulted in mostly lackluster numbers, including an ERA above 5.00. Last year he led the major leagues in losses, and also ranked in the NL top ten in hits allowed (197), earned runs (97), and wild pitches (14). This year hasn’t been much better with a 5.11 ERA and NL top ten rankings in earned runs (45) and walks (33).

Jake Arrieta

jake arrieta chicago cubs

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta.

The Cubs acquired Arrieta last year as a part of the Scott Feldman trade, and has pitched well with them so far. In his 17 starts he has an ERA just under 3.00, including a 2.09 mark so far this season. As well as his very low ERA, he has career bests in K/9 (9.2), BB/9 (2.9), and K/BB (3.14). All of these numbers help indicate that Arrieta is pitching the best that he has in his big league career. It is interesting that the Cubs are listening to offers for him, but it might not be the worst idea. His current performance is likely driving his price up, and only being 28 years old means that other teams could be interested in him long-term.

What remains?

The one pitcher that is not reportedly on the market is Travis Wood, their lone all-star from last year. Wood has been pitching well for most of this season, and he has been hitting well, too. He has a .276 batting average and an .874 OPS this year, and hit a pinch-hit game winning double Monday night against the Marlins. Travis Wood is an athlete, and the Cubs would be wise to hold on to him.

Moving some of their rotation pieces would open up some spots for some of their pitching prospects. Waiting in the wings are guys like Kyle Hendricks and Eric Jokisch, and it might be beneficial for them to get big league experience in the second half this year.

If the Cubs do decide to move any (or all) of these guys, then they could get a lot of good young pitching prospects and continue to beef up their impressive farm system. We will definitely keep our eyes on these guys, and any moves that the team makes.

For more Chicago Cubs news and notes, check out their team page.

  • Bert D

    As a lifelong Cub fan, I am still waiting for the new brain trust to tell us exactly when they are going to start keeping their best players and try and field a team that can win more games than they lose. No matter how true it is, I am tired of hearing how great the players are in the minors while having to watch the disgrace they put on at the major league level. They are responsible for fielding three of the worst teams in the Cubs long history and the fans are getting sick of it, which is reflected by the falling attendance. We’re not asking you to sign some big name, big ticket free agents…just put capable ball players on the field while we’re waiting for all the youngsters to arrive.