By Shane Nicholson
Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is just two days away now, and Chicago’s two teams couldn’t be headed in different directions when it comes to moves to be made.
Let’s start on the South Side, where conventional wisdom coming into last week said the Sox would be sellers. Jeff Samardzija was being touted around to the Blue Jays and a handful of other clubs. It was all but a given that the starter would be on his way out of Chicago before August rolled around on the calendar
Fast forward a week and the White Sox have ripped off six straight wins and now sit just 2.5 games back from the second wild card spot. Past Samardzija, there are no movable pieces in their side, and the need to ship him has dried up as the Sox have crept back up the standings.
The Sox have quickly flipped from likely sellers of at least one piece to having no reason to do anything beyond staying put. Unless they can get a piece or two that GM Rick Hahn views as more valuable that the compensatory pick the White Sox would get if Samardzija signs elsewhere in the off-season there’s no need to make a move now.
Ride it out, maybe this hot streak holds up, maybe the Sox creep into the playoffs, maybe Samardzija re-signs this winter. It’s a distinctly different landscape than the Sox were looking at just a short time ago.
Eight miles up the road at Wrigley the plan is to still make a move, assuming the right move is available. The Cubs are very much working the phones trying to see what they can bring in to bolster a roster that’s thrust them in the middle of the wild card hunt.
But the problem Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are having to navigate is shortstop/albatross Starlin Castro. Every deal they’re working right now includes the two-time All-Star, left out of the lineup Wednesday, despite Joe Maddon saying the 25-year-old won’t be traded.
But Hoyer and Epstein can see what the rest of the league sees: Castro is not good, and trying to convince another GM to pick up the $40 million owed to him through 2019 means having to create some clever packages of prospects to go along for the ride.
Tigers pitcher David Price and Phillies lefty Cole Hamels, he of recently no-hitting the Cubs, have been high on the list. Price has already indicated that he wants to play for Maddon again, his former manager in Tampa. Hamels wants out of the Philly tire fire and has a reasonable $23.5 million per year price tag through 2018.
The Cubs could wait and pick up Price as a free agent in the winter or put a package together to lure him in early and get the ball rolling on contract talks. But if they feel that the chance to win has arrived in earnest then Hamels may be the better bet, though the Cubs will be fighting it out with the Rangers, Astros and reportedly the Diamondbacks if they want to acquire his services.
Assuming no deal can be built around Castro then there’s no reason for the Cubs to push the button. All their young prospects, including rumored Padres’ target Javy Baez, are under contractual control and having them through the remainder of the season will give the Wrigley brain trust just that much more info about what they really have. Plus Castro’s value isn’t going anywhere; stock in him couldn’t be at a lower point than it is now.
The long and short of it is expect the White Sox to do nothing saving someone blowing a deal for Samardizja out of the water like Oakland’s Billy Beane did last year when he acquired him from the Cubs. Expect the Cubs to only do something if they can convince someone to pick up Starlin Castro in the deal.