By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Would a run at right-hander Jeff Samardzija make sense for the Chicago White Sox?
Any White Sox fan worth his 2005 World Series banner would more than likely jump at the chance to add the Northwest Indiana native to an impressive group of young starting pitchers already in the rotation mix. That being the said, how much would you be willing to trade for a one-year buy-in? This appears to be the case for Samardzija, the former Cub and current Oakland Athletic who will become a free agent 11 months from now.
Agent Mark Rodgers and Samardzija have been firm in their stance that they won’t sign before the pitcher hits the open market. How does that impact his present situation? Samardzija has one year of arbitration remaining that will net him $10 million to $12 million in 2015. Oakland general manager Billy Beane has begun to dump salaries that he took on last season, when he made a midseason trade to acquire Samardzija and others. Samardzija would bring back a king’s ransom in player value if clubs knew they could retain him beyond 2015.
Teams like the White Sox would love to add the power pitcher. Knowing it could be a one-and-done contract, the lingering question is what, if anything, will you offer and what does Beane expect in return? It’s a difficult question with no clear answer. With this understanding, how far do you go before you end up like Beane? He gave up the fourth-rated player in the minor leagues, Addison Russell, to the Cubs in the July deal for Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Beane’s team became unproductive after yet another trade in July. He sent slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for pitcher Jon Lester. Thus we now have the potential for a fire sale, as Oakland returns into hibernation mode, gathering prospects for its current high-caliber players with potentially large contract futures.
The White Sox talked to Beane, as did multiple other clubs, about Samardzija at the general manager meetings in Arizona three weeks ago. Beane would love to see Samardzija and his agent agree to talk to other teams about a long-term contract. At this point, the Samardzija camp has remained consistent in its position to wait for free agency in November of 2015. The reasoning is that current free agents like Lester and Max Scherzer will establish a new salary plateau for pitching aces this offseason.
A lesser deal is something that the White Sox might consider, but it makes little sense for the long-term view they have of their organization’s path. The short-term impact could be great but brief. It would give the White Sox a sexy rotation to promote, with Chris Sale and Samardzija as the co-aces of the young and exciting rotation. Winning a division in 2015 would also jump start a team whose ticket selling ability has certainly been questioned, having their lowest ticket sales since 1999.
Names that Beane would want in return for Samardzija could begin with young pitching and/or most likely the organization’s top young infielders, like Micah Johnson and Tim Anderson. At this point, there’s no evidence the White Sox are close to acquiring Samardzija. That could change, but the philosophy of the team and pitchers hasn’t so far.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.