On a Blockbuster Trade

By now, you’re probably familiar with the particulars of this trade, so I’ll just summarize here. On Friday, the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics made the following deal:

A’s Get:
SP Jeff Samardzija
SP Jason Hammel

Cubs Get:
SS Addison Russell
OF Billy Mckinney
SP Dan Straily
A player to be named later

This is a classic swap of present value for future value. The A’s get two pitchers who’ll immediately slot into their starting rotation. The Cubs get four minor league players.*

*In theory, I suppose, the PTBNL could actually be someone from Oakland’s major league roster. The only special restriction on a player to be named later is that he must change leagues, and given that the A’s are an AL team and the Cubs are an NL team, that’s no restriction at all. History tells us, though, that most such players are minor league non-prospects. There’s also the possibility of “cash considerations,” which means the A’s would give the Cubs some token amount of money – generally $1 – to complete the deal. Either way, it’s immaterial.

For the A’s, it makes sense to go all-in at this point in the season. They’re currently first in the AL West, but not by a terribly comfortable margin; the Angels are right on their heels and the Mariners aren’t too far behind. Moreover, most of the big powerhouse teams in the American League are fading. The Red Sox, as mentioned, are a mess, as are the Rays. The aging Yankees will need a big push just to make the postseason. Even the mighty Tigers look mortal, and ace Justin Verlander isn’t quite what he used to be.

This might be Oakland’s best shot at the World Series, and adding another All-Star to their rotation certainly boosts their chances.

For Chicago, this trade makes all the sense in the world. Hammel was a free agent after this season, and Samardzija was only under contract for one more year. Neither pitcher was likely to be part of the next winning Cubs team. Russell, on the other hand, is one of the very best prospects in all of baseball – Baseball America recently ranked him #5 in the league – and could be an infield mainstay for years to come. Mckinney, too, has a shot at a productive big-league career as a bat-first corner outfielder, and Straily is at least an interesting arm. If Russell plays up to his potential, this is a clear win for Chicago. If he plays up to his potential and one of the other prospects does the same, it’s an absolute steal.

And of course, if the A’s win a World Series with Samardzija and Hammel, I doubt they’ll care.

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