For the past several years, the name Jeff Samardzija has been synonymous with “Oh my god, what a disaster! Really, avert your eyes, everyone avert your eyes!” No, it’s not a synonym that comes in handy for writers all that often, but any shorthand can be useful.
Useful has not been something Samardzija has been, putting up ERAs of 7.53 and 8.38 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. But this year he has turned things around. In 69 relief appearances he has more than doubled his strikeouts per nine innings, dramatically cut his walk rate and reduced the number of hits he’s allowed. He is sporting an ERA of 3.12 and a 1.279 WHIP which, while not All-Star material for a short reliever is really good and is especially good for a guy like Samardzija.
Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times reports that, as a result of this great leap forward, the Cubs are having internal discussions about moving Samardzija to the rotation for 2012.
“We’ll evaluate where we’re at this winter, and who the [front office] might go get,’’ [pitching coach Mark] Riggins said. ‘‘But you’ve got to look from within first. And of the guys that we have who could possibly do that, he’s one you’ve got to think about.’’
Coming in to 2011, it looked like the Cubs’ rotation would be a strength. That notion has gone the way of many a man’s best laid plans, so the Cubs need to be creative. With a new general manager on the way and no sense yet of what direction the team may take in terms of spending. rebuilding, etc., it makes all the sense in the world to put Samardzija on a program that will get him ready to start games next spring. Flexibility is the key.
Now, if I could only convince myself that 2009 and 2010 were the aberrations and 2011 was what we could expect to see for the rest of his career …
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.