A’s acquire Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel from Cubs for Addison Russell

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FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal says the deal is done and that the A’s will get both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, giving up top shortstop prospect Addison Russell in return. He adds that other players and teams may be involved.

11:00 p.m. EDT update: the deal is offical. Along with Russell, the Cubs will get outfield prospect Billy McKinney and right-hander Dan Straily.

Straily will presumably fill one of the vacancies in the Cubs rotation. Veteran Japanese hurler Tsuyoshi Wada could get the other one. Russell and McKinney won’t be factors in the short term, but they further boost a system that’s already loaded offensively.

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Baseball’s best team is aiming to make a preemptive strike, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The A’s and Cubs are talking about a deal that could send Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel or perhaps both to Oakland.

Both Rosenthal and CBS Sports.com’s Jon Heyman are reporting that top prospect Addison Russell is being discussed. Russell, a plus defensive shortstop with definite All-Star potential, is Oakland’s top prospect and one of the five or 10 best in the game.

For that reason, it’s hard to imagine the A’s giving Russell up without getting an ace in return, especially with the Rays’ David Price, the Phillies’ Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee and the Red Sox’s Jon Lester all potentially becoming available later this month. Russell should be a top target of any of those teams should they choose to deal.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were thought to be more focused on landing young pitching. They already possess another one of the game’s four elite shortstop prospects in Javier Baez (the other two being Houston’s Carlos Correa and Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor), plus a nifty incumbent in Starlin Castro. If they have the chance to get Russell, they should jump and then worry about the fit later. Russell is a better defensive shortstop than Baez and would be the more likely of the two to stay at the position.

Meanwhile, the A’s aren’t exactly suffering with their current crew. Third starter Jesse Chavez has a 3.23 ERA, and fourth starter Tommy Milone shut out the Blue Jays for six innings today to lower his ERA to 3.55. Fifth starter Drew Pomeranz is on the DL, but Brad Mills has looked adequate filling in for him, and Dan Straily is still kicking in Triple-A if needed.

Straily, in fact, would seem to be an obvious part of a Samardzija or Hammel trade, what with the Cubs’ penchant for taking on young, underachieving major league starters. It’s a strategy that has netted them Jake Arrieta and Travis Wood. Pomeranz might also fit that bill.

Samardzija, for what it’s worth, has one year left of arbitration in 2015 and should make somewhere in the $10 million neighborhood next year. Hammel will be a free agent at season’s end.

So, we’ll see what this all comes to. The thinking here is that since the A’s are most likely going to the postseason regardless, it’s not worth sacrificing Russell for a non-ace (and maybe not even for an ace). Samardzija and Hammel have had excellent seasons, with both sporting sub-3.00 ERAs and striking out 8.5 batters per nine innings in the NL, but neither will be any kind of sure thing headed into the postseason. That’s particularly true of Hammel, who is on pace to easily eclipse his previous career high of 177 2/3 innings.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.