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.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”