Quickly after the reports that the A’s and Cubs were discussing a deal came word that it had actually come to fruition. Keith Law of ESPN tweeted last night:
Cubs/A’s deal official. Samardzija and Hammel for Russell, McKinney, Straily, PTBNL. Analysis to follow on ESPN Insider.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) July 5, 2014
To say that it’s a game changer is an understatement, so let’s take a look at the fallout from this deal:
The A’s Rotation
Oakland clearly is in a win now mode, giving their already talented rotation a major boost. Both Brad Mills and Tommy Milone will likely be the odd men out, either going to Triple-A or the bullpen to add depth in case of an injury (Scott Kazmir has a history) or someone running out of steam (Jesse Chavez pitched just 87.1 IP in ’13). However neither are tremendous options and can be cut in most formats.
Drew Pomeranz is the more interesting pitcher who no longer has a rotation spot waiting for him (currently on the DL), though he would likely get starts before the other two. As a starter he owned a 3.21 ERA and 1.24 WHIP courtesy of believable luck metrics (.266 BABIP, 75.6% strand rate). Look for him to continue to be stretched out at Triple-A and be the first person called upon if/when a need arises. That makes him someone to monitor in most formats, though not much else.
As for the pitchers that the A’s obtained, generally moving to the AL is a negative for a starting pitcher though Oakland is one of the friendlier home ballparks. We’ve seen pitchers look good there and there is little reason to think that their new toys are suddenly going to struggle solely due to the move.
For Samardzija, going from one of the worst ball clubs to arguably the best is a welcomed move. Despite owning a 2.83 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, he’s managed just 2 W thanks to the lack of run support. His strikeout rate has been on the rise of late, up to an 8.58 K/9 overall, with marks of 8.74 in May and 10.64 in June. He also has consistently shown good control (2.58 BB/9) and owns a career best 52.5% groundball rate. There’s no reason to think that he’s not going to continue to thrive, only with a better chance to win ballgames. In other words, he’s going to remain one of the better options for both 2014 and 2015.
Things may be slightly different for Hammel, who owned a 4.97 ERA pitching for the Orioles last season. While he owns a 2.98 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, it’s easy to imagine his 1.90 BB/9 regressing (3.00 for his career). He also has been hit relatively hard this season, with a 22.1% line drive rate, meaning there’s a bit of luck behind his success (.272 BABIP). While we also have some doubts on his strikeouts, with an 8,61 K/9, he has owned a career best 10.7% SwStr%. The bottom line? We would’ve dubbed him a sell high candidate if he had been staying in Chicago and the move to Oakland doesn’t change that. Now may be the perfect time to sell him off.
The Cubs Rotation
Exactly who is going to step into the two holes in the rotation is not yet known, but Dan Straily should ultimately fill one of them. He struggled in the Majors this season (4.93 ERA), and also at Triple-A (4.71 ERA). As a pitcher who has shown fly ball tendencies in the Majors (46.8% for his career), you have to wonder how he’ll fit outside of Oakland and in Wrigley (especially when the wind is blowing out). That’s going to be a major concern, though we will hope that a minor league career 9.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 help to offset that. In deeper formats he’s definitely worth monitoring.
The team does have a few options at Triple-A who can step in immediately. Dallas Beeler recently fared well in a spot start and could get another look, though his upside is limited. More likely is Tsuyoshi Wada, who owns a 2.66 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 105 K and 26 BB over 101.2 IP. Considering that he’s also limited the hard contact (16.7% line drive rate) and has a believable .305 BABIP there’s an awful lot to like. In deeper formats he could prove worth the gamble.
Both Eric Jokisch and Kyle Hendricks could also be considered, so we’ll have to wait and see how things play out.
The Other Cubs Acquisitions
Addison Russell is considered one of the elite prospects in the game. Sure, the team already has Starlin Castro at shortstop, as well as Javier Baez at Triple-A (and Arismendy Alcantara), but when you can get your hands on this type of talent you don’t turn it down. Splitting time between Single and Double-A, he was hitting .297 with 1 HR and 4 SB in 64 AB (he missed significant time due to injury). Last year he tore up High-A, with a slash of .275/.377/.508 and may not be far from reaching the Majors. As to who eventually goes? Time will tell, but would it really be a surprise to see Castro shipped out to improve the stock of young pitchers?
Billy McKinney was the A’s first round draft pick in 2013 out of high school. He was hitting .241 with 10 HR and 5 SB in 290 AB at High-A this season, but the outfielder is clearly a few years away. He has upside, but isn’t going to be making an impact any time soon.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Minor League Central, MILB.com