Jeff Samardzija is on his way back to Chicago! No, not with the Cubs but with the White Sox on the South Side. White Sox GM Rick Hahn pulled off a silent strike – landing Jeff Samardzija to slot in right behind Chris Sale as his 1-A ace to make a terrific 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. With both the Cubs and A’s in 2014, Samardzija went 7-13 with a combined 2.99 ERA.
Hahn also addressed the White Sox poor 2014 bullpen by outbidding everyone else for the services of the Yankees former closer David Robertson. The White Sox sigtned Robertson to a 4-year, $46 million deal to help anchor the back of a bullpen that sported a 4.28 ERA and saved just 36 games during the season. Robertson himself saved 39 games for the Yankees in 2014 and had a respectable 3.08 ERA. The 29-year old has a 2.81 career ERA over 7 seasons.
The White Sox are clearly going for it in 2015, which is a little suprising in the tough AL Central. It is tough to jump over 1 good team in the MLB landscape today, let alone 3 good teams in the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. By trading for Samardzija, the White Sox basically gave up their top prospect infielder – Marcus Semien – and a good starting pitcher prospect – Chris Bassitt. Semien was close to major league ready and was expected to debut with theSox at some point in 2015. Samardzija has already said he will test the free agent market after the season, so if the White Sox don’t resign him, they would have given up their top prospect for a 1 year rental. And signing a closer to any deal with an average salary over $10 million never seems like a good idea to me. But then again, the White Sox have always been a little unconventional. Attendance on the south side has plummeted to all-time lows over the last 2 horrific seasons (99 losses in 2013 and 89 losses in 2014), so Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf clearly thought it was time to make some bold moves to get back into playoff contention. I definitely would not have made these moves, but when you are also competing with a Cubs organization which by all accounts is on the cusp of a long period of sustained quality play buoyed by the depth of its minor league prospects, Reinsdorf was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And if these moves help the White Sox squeeze in another World Championship Title in 2015 or 2016 before the Cubs run begins, Reinsdrof will be remembered for doing everything he could to help the White Sox win each and every season he held the reins. And I give Reinsdrof and the Sox credit for going out on a limb like this — make something happen instead of waiting for good things to happen.
And I am writing about this in part because it does relate to what the Cubs plan to do this off-season. Theo & Co. have been active in acquiring young talent over the last 3 seasons. But it’s finally time for the Cubs to make some bold moves of their own.
This fall/winter, I finally feel like they are being more proactive in doing everything possible to field a complete team for new Manager Joe Maddon at the major league level. Tommy La Stella has major league experience and can hopefully improve the Cubs on-base percentage during the regular season, even if he doesn’t play everyday. Jason Hammel rebounded nicely under the tutelage of Chris Bosio during the 1st half of 2014 and hopefully he can regain that form with the Cubs in 2015. If the Cubs can somehow outbid everyone else for Jon Lester’s services, they will have the ace they have long coveted. And there are also rumors swirling about the Cubs pursuing catcher Miguel Montero from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sure Wellington Castillo is a solid backstop, but the Cubs missed out on Russell Martin and clearly think that Montero is an upgrade from Castillo both for his in-game pitch-calling and for his left-handed bat to create a more balanced offensive lineup for Maddon. Theo & Co. are definitely not sitting back this winter and let’s hope they continue to explore options as the winter meetings progress this week. There are no sure things when you sign a free agent or make a trade, but just the same – there are no sure things when you sit back and wait for good things to happen.
Stay tuned on Lester — heated negotiations between multiple teams over the last 24 hours have likely driven the price up more and delayed Lester’s ultimate decision…