Scouting the Free Agent Market: Jeff Samardzija


At the moment, the Yankees have seven starters for five rotation spots. That includes Ivan Nova and Adam Warren, who are depth arms and not oh gosh we need to clear a rotation spot for him arms. Masahiro Tanaka is coming off offseason elbow surgery, however, and the trio of Nathan Eovaldi (elbow), CC Sabathia (knee), and Michael Pineda (forearm) all got hurt in the second half.

Those seven starters come with seven question marks — Nova stunk this year, Warren has never spent a full MLB season as a starter, Luis Severino is a 21-year-old kid — and while adding rotation help may not be a top priority this offseason, it would make sense to at least explore the market. After all, the Yankees had those seven guys this past season and they still needed Chase Whitley, Chris Capuano, and Bryan Mitchell to make some starts.

The 2015-16 free agent class is loaded with starters. You’ve got aces, mid-rotation guys, reclamation projects, you name it. We haven’t seen a free agent class this deep with arms in a very long time. One of those arms is right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who is coming off a disappointing season but nevertheless is expected to receive a significant contract this winter. The Yankees have already been connected to him. Let’s dive in.

Recent Performance

Like I said, the soon-to-be 31-year-old Samardzija had a disappointing 2015 season with the White Sox. The idea players cost themselves money with poor performance gets thrown around too much — no, those two bad weeks in September won’t kill a guy’s free agent value — but Samardzija definitely did. He was potentially looking at $100M+ this offseason. Anyway, here are his last three years.

2013 213.2 4.34 3.77 23.4% 8.5% 48.2% 13.3% .309 .342
2014 219.2 2.99 3.20 23.0% 4.9% 50.2% 10.6% .279 .292
2015 214.0 4.96 4.23 17.9% 5.4% 39.0% 10.8% .302 .357
2013-15 647.1 4.09 3.73 21.4% 6.3% 45.6% 11.5% .297 .332

Okay, so which one is the real Samardzija? Is it the guy who was okay at best in 2013, the guy who was an ace in 2014, or the guy who led the league earned runs and total bases allowed in 2015? For some reason I feel like the answer is none of the above. The truth is probably somewhere between 2014 and 2015, which is an incredibly wide range of possible outcomes.

I think it’s important to note the White Sox had one of the worst defenses in baseball this season, which surely contributed to Samardzija’s trouble preventing runs. They turned relatively few balls in play into outs behind him. The bad defense doesn’t explain a five percentage point drop in strikeout rate or the ten (!) percentage point drop in ground ball rate*, however.

* Samardzija went from 0.82 HR/9 last year to 1.22 HR/9 this year, and that’s all due to the sudden lack of ground balls. His HR/FB% rate was basically identical those two years.

Let’s take a deeper look at at the type of contact Samardzija has given up the last few seasons and see what’s going on there.

GB% FB% LD% IFFB% Pull% Oppo% Soft% Hard%
2013 48.2% 31.4% 20.4% 10.1% 36.5% 23.0% 17.8% 28.2%
2014 50.2% 30.5% 19.3% 10.6% 38.0% 24.4% 19.9% 24.7%
2015 39.0% 39.8% 21.2% 10.1% 40.2% 26.4% 18.7% 26.7%
2013-15 45.6% 34.1% 20.3% 10.2% 38.3% 24.7% 18.8% 26.5%
MLB AVG 45.3% 33.8% 20.9% 9.5% 39.1% 25.7% 18.6% 28.6%

Samardzija’s hard and soft contact rates have been right in line with the league average the last few years. Same goes for pull and opposite field rates. If there was a lot of hard contact or a spike in pull rate — suggesting hitters were getting around quicker on his stuff — it would be a significant red flag.

Fly balls are not necessarily a bad thing — most fly balls are catchable, routine plays — and Samardzija has gotten a bit more infield pop-ups than the league average pitcher the last three years. Pop-ups are almost as good as strikeouts. They’re as close to a sure out as there is in this game. Still, Samardzija’s ground ball rate fell and his fly ball rate climbed big time in 2015, and that’s something we can’t ignore.

Something caused those changes in Samardzija’s fly ball and ground ball rates this year. They’re just the symptoms of the problem, not the problem itself. Samardzija’s stuff and pitch mix may have the answers, or at least point us in the right direction.

