Washington Nationals v Chicago Cubs - Game Two

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.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .