Cubs deal Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel to Oakland for Addison Russell, others

Brian Kersey

The first chips fell in the July trade season, and it's a heck of a big deal. We break down the fantasy implications.

Well, it's definitely July now.

The Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics pulled off the first big swap of the trade season, and it was a huge one.


Jeff Samardzija started the season insanely well, with an ERA of 1.68 through the end of May. He struggled more in June, allowing 20 earned runs in 33 innings in six starts in the month. His season ERA sits at 2.83 with a 3.07 FIP. He has 103 strikeouts in 108 innings on the season.

He's 29, and in his seventh season. He became a full-time starter in 2012, and has put up a 19-33 record in that time, a record that can be blamed far more on the Cubs' general not-good-at-baseball-ness than anything Samardzija did himself; he's pitched to a 104 ERA+ in that time and struck out almost exactly a batter an inning.

In a trade market that could include top-of-the-line talent like David Price, Samardzija was seen as one of the possible coups, though the reality is he's fairly clearly a tier below Price and the like. He has one more season of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent after the 2015 season.

Hammel, meanwhile, has pitched almost exactly as well as Samardzija on the season. He has a 2.98 ERA on the season with a 3.12 FIP. In his first season in Chicago, he's put up the best numbers of his career.

The 31-year-old is on a one-year deal, and will be a free agent after the season.

Addison Russell is the prize going the other way. He was Keith Law's No. 3 prospect at the start of the season, and was seen as a possible 2014 debut. He's been hurt for much of 2014, but has played 18 games so far and put up a slash line of .297/.400/.422 in that time. Russell got an A grade from the Fake Teams prospect staff in the preseason

Billy McKinney was Oakland's first-round pick in 2013. He's a center fielder, but might end up on left field long-term. He's got a good hit tool, though he doesn't project to have a lot of power.

Dan Straily, a right-handed starter, has struggled this year - he's 1-2 with a 4.93 ERA. He came out of nowhere in 2012 to make the big-league club, though he's gotten worse in each of his three big-league seasons. He is a big-league starter, but on the low end.

Russell immediately becomes the best prospect in an already-stout Cubs system, and he's filling an already-filled position. The Cubs have the rejuvenated Starlin Castro at shortstop with the big-league club, and Javier Baez - Law's preseason No. 7 prospect - is in AAA. The team also has Kris Bryant nearly ready at third base, and Arismendy Alcantara at second. Both are close to the big leagues.

The Cubs have one of the best problems you can have, with too many elite guys for too few spots. Something will happen - something always happens - to fix it; someone will fail, or get dealt, or move to left field. Straily is going to have to prove more talent going forward, with the Cubs not having much in future pitching depth. For now, though, the Cubs have what is probably baseball's best minor-league system, and it cost them only half a season of Hammel and an expensive season and a half of Samardzija.

Samardzija and Hammel both enter the Oakland rotation, taking the place of Brad Mills and (presumably) Jesse Chavez, who has fallen off a fair amount since his hot start to the season. The Oakland starting five now consists of, in some order, Samardzija, Hammel, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Tommy Milone, and they ply their trade in one of the best pitcher's parks in the game.

Samardzija and Hammel theoretically see their value dip a bit by moving to the American League, especially to a top-heavy American League West, but both guys move from a hitter's park to a pitcher's park and get to move to baseball's best team - Samardzija famously couldn't get any run support for much of the season, and now could see loads of the same. Whatever value they lose moving to the AL, they more than recoup by going to that ballpark, with that team around them.

The move also ought to help Samardzija and Hammel moving toward free agency as well, as both have the opportunity to boost their value in Oakland before hitting the open market.

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