The Stuff

At this point of his career Samardzija is a true five-pitch pitcher. He stopped toying around with a changeup and a curveball a few years ago, instead settling on a splitter and slider as his go-to secondary pitches. Three different fastballs — four-seamer, sinker, cutter — round out his repertoire. Here’s a real quick average velocity breakdown from Brooks Baseball:


That’s a pretty significant drop in four-seamer velocity, right? Samardzija lost 1.3 mph off his heater last season. The velocity drop on his other pitches — sinker (.52 mph), slider (.97 mph), cutter (.64 mph), splitter (.90 mph) — is not as severe but is still notable. Samardzija was still one of the hardest throwing starters in baseball last season, that’s important to remember, but there was enough of a velocity drop across to board to make you notice.

Samardzija’s pitch selection the last three years is pretty interesting. Most guys who throw five pitches really throw like three pitches and occasionally flash the other two. That’s not the case with Samardzija. He throws all five regularly. Here’s the data, again via Brooks Baseball:

Jeff Samardzija pitch selection

Samardzija threw all of his pitches at least 12.7% of the time last year and didn’t throw one more than 24.7% of the time. He doesn’t throw the splitter to righties and he doesn’t throw the slider to lefties, which makes sense, but otherwise Samardzija uses everything. This isn’t Tanaka throwing that slow curveball four or five times a game, for example.

I am not at all surprised to see Samardzija threw his cutter significantly more often last season. White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is renowned for teaching the cutter and getting his pitchers to emphasis it. Cooper taught Jose Quintana and Gavin Floyd a cutter in recent years and turned their careers around. Samardzija always threw a cutter, but he nearly doubled his usage of the pitch this season from just two years ago.

And perhaps that is part of the problem. The additional cutters — and additional sliders, I’m guessing some of those sliders were cutters that maybe broke more than usual and wound up being classified as sliders — came at the expense of sinkers more than anything, and hey, that might explain the sudden drop in Samardzija’s ground ball rate. Then again, his grounder rate was down across the board, on all his pitches. Again via Brooks Baseball:

Jeff Samardzija ground ball rates

MLB Averages: Four-seam (37.9%), sinker (49.5%), slider (43.9%), cutter (43.0%), splitter (47.8%).

So much for the idea that fewer sinkers led to fewer grounders. Well, no, that is true to a certain extent for Samardzija, but the ground ball inducing ability took a step back with all five of his pitches last season. That is tied to the velocity loss at least somewhat. How much, exactly? I don’t think we can say.

Cutters have a reputation for sapping arm strength — Eno Sarris wrote a great piece about this back in April — and I guess there’s something to the idea of scaling back on Samardzija’s cutter usage going forward. That could lead to increased effectiveness overall and maybe a slight bump in velocity, but I don’t think we can say that with any certainty.

For the sake of completeness, let’s look at the swing-and-miss rates of Samardzija’s various pitches, once again with the help of Brooks Baseball:

Jeff Samardzija whiff rates

MLB Averages: Four-seam (6.9%), sinker (5.4%), slider (15.2%), cutter (9.7%), splitter (14.9%).

Samardzija’s four-seamer is a great swing-and-miss pitch. It was this past season even with that lost velocity. There’s something to be said for having the ability to throw a fastball by a hitter. It’s a great skill to have. Samardzija also gets a better than average whiff rate on his sinker and cutter, but the slider and splitter? Comfortably below average.

Lefties hit Samardzija hard this past season and the swing-and-miss rate on his splitter dropped off big time. I’m guessing those two things are related. Is it possible the reduced effectiveness of the split-finger fastball is tied to the increased cutter usage? Sure. It takes (slightly) different mechanics to throw different pitches, and suddenly throwing more cutters than ever could have affected his other pitches.

One thing we have to keep in mind: Samardzija still has pretty nasty stuff. He still throws very hard despite the velocity loss, he uses five pitches regularly, and he misses bats with his fastball. This isn’t a guy going out there with Freddy Garcia stuff.

