Aside from the fact that the Chicago Cubs sit in last place in the National League Central Division with a 25-35 record and the third worst record in the league, there are other issues facing the Cubs.
They have arguably one of the best pitchers in the game in Jeff Samardzija, a guy that could be their ace for years to come, or one that could garner elite pitching prospects in a trade. That is the dilemma the Cubs are faced with: do they keep their best pitcher that has proven he can get the job done or does Theo Epstein trade him for elite pitching prospects that for the most part have yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues?
While Samardzija does not have the record to show that he has been one of the best pitchers in the league as he is currently 2-5, his numbers show otherwise. Samardzija has an ERA of 2.54 which has recently gone up thanks to a poor start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Prior to that start Samardzija had not had an ERA above 2.00. He has a WHIP of 1.13, which is 20 points lower than his career WHIP of 1.33 and opponents are only batting .229 against him. His strikeout rate is down from what we are accustomed to seeing from Samardzija, but the contact rate is up which is keeping his pitch count down and allowing him to stay in games longer. He has 85.0 IP up to this point and is on pace to throw well over 200 innings. After these statistics, some might ask “why in the world would you trade him?”
The answer is simple; the Cubs are not close to contending for at least another three years. Although Samardzija has pitched as well as he ever has, he is 29 years old. This means in three years, when the Cubs may be able to contend he will be 32 years old. If the Cubs were to trade him now, they would get maximum value as he has never been as good as he is now. Doing so would bring back elite pitching prospects such as Kevin Gausman and/or Dylan Bundy of the Baltimore Orioles. Both of these pitchers are under the age of 24 and would ideally seem to peak just as the Cubs strong group of hitting prospects is ready to take center stage at Wrigley Field.
To me, the decision is easy. The Cubs must trade Jeff Samardzija, because it is what will be in the best interest of the organization. Trading Samardzija may be a difficult move to accept, but it is one that is needed. In trading Samardzija it would allow Chicago to garner one, if not two elite pitching prospects, which is the Cubs’ biggest area of need. It would also allow the Cubs to get younger in the rotation that currently has four of the five starters age 28 or older. In today’s world of baseball pitching is everything, and if the Cubs want to contend anytime soon, they will do what is best for the Cubs and trade Jeff Samardzija.