Oakland Takes A Calculated Risk; The Cubs Continue to Stockpile for the Future

Oakland—Chicago Cubs Deal

In a move that’s eerily reminiscent of the club’s acquisition of Matt Holliday five years earlier, the Oakland A’s have shocked the baseball world by pushing the organization’s collective chips to the center of the table, betting the farm – both literally and figuratively – on the right arms of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The hefty price: Addison Russell, arguably the top shortstop prospect in the minor leagues, right-hander Dan Straily, 2013 first round pick Billy McKinney, and a player to be named later.

Samardzija and Hammel instantly add length to a patchwork rotation that’s lost emerging southpaw Drew Pomeranz to a fractured non-throwing hand, A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker to Tommy John surgery, and features the likes of Jesse Chavez and Brad Mills.

Samardzija, who’s under team control through the end of 2015, has been one of baseball’s top starting pitchers this season, striking out 22.9% and walking 6.9% of the batters he’s faced. And Hammel’s, one of the best free agents signings last winter, is working off of a one year deal.

Pairing with Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, Oakland’s rotation is now one of the better staffs in baseball – a scary thought for a club with the best run differential, +129, in all of baseball.

As for the Cubs’ haul is, well, an impressive coup for already of the best farm systems.

Addison Russell, who missed most of the season due to a hamstring issue, offers a rare combination of power, speed, and patience. As a 19-year-old in high Class A last season, the former 11th overall pick slugged .275/.377/.508 with 17 homeruns and 21 stolen bases. And despite missing the time this season, the club rightly pushed the budding superstar to Class AA this season.

Straily’s one of the more underrated mid- to back-of-the-rotation arms around: through his first 230 big league innings, he’s averaged 7.43 K/9 and 3.44 BB/9 while posting a 4.31 Skill Independent ERA. A former 24th round pick, Straily paced the entire minor leagues in strikeouts in 2012, fanning 190 in just 25 starts.

The A’s took a similar development path with McKinney, the 24th overall pick last June, by having the toolsy center fielder bypass low Class A and head straight to the California League. So far, he’s produced at roughly the league average production while showing very favorable peripherals: 10.8% BB-rate, 17.4% K-rate, and .159Isolated Power.

Billy Beane acquired one legit front-of-the-rotation arm and one solid #3, but the price was incredibly steep. It was incredibly ballsy, but a calculated risk – Oakland’s window of opportunity is NOW. And the Cubs, well, they continue to stockpile a tremendous amount of offensive-minded players.


Photo Courtesy of USATSI via CBSSports.com.




After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.