Injury History

Samardzija has never been hurt in his pro career. Not even in the minors. No arm injuries, no pulled hamstrings, no stubbed toes, nothing. He’s a big — listed at 6-foot-5 and 225 lbs. — strong guy and an incredible athlete, all of which points to durability. Any pitcher can get hurt at any time, but there’s nothing in Samardzija’s history that will make you cringe.

Furthermore, Samardzija turns 31 in January but he has significantly fewer innings on his arm than the other top free agent starters. He split his time between football and baseball in college, and he spent the 2008-11 seasons working mostly in relief with the Cubs. Buster Only (subs. req’d) had a great little nugget in yesterday’s blog post.

Among the upper-tier starting pitchers in this year’s free-agent class, Samardzija has easily thrown the fewest pitches in the majors, partly because he served as a reliever his first four years with the Cubs. Here’s where he compares with other top free-agent starters in total MLB pitches during the regular season:

Zack Greinke: 33,189 pitches
Johnny Cueto: 22,786
David Price: 22,724
Jordan Zimmermann: 16,793
Jeff Samardzija: 15,906

Greinke is the oldest of the group by several years, hence that big workload. Price and Cueto have been workhorses throughout their careers, so it makes sense they’re essentially tied for second. Zimmerman has thrown more pitches than Samardzija despite missing a season due to Tommy John surgery.

All pitchers have wear and tear on their arms by time they reach their 30th birthday and Samardzija is no exception, but his arm has not endured the workload of other top free agent starters because he split his time between two sports as an amateur and spent significant time as a reliever after first reaching the show. That may mean he’ll hold his stuff into his mid-30s, a little longer than you’d normally expect.

Loose Yankees Ties

Two of the reasons the Yankees have been connected to Samardzija are pitching coach Larry Rothschild and special advisor Jim Hendry. Rothschild was Samardzija’s first pitching coach with the Cubs and Hendry originally drafted, signed, and developed Samardzija when he was Cubs GM. So the Yankees have some firsthand knowledge of him.

That said, Rothschild only spent parts of three seasons with Samardzija, and he wasn’t moved into the rotation until two years after Rothschild left the Cubs. Hendry was fired as Cubs GM the year before Samardzija moved into the rotation. The relationships might not be as close as you’d expect. If nothing else, Rothschild and Hendry should be able to give the Yankees some knowledge about Samardzija as a person. His work ethic, that sort of stuff.

Contract Projections

The White Sox made Samardzija the qualifying offer last week and I expect him to reject it before Friday’s deadline, even after his down year. Samardzija should have no trouble beating that $15.8M guarantee on the open market. I know the pitching class is deep and there are plenty of alternatives, but basically every team besides the Mets is looking for rotation help this winter. The demand is still greater than the supply. Samardzija will get his.

Anyway, in addition to a hefty contract, whoever signs Samardzija will have to forfeit their highest unprotected draft pick thanks to the qualifying offer. For the Yankees, that is their first rounder, tentatively scheduled to be No. 22 overall. Here are some contract projections for Samardzija:

Based on those three, Samardzija is expected to receive roughly $17M a year for four or five years. That’s basically the A.J. Burnett contract (five years, $82.5M), which is fitting because Samardzija and Burnett can both tantalize you with their stuff and frustrate you with their results.

Remember though, it has been seven years since Burnett sign his contract with the Yankees. The market has changed a lot since then. Paying a starter $17M a year now is not the same as doing it back then. Back in 2009 only four pitchers had contracts with an average annual value of $16M+. This past season 18 pitchers had a contract worth that much annually. So yeah.

Wrapping Up

Samardzija’s best attribute is his durability. He’s never been hurt, he’s logged 210+ innings in each of the last three years, his arm is fresh, and he consistently pitches deep into games. Samardzija completed seven innings in 19 of his 32 starts this past season. The Yankees as a team had their starter complete seven innings only 35 times in 2015.

Also, Samardzija’s stuff took a slight step back this past season, though it could be tied to his increased cutter usage. He still flashes brilliance and dominates on occasion. Samardzija had four starts with a 75+ Game Score this season. The Yankees as a team had ten. Lots of innings and occasional brilliance doesn’t equal an ace, but I don’t think anyone is looking at Samardzija as an ace anyway. Four or five years and $17M per year isn’t ace money anymore.


