The Toronto Blue Jays have been linked to Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija dating back t0 spring training, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports reports the surprise leaders in the American League East are much more likely to trade for Kansas City Royals starter James Shields.
Samardzija, 29, has pitched much better than Shields, 32, this season with a 1.68 earned-run average, which ranks second in Major League Baseball to Adam Wainwright‘s 1.67 mark compared to Shields who boasts a 3.36 ERA, but the Blue Jays prefer him over Samardzija because it would not gut their farm system.
Further, a potential acquisition of Shields would come with the knowledge that he has had success in the division dating back to his days in the Tampa Bay Rays rotation before being dealt prior to last season. Shields is 6-3 this year and is coming off a win in Toronto, but there is no guarantee that the Royals would put him on the market so soon after acquiring him in a trade and the fact that the Royals are only 3.5 games from a wildcard spot roughly one-third of the way through the season.
Shields will be eligible for free agency after the season and it is unclear if he will return to Kansas City following the season, but the Royals will receive a draft pick in compensation when they offer him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.
Even if the Royals put him on the block it remains to be seen how much “cheaper” he would be than Samardzija, but according to Heyman’s report, the Blue Jays will be looking at rentals and Samardzija will not be eligible for free agency which is another reason why the Cubs would be asking for a significant haul in young arms should the move their ace.
While the Blue Jays have not been in discussions this season for Samardzija, likely the Cubs representative in the All-Star game this year, it does appear the Baltimore Orioles are the front-runners to land Samardzija.