Last night, Mark Kiszla over at the Denver Post wrote a very interesting article advocating that the Colorado Rockies should trade top prospect Jon Gray for Jeff Samardzija. You can see that article here, and although I disagree with Kiszla’s conclusion, he makes some good points and it’s a good read. And it really got me thinking.
As Kiszla points out, Jeff Samardzija is a good fit for Coors field. His ground ball rate, which the Rockies have made clear and shown through their personnel decisions that they care about, has been moving steadily up since it was just 30.4% in a limited cameo in 2010. Since then, it has been raised to 41% in 2011, 44.6% in 2012, 48.2% last year, and up to 51.6% this season. Samardzija, at 29 years old, is in his prime, and he’d never pitched better than he has this year. His ERA is 1.45 through eight starts and 56 innings, and his 0-3 record is the type of aberration that could only happen on a terrible baseball team like the Cubs. Had Samardzija had these numbers on the Rockies, he’d probably be 7-0. I think we have established that he is a good pitcher, better than any the Rockies currently have in the rotation. That begs the question: why not trade Gray for him? Well, I came up with a few reasons to back my instant reaction:
Service Time: Jeff Samardzija is being paid $5.3 million this season, in his second to last year of arbitration. Next year, that number will probably be around $11 million, give or take a few million. After that, he’s a free agent. So if the Rockies were to trade for Samardzija, they’d be assured a year and a half of the pitcher before he would be able to leave. Meanwhile, the Rockies have Gray dirt-cheap for a long long time. Depending on when he gets the call-up, Gray could be under control for six or seven more years, as opposed to the one and a half years for Jeff Samardzija. That’s a big difference.
Window of Contention: Would the Rockies with Jeff Samardzija be a better team than the Rockies without Jeff Samardzija? Absolutely. Would they be good enough to make a run in the playoffs? That’s more up for debate, and I would lean towards answering no. Even with Samardzija, the rotation would still be spotty (fully healthy, it would probably look something like: Samardzija, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Brett Anderson, Jordan Lyles), and while the team would be good, I’m not sure they’d be good enough to win the strong NL West. In the next two or three years, though? I think that’s when this team will have the best shot at contending, especially with Jon Gray on the team. The trade might just be decreasing the potential of a Rockies’ playoff run in the coming seasons.
The Rockies’ Best Pitching Prospect Ever: If the Rockies were to trade Jon Gray now, imagine how much flak ownership would take if/when he turns into a productive starter. Gray is simply the best pitching prospect the Rockies have ever had, and it seems silly to trade him away for a year and a half of Jeff Samardzija.
In the end, I came to a conclusion that the trade of Jon Gray for Jeff Samardzija would probably not be a good one. But I still really do like Samardzija, so I looked around for another possible trade. I don’t think Michael Cuddyer would be involved in this trade, simply because the Cubs are looking towards the future so would be averse to trading for an older player. I also think that the Rockies would be unlikely to trade Corey Dickerson at this point, given the potential he has shown. So here’s what I came up with:
Rockies trade: Eddie Butler, Kyle Parker, Chad Bettis/Tyler Matzek
Cubs trade: Jeff Samardzija
If you’re the Rockies, it’s tough to give up Butler, but this trade is still doable. Parker is going to be a good hitter, but he doesn’t have the potential that David Dahl has. And in return, the Rockies would get an ace. Meanwhile, I think the Cubs would really have to consider this offer. Butler is a future #2 or #3 big league starting pitcher, and Parker is the middle-of-the-order hitter the Cubs need to pair with Anthony Rizzo. In Bettis or Matzek, the Cubs also get a high-potential pitcher. Both have had their fair share of trouble, but the talent is still there for both. The Cubs are playing for the future, and the addition of Butler, Parker, and Bettis or Matzek would be valuable.
If the Cubs don’t bite, another offer could be Butler and Dahl for Samardzija. I think the Rockies would be reluctant to give up Dahl, let alone both, but the Cubs would definitely have to think about an offer like this and I think Colorado would choose to do it in the end because Samardzija is the sure thing that Butler and Dahl are not.
As a final, and more unlikely, proposal, there might be a way for the Rockies to get Samardzija without trading either of their prized pitching prospects. Would the Cubs consider a package of Tom Murphy, Dahl, Trevor Story, and Parker? Unlikely, but it would be a great deal for the Rockies considering they already have plenty of outfield depth.
In the end, I think the Rockies would love to add Jeff Samardzija to their rotation. He’s a good pitcher and would immediately become the staff ace. With that being said, I don’t think Jon Gray would be on the table, simply because he’s one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and it would be tough to trade him. Eddie Butler is more trade-able, and I think a deal around Butler and David Dahl or Kyle Parker would make a lot of sense for both sides while not being too scary for the Rockies. This isn’t the type of deal the Colorado Rockies normally make, but it’s one that makes a lot of sense.