At this point I think Samardzija is what he is. Signing him and expecting his game to take a significant step forward probably isn’t realistic. He might — I think he will, not might — be better than he was this year simply because he figures to have a more competent defense behind him going forward, but I wouldn’t count on ever seeing the 2014 Samardzija again either. He’s talented and durable and the results leave you wanting more.

The Yankees love big power pitchers who don’t walk anyone — I think Samardzija’s improved walk rate the last two years is the result of an athletic pitcher getting locked into his mechanics — and Samardzija fits the bill. He’s also played for a team in a big market with intense media in the Cubs — shouldn’t his Notre Dame football experience count too? — and has an old school give me the damn ball bulldog mentality.

“Back in the day, the game was left in the starter’s hands,” said Samardzija to David Laurila in July 2014. “If the starter pitched well, he was given his 120 pitches. The game was decided by the starting pitchers. It’s different now and I think that’s unfortunate. When you get into tough situations, regardless of your pitch count, a lot of times a reliever is brought in. I understand why – it’s to preserve the game — but you have to keep your relievers’ arms fresh too. I like the idea of the starters deciding what happens in the game.”

I think the Yankees can use rotation help, and I’m sure if you gave the front office a truth serum, they’d say they want to find a way to upgrade the starting staff as well. If nothing else, it would be nice to have one guy you could count on to chew innings every fifth day, right? Asking the bullpen to get 10-12 outs a night is no way to go through a season (again). Samardzija can give you those innings.

Sinking four or five years and $17M annually into Samardzija to be an innings dude who is ideally your second or third best starter might be tough to swallow, but I think it is fair market value. If the Yankees intend to avoid huge money free agent contracts — like the one David Price will get, for example — Samardzija might just be their best option in free agency.

The Competing Alternatives


In a vacuum, it’s never a bad thing to go into a season with more than five options to fill out a team’s starting rotation. After all, how many times have we heard the line, “There’s no such thing as too much pitching” thrown about? It’s a cliche that is true; having “too many pitchers” from which to shape a rotation is like having “too much” pizza. But that is only true in a vacuum, not reality. What if it’s too much Pizza Hut/Domino’s/Papa John’s? We could certainly argue that one slice of that “pizza” is already too much. And in baseball reality as opposed to a baseball vacuum, having lots of pitchers doesn’t necessarily mean you have lots of good pitchers. So stand the (potential) 2016 New York Yankees.

Given the end of the 2015 season, the Yankees have no fewer than seven pitchers who could all lay some claim to spots in the starting rotation. Of course, given their contracts, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia aren’t leaving that rotation any time soon. Nathan Eovaldi, returning from injury, impressed in the second half and he’ll likely round out the rotation’s top three. He’ll be followed by the sometimes big Michael Pineda in the fourth spot and Luis Severino, who proved he belonged in the Majors during the second half, will finish out the five. No one, however, makes it through a season with only five starters, so we’ve got to consider Ivan Nova and Adam Warren as other options in the rotation. Every single one of these pitchers has some sort of question mark as we move to 2016.

All of those pitchers, save for Warren and Severino, spent time on the Major League disabled list at some point in 2015 and there’s a good bet that Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda hit the DL at some point in 2016 (though you could say this about any pitcher who’s ever picked up a baseball). Aside from that, there’s the performance concern with Eovaldi and Severino. While they certainly shined in the second half, can they repeat it? Eovaldi’s got a whole bunch of innings that don’t look like the ones he compiled after his disaster start in Miami and Severino is still in his early 20’s with big potential, but also big bust potential (stop me if you’ve heard the one about young Yankee starters not living up to their promise with the organization). This is all a roundabout way of saying that the Yankees would be wise to go shopping for a starting pitcher–either by free agency or trade–once the World Series ends. Predicting the trade market is hard and, remember, your trade proposal sucks, so let’s just focus on three free agent starters that I’m sure will be a frequent topic of conversation ’round these parts in the next few weeks: David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, and Jeff Samardzija.

Price is the obvious number one choice here. He’s a big lefty who’s shown he can hack it in the American League for a long time and the Yankees love that. Zimmerman is a big righty who’s thrown no fewer than 195 innings since 2012 and has excellent control. Samardzija, as he has been previously, has already been linked to the Yankees and is a potential reclamation projects, something the Yankees also love.

