Well, talk about a blockbuster to kick off MLB trade season. In case you haven’t heard yet, the Oakland Athletics shipped a group of prospects — highlighted by up-and-coming phenom shortstop, Addison Russell — along with Dan Straily to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
In the real world, this trade immediately makes the Athletics the heavy favorites to win the World Series in 2014 and it gives the Cubs a few more great prospects to throw into an already loaded farm system. This trade has fantasy baseball implications too though, and seeing as you’re on a site titled fantasybaseballcrackerjacks I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’re here for the fantasy take, not the real world take.
So, that being said. What effects will the Jeff Samardzija trade have in the fantasy baseball world?
First, what should we expect from Jeff Samardzija moving forward?
I believe we’re going to see his individual numbers decline slightly across the board but I think — for fantasy purposes — he’s going to more than make up for it by winning a lot more games. He’s going from a team with a poor offense that’s provided him with virtually no run support to a team that has arguably the best offense in baseball, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t start winning games at a greater clip.
The general consensus though has always been that a pitchers numbers will take a hit when they leave the National League to join the American League; that’s been the general consensus for so long because it’s true.
Since the 2011 season, every pitcher — with the exception of Jeremy Guthrie who was able to escape from Coors field back in 2012 — who was traded from the National League to the American League experienced some sort of decline (some were much more drastic than others, but the important thing to note is that none of them saw their numbers improve).
I think it’d be unwise to not expect at least some sort of decline in Samardzija’s overall numbers, I think his transition to the AL though will end up going much more like Anibal Sanchez‘s back in 2012 (3.94 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 3.43 FIP with the Miami Marlins; 3.74 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.68 FIP after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers) than Matt Garza‘s last season (3.17 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.78 FIP with the Chicago Cubs; 4.38 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.96 FIP after he was traded to the Texas Rangers).
If you own Samardzija in a standard league I think the move is a net-positive, I’ll gladly trade a little bit of ERA and WHIP for a substantial gain in wins. If you owned Samardzija in an NL-Only league, I feel for you, having a top-of-the-rotation pitcher stripped from you for nothing at all stings like the wind in upstate New York in January.
If you play in an AL-Only league, it’s time to break out that FAAB money because there probably won’t be too many — if any — other chances to add an impact player like Samardzija again this season.
Second, what should we expect from Jason Hammel moving forward?
What you should expect from Hammel moving forward all depends on whether or not you believe in what we’ve seen from him already this season with the Cubs. I personally am a believer.
Hammel has greatly increased the usage of his slider this season and it’s paid off dividends so far, according to PITCHf/x it’s been the second best slider in baseball so far this season, trailing only Yu Darvish‘s.
Like Samardzija, I think it’s reasonable to expect his numbers to take a slight dip (without the major increase in wins though, Hammel is already averaging 4.47 runs of support this season compared to just 2.41 runs for Samardzija), but I still think he will remain a very valuable asset going forward. If you’re in an AL-Only league and you don’t have enough FAAB money to snag Samardzija, Hammel is definitely a sweet consolation prize.
Third, what should we expect from the new Cubs this season?
I think we’ll likely see Dan Straily in the rotation at some point this season, probably sooner than later. Once he does make it back to the big leagues, I think he becomes an interesting streaming option but that’s about it.
Outside of Straily, I don’t see any of the other players Oakland shipped to Chicago making it to the bigs this season. The only player that’s even close to being ready is Addison Russell but the Cubs have absolutely no incentive to bring him up this season; the only scenario in which I see that happening is if he absolutely dominates minor league pitching for the next two months and gets a September call-up, but even that seems like a very unlikely scenario.
In NL-Dynasty formats though, Russell is an immediate must-own (and depending how deep your rosters are, Billy McKinney could warrant a pick-up as well) and I would do pretty much anything it took to lock him up, he should be an impact bat in the middle of the infield for the next decade once he makes it to the show.