Jeff Samardzija is the most prominent Cub who's been mentioned in trade talks this offseason and I've written about him at length. Many of those potential trade partners have filled their needs, but a couple of teams still look to have starting pitching needs (Blue Jays, Diamondbacks). It seems likely that unless management and Shark can work out a contract deal by mid-season, Samardzija will be traded by the trade deadline. The Cubs have been vocal in saying they'd like to extend Samardzija and Samardzija has been vocal in saying he'd like to stay a Cub.
So what's the holdup? Samardzija wants to be paid like a top-of-the-rotation starter even though his performance has never been top of the rotation quality for a full season. I feel as though the deals I'm going to propose below could get the job done now, but it's possible the Cubs won't entertain deals like this until later in the season, as they're reportedly holding out for quite a bit. Because of that, I have tweaked some deals I previously proposed upward a bit...
Blue Jays trade suggestion: Samardzija for RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Chase DeJong, LHP Sean Nolin and LHP Jairo Labourt
Aaron Sanchez: Potential No. 2 starter that throws an excellent mid 90s fastball and a developing curve ball and changeup. He needs to work on his command and continue to refine his curve ball and changeup into plus pitches in order to reach his ceiling. Reports have him impressing this spring, particularly with his command.
Sean Nolin: Near major league ready starter with the potential to be a No. 3 or No. 4 inning-eater. He throws a fastball, curve, slider and changeup, with only the changeup as a plus pitch. All of those play up due to his outstanding control.
Chase DeJong: Part of a cadre of interesting young arms the Jays had in rookie league. DeJong has some projection left and currently throws a low 90s fastball. He throws a plus curveball and a changeup that flashes plus and projects to have plus command. His ceiling is a No. 3 starter.
Jairo Labourt: Ceiling as a MOR starter with three potential plus pitches. He shows good control, but he needs to get more consistent and make sure his already big body doesn't get away from him.
Other Jays names to keep an eye on:
RHP Marcus Stroman: Divisive top 100 pitcher. Three plus pitches, but at 5'9", can he stick as a starter?
LHP Daniel Norris: Ceiling as a MOR starter with three potential plus pitches, but needs to refine his command and changeup.
RHP Alberto Tirado: Ceiling as a No. 2 starter with two potential plus pitches and a plus-plus fastball, but needs to improve his command and stamina.
RHP Miguel Castro: TOR upside, but needs to improve stamina, control and secondaries.
RHP Roberto Osuna: Had Tommy John surgery last year and has questionable makeup, but has No. 3 upside.
LHP Matt Smoral: Giant (6'8") with a great fastball, plus slider and developing change. Questions about his ability to stick in the rotation.
RHP Tom Robson: No. 4 projection, plus fastball and changeup, but needs to improve his curveball
Diamondbacks Trade Suggestion: C/OF Stryker Trahan, RHP Jose Martinez, RHP Jake Barrett, SS Sergio Alcantara and a PTBNL (who would turn into Braden Shipley)
Braden Shipley: A Top-100 pitcher who could be a No. 2 starter if he can reach his ceiling. He throws a mid-90s fastball, an excellent changeup and a curveball that could eventually become plus. He needs to work on his command, but his athleticism leads most to believe that will eventually come.
Stryker Trahan: Recently moved to the outfield, but my guess is the Cubs would move him back to catcher. Trahan has a great arm, but needs work on his receiving skills. He also shows good power but he may need to refine his swing to move away from his swing and miss tendencies.
: Martinez throws a mid-90s fastball and an outstanding curveball, but needs work on his changeup. He's extremely skinny so strength and weight is needed for stamina and he needs to improve his command. He has the potential to be a No. 2 starter if everything comes together.
Jake Barrett: Barrett is a potential future closer with a good mid 90s fastball and plus slider. His changeup needs work, but he should be ready for a major league pen sooner rather than later.
Sergio Alcantara: Alcantara is a strong defensive shortstop with a good plate approach and a good hit tool. He's only 18, so there's a lot of risk, but the upside is an everyday shortstop.
Diamondbacks Three-Team Trade Suggestion: SS Didi Gregorius and LHP James Russell to the Pirates; Jeff Samardzija to the D-backs; RHP Braden Shipley, RHP Tyler Glasnow & RHP Jake Barrett to the Cubs.
Other Diamondbacks names to keep an eye on:
RHP Aaron Blair: 2013 first-rounder, mid-rotation upside, needs work on breaking pitches
RHP Matt Stites: Possible late innings reliever with excellent control. Great fastball & solid slider.
RHP Zeke Spruill: Back of the rotation guy who is major-league ready. Could end up in the pen because his secondaries are iffy.
RHP Geordy Parra: A-ball arm with a good fastball and splitter, but needs a third pitch.
C Michael Perez: Very good defensive catcher, but he needs work on his hit tool and approach.
After the dust settled this offseason, I really think the Jays and Diamondbacks are the only teams that will seriously look at Shark before the season starts. I think the Braves will hope band-aids will be OK until midseason and if that doesn't work, they could re-visit a deal. Some will ask about the Athletics, but trading for a guy like Samardzija isn't the kind of trade the A's usually do and I don't think they'll start now. The thing that both the Jays and Diamondbacks front offices have that could really benefit the Cubs is a hint of desperation. The Jays just made several big trades last offseason that more or less blew up in their face. The D-backs' Kevin Towers, on the other hand, can be a loose cannon who seemingly gives up on prospects very early and made several win now moves this offseason.
Of these two teams, I like what the Jays have to offer much more. They have a plethora of pitching prospects that the Cubs can pick from and all of them should be on the table (unlike with the Diamondbacks, where I think Archie Bradley is certainly off the table). While word has it the Cubs wanted Stroman and Sanchez, I think the Cubs would take one of the two if they can get enough quantity in high upside lower level guys (which the Jays have boatloads of) and another guy in Nolin they can slot into the rotation soon.
As for the Diamondbacks, not including Bradley makes a trade much more difficult. Braden Shipley would almost have to be included, but he can't be traded until June, so he'd have to be included as a PTBNL. After that, you'd have to think the Cubs will demand as well. Aaron Blair is the only other one that looks like a possible mid-rotation guy, but, like Shipley, can't be traded until June. I think the Diamondbacks make much more sense if they can ship off one of Gregorius or Chris Owings to another team for pitching talent the Cubs want, because the rest of their arms are unimpressive.
At the beginning of the offseason, I felt it was 50/50 whether or not Jeff Samardzija would be dealt. As we got into the offseason and the noise around Shark increased, I thought it was a guaranteed lock he'd be gone before the season. Now? I'd be very surprised if anything happened before opening day. That being said, if a team came calling with the offers above, I'd pull the trigger. The question is, would the front office?