I hate this. (Elsa/Getty)
Price. (Getty)

In that old, familiar vacuum, Price is the guy the Yankees want, need, and sign; he’s almost too perfect for them not to. But in that old, familiar reality, there are two big roadblocks to price: time and money. It’s highly likely that the front office and/or ownership will view a potential big contract for Price as just another CC Sabathia contract: pretty great at first and then an absolute disaster by the midway point.

With Zimmerman, there’s likely to be a draft pick issue: do they want to give up a draft pick for Not The Best Guy Available? There’s also the fact that Zimmerman will likely demand a huge price tag, which his performance may not live up to. Don’t get me wrong here as Zimmerman is a very good pitcher, but he’s been “up and down” (though all good) in the last few years. He’s got two dominant ones–2012 and 2014–and two seasons that are “only” above average-good (2013, 2015). The Yankees may balk at Zimmerman’s (potential) salary demands if they don’t think he’s capable of being that 2012/2014 guy more often.

Samardzija. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Then there’s Samardzija. Like Zimmerman, he may have draft pick compensation tied to him. Like Zimmerman, and to a greater extent than Zimmerman, there are most definitely performance concerns with him. After all, he just had his worst professional season in which his strikeout rate dropped 5.1% from the year before and his groundball rate plummeted to below 40%. Despite that, there is a ‘bang for your buck’ factor with Shark if he signs a pillow contract to see him through to the next offseason.

These guys all come with some risk, but we could argue it’s less collective risk than the risk represented by the pitchers currently in the Yankees’ employ. One of them–or any of the other free agents I didn’t list here–is a necessity, though. The 2015 Yankee rotation is not sustainable for 2016, even with great bullpen management  by Joe Girardi. Each of these guys could be the wrong option for the listed reasons, but they could also be the right guy for the listed reason. Though he’s not the best of the bunch, Zimmerman probably represents the best option for the Yankees. He’s more of a sure thing that Samardzija and is likely to be less costly–both in terms of years and money–than David Price.

Ironically enough, though, after all these words, I wouldn’t be surprised if neither of these three guys landed in the Bronx for 2016 and beyond. I might be a touch disappointed, but I wouldn’t necessarily be shocked either. Whether it’s these guys or others, however, the Yankees need to do something to bolster the rotation going forward, even if there are a lot of options already in house. Because you can never have too much pitching.

Heyman: Yankees likely to pursue Jeff Samardzija as a free agent this offseason


This doesn’t surprise me. According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have “real interest” in impending free agent Jeff Samardzija and are likely to pursue the right-hander this offseason. The free agent signing period opens five days after the end of the World Series, so sometime in early-November.

Samardzija, 30, had a miserable walk year in 2015, pitching to a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP) in 32 starts and 214 innings for the White Sox. Even with the poor season, I expect the ChiSox to make Samardzija a qualifying offer, meaning he’ll cost a draft pick to sign. Bringing him back on a one-year, $15.8M contract wouldn’t be the end of the world for Chicago. They could always trade him if they won’t want him at that price. Someone would take him.

There’s a few reasons why I say Heyman’s report isn’t surprising. For starters, the Yankees have had interest in Samardzija dating back to at least the 2013 Winter Meetings, so this isn’t coming out of nowhere. There are also several ties to Samardzija in the organization. Larry Rothschild was his first big league pitching coach with the Cubs and special advisor Jim Hendry originally drafted Samardzija during his time as Cubs GM.

Samardzija had a rough year in 2015, no doubt about it, but he was excellent as recently as 2014 (2.99 ERA and 3.20 FIP). He’s also a workhorse, throwing at least 213 innings in each of the last three seasons. He had 19 starts of at least seven innings this summer. The Yankees had 35 (!) as a team. Wouldn’t it nice to have one guy who didn’t tax the bullpen every time out? Everyone once in a while Samardzija does this too:

Heyman says the Yankees like Samardzija for a few reasons, most notably his potential and competitiveness. I’ll add that he throws hard (averaged 94.2 mph in 2015), he never walks anyone (5.4%), and he’s a big dude (listed at 6-foot-5, 225 lbs.). Those are three traits the Yankees love. Just look at their pitching staff. Huge guys who throw hard and throw a lot of strikes are their thing.

At this point, I think Samardzija is what is his. Guys who don’t fulfill their potential by time they reach their 30th birthday usually don’t ever get there. That doesn’t mean he’s bad! He was bad this year but not the few years before that. Samardzija probably won’t ever be an ace, but he can be a good and occasionally great innings-eater. The Yankees could use someone like that.

The qualifying offer could really throw a wrench into things because I don’t think the Yankees will forfeit a first round pick to sign any non-Jason Heyward free agent this offseason. They’re likely looking at Samardzija as a bounceback candidate, a one-year contract guy who can prove himself and try again on the open market next winter. I can’t imagine they like the idea of a long-term deal. We’ll see.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Thursday

Price. (Harry How/Getty)
Price. (Harry How/Getty)

We are now just one day away from the 2015 non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees have not yet made a move but I expect them to do something by 4pm ET tomorrow. They need pitching — I’m not sure how much more obvious it could be at this point — and a new second baseman sure would be cool too. Don’t be fooled by the six-game lead in the AL East, there are holes on the roster.

Late last night, Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers in an eight-player deal, taking arguably the best available pitcher off the board. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we learned the Tigers are making David Price and their other rental players available, which is significant because Price would look wonderful in pinstripes. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here. Talk about all of ’em in this open thread.

  • 2:50pm ET: Not only do the Yankees not want to trade top prospects, they are hesitant to trade guys like Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell as well. The sense is they will add a reliever to deepen the bullpen. Warren could then be a candidate to return to the rotation. [Joel Sherman]
  • 2:47pm ET: The Mariners plan to keep impending free agent Hisashi Iwakuma. He’s a favorite of ownership and they could always re-sign him in the offseason. The Yankees had not been connected to Iwakuma but he seemed like a logical fit. (Masahiro Tanaka‘s teammate in Japan!) [Jeff Passan]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Yankees are “poised to strike” and are in on all the available arms. That … really doesn’t tell us anything new. The Yankees are typically a club that waits until the last minute to make trades, however. The Martin Prado and Stephen Drew deals were announced after the deadline last year.[Ken Rosenthal]
  • 2:01pm ET: The Yankees are on the “periphery” of the Yovani Gallardo race. He is very available and a bunch of teams are in the mix. Gallardo is still scheduled to start against the Yankees tonight. [Heyman]
  • 12:50pm ET: David Price is heading to the Blue Jays for a package of top prospects, including Daniel Norris and Anthony Alford. So scratch him off the list.
  • 12:06pm ET: The Blue Jays appear to be “closing in” on a trade for David Price according to multiple reports. Toronto hasn’t been to the postseason since 1993 and they acquired Troy Tulowitzki a few days ago. The chips are firmly in the middle of the table.
  • 10:07am ET: The Yankees are considering among Mike Leake‘s most likely landing spots at this point. They’re also a candidate to acquire Jeff Samardzija should the surging White Sox decide to move him. Special assistant Jim Hendry drafted the righty when he was Cubs GM and Larry Rothschild was Samardzija’s pitching coach in Chicago for a few years. [Heyman]
  • 9:30am ET: The Yankees are one of four serious contenders for David Price, along with the Dodgers, Giants, and Blue Jays. All four clubs are in talks with the Tigers. [Jon Heyman]
  • The Yankees discussed Dustin Ackley with the Mariners. Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel came up but Seattle wanted more — I believe it was Flores or Gamel, not both — so talks stalled out. For whatever reason the Yankees have been after Ackley for years. [Mark Feinsand]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Wednesday

Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Just three days left now. The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday at 4pm ET, and while the Yankees have not yet made any moves, I’m sure they will at some point in the next few days. Pitching is a bit of an issue — I’d rather not see Chris Capuano make another spot start — and second base could use an upgrade as well. Maybe another righty bat too.

On Monday and Tuesday we learned the Yankees are engaged in the pitching market, both starters and relievers. They had conversations with the Reds about Johnny Cueto before he was traded to the Royals, and they were also in the hunt for Ben Zobrist before he joined Cueto in Kansas City. Final offers for Cole Hamels are reportedly due today as well. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here.

  • 7:04pm ET: The Mat Latos trade from earlier is currently on hold because of someone’s medicals. Not necessarily Latos’. So he could, in fact, still be an option for the Yankees. [Wittenmyer]
  • 4:33pm ET: The Yankees will indeed talk to the Tigers about David Price. They remain unwilling to part with top prospects — the Phillies against asked about Aaron Judge and Luis Severino — but I’m sure at least part of that is just posturing. [Heyman]
  • 4:31pm ET: The Phillies had a scout watching Ivan Nova on Monday. The Yankees did discuss Cueto with the Reds during Johnny Cueto talks, so it stands to reason he would be available for Cole Hamels as well. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 3:32pm ET: The Tigers called teams today to tell them they are “rebooting” and willing to listen on David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and others. I certainly expect the Yankees to make a run at Price. [Stark]
  • 2:56pm ET: If the Phillies do indeed trade Cole Hamels, it is unlikely to happen today. Any trade would have to wait until Thursday or even Friday as the Phillies mull over offers. [Jayson Stark]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Padres requested shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in trade talks about Craig Kimbrel, but the Yankees said no. New York is willing to eat the entire $28M left on Kimbrel’s contract, but they won’t surrender top prospects. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:24pm ET: Mat Latos is apparently off the board. The Marlins are reportedly trading the right-hander (and others) to the Dodgers for prospects. Earlier this week we heard the Yankees had some interest in Latos. [Gordon Wittenmyer]
  • 9:30am ET: The White Sox still have not given any indication they will trade Jeff Samardzija. They Yankees have had their eye on him for a few weeks now. The ChiSox are now only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot, so they might hold on to Samardzija and go for it, knowing they’ll get at least a draft pick for him after the season. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • The Reds are fielding offers for Aroldis Chapman but are not devoted to trading him because he’s under team control next season. They moved Cueto because they were going to lose him to free agency. The Yankees are said to be open to adding another high-end reliever. [Buster Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Cafardo: Yankees among teams looking at Jeff Samardzija prior to trade deadline


According to Nick Cafardo, the Yankees are one of several teams looking at White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija leading up to the trade deadline. It’s a long list of teams that includes contenders like the Royals, Tigers, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles, and Cardinals. There figures to be a lot of competition for any competent pitcher at the deadline because there are so few sellers right now.

The ChiSox are 32-42 with a -81 run differential and are way out of the postseason race. GM Rick Hahn seemed to indicate a few weeks ago that if things don’t turn around in a hurry (they haven’t!), he would look to sell at the trade deadline. “You need to start seeing some results on the field before you have to start making changes. There’s no real strategic advantage for laying out specifically what’s going to happen and when,” said Hahn to Daryl Van Schouwen.

The Yankees have shown a lot of interest in Samardzija in the past, dating back to at least the 2013 Winter Meetings. They also exchanged trade proposals with the Cubs last July before Samardzija was dealt to the Athletics, and then discussed him with Oakland again this past offseason. Special assistant Jim Hendry drafted Samardzija when he was Cubs GM and Larry Rothschild was his pitching coach with Chicago from 2008-10, so the Yankees have some firsthand knowledge about him.

Samardzija, 30, is having a rough season so far, pitching to a 4.56 ERA (3.66 FIP) with an MLB-high 123 hits allowed in 108.2 innings. His strikeout (19.0%) and ground ball (39.9%) rates are way down from the last few years as well. Samardzija is still throwing hard though, and he did have a 2.99 ERA (3.20 FIP) with a 23.0 K% and 50.2 GB% in 219.2 innings last year, so it’s not like you have to squint your eyes and look back real far to see the last time he was great.

The White Sox gave up an average-ish everyday player (Marcus Semien) and three good but not great prospects to acquire Samardzija this past offseason. He’s going to be a free agent after the season, and even with the down year my guess is the ChiSox will extend him a qualifying offer. Worst case scenario is he accepts and you’ve got a 31-year-old workhorse on a one-year contract worth $16M or so. Plus Samardzija would have trade value again next year. A qualifying offer seems like a safe bet, actually.

In that case, the White Sox have no reason to accept anything less than a prospect on par with a supplemental first round pick in exchange for Samardzija. I’m guessing it’ll take more than that to acquire him though. It took four prospects to get a half-season of Matt Garza a few years ago, remember. On the rental pitcher scale, Samardzija’s trade value lies somewhere between Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.

Interestingly (or maybe weirdly is a better way to put it), Cafardo says the Yankees are among the teams monitoring Clay Buchholz prior to the trade deadline as well. He’s actually had a good year (3.48 ERA and 2.67 FIP) but I can’t see that happening. I know the Yankees and Red Sox got together for the Stephen DrewKelly Johnson trade last year, but that was a spare part trade. I can’t see the BoSox shipping Buchholz to the Yankees even if they do tear it down and sell in the wake of their (latest) disaster season. Weird rumor.

Anyway, the Yankees currently have six starters for five rotation spots but not really. CC Sabathia has not pitched well this season and both Michael Pineda and Adam Warren have workload concerns. Then there’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow. So yeah, the Yankees have a full rotation on paper, but you don’t have to try to hard to see a scenario in which they need to add a starter at the trade deadline. Samardzija figures to be one of the better hurlers on the market this summer, so of course the Yankees are keeping tabs on him.

2014 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

2014 Winter Meetings-002The first day of the 2014 Winter Meetings came and went with some rumors but no real action, at least for the Yankees. They did lose closer David Robertson to the White Sox, but I got the sense he was a goner as soon as they added Andrew Miller last week. New York’s top priority remains rotation help, and they need multiple starters to protect against all the injury concerns currently in the rotation.

On Monday we learned the Yankees may or may not be in on Jon Lester, are still after Chase Headley, and have spoken to the Braves (Craig Kimbrel), Marlins (Steve Cishek), and Royals (Greg Holland and Wade Davis) about trading for bullpen help. That’s about it. The Yankees tend to keep things very close to the vest. We’ll again keep track of all the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All timestamps are ET.

  • 9:53pm: Just in case you were holding out any hope for Jon Lester, he is currently deciding between the Red Sox and Cubs after telling the Giants they are out of the running. I suppose San Francisco could turn around and use that money for Chase Headley now. (Joel Sherman & Alex Pavlovic)
  • 6:24pm: Are the Yankees in on Max Scherzer and/or Jon Lester? “It’s not in my best interests to say,” said Brian Cashman. Boring. [Dan Barbarisi]
  • 6:21pm: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees never had interest in signing both David Robertson and Miller. Once they signed Miller, they said they were still on Robertson only drive up the price for others. Cashman also said he spoke to the Athletics about Jeff Samardzija, but there was no match. [Marly Rivera & Dan Barbarisi]
  • 3:25pm: The Yankees continue to insist they will not get involved in the Max Scherzer bidding. Things can always change later in the offseason, but that’s the plan right now. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 2:03pm: Team officials still don’t know if Hiroki Kuroda will play next season and it’s complicating their search for pitching. Kuroda’s three contracts with the Yankees were signed on January 26th, November 20th, and December 7th, in case you’re wondering. At some point they have to start moving forward without him. [Bob Klapisch]
  • 1:33pm: The Pirates have agreed to re-sign Francisco Liriano to a three-year, $39M deal. The Yankees were never connected to Liriano this offseason but he is a pitching option now off the market. Also, it Liriano gets three years and $39M, you have to figure Brandon McCarthy will get less than that. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:05am: The four-year, $65M offer for Chase Headley is a mystery — no one knows where it came from. (I think his agent floated it as a way to drive up the price.) The Yankees were originally thinking about a three-year deal at $39M but would go to four years as long as the annual salary came down. [Jon Heyman]
  • 9:30am: Chase Headley will made a decision and pick a team before the end of the Winter Meetings. The Yankees and Giants are among the three or four teams bidding for him. I’m guessing Headley will wait until after Lester signs just to see exactly how much San Francisco money has to play with. [Joel Sherman]
  • Jason Grilli‘s agent confirmed he spoke to Brian Cashman earlier this offseason but declined to say whether the two would talk again during the Winter Meetings. The Yankees could definitely use another late-inning reliever now that Robertson’s gone. [Brendan Kuty]