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Peter Gammons: ‘Incredible Deal For The Cubs’

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OAKLAND, CA - JULY 06: Jeff Samardzija #29 of the Oakland Athletics points to Jed Lowrie #8 after Lowrie made a good play to turn a double play that ended the first inning of their game against the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum on July 6, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Jeff Samardzija (Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Needing depth in his rotation, Billy Beane pulled the trade trigger this past Saturday, sending a package of prospects to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

At first blush, the trade may seem unwarranted from Oakland’s perspective. After all, the Athletics (55-33) have the best record in baseball (entering play July 7). Then again, they also lead the Angels (51-36) and Mariners (48-40) by just 3.5 and 7 games, respectively.

“I think (the trade was) a combination of a lot of factors that make it interesting,” MLB analyst Peter Gammons said on The John Feinstein Show. “I think one thing that is great for the game is that now first place really means something. If you finish first, you’ve got a tremendous advantage. It used to be (that) it (didn’t) matter if you finished first or (if you were) the Wild Card (team). Now, you’re punished (with) that play-in game. It’s really difficult, so you’re rewarded strongly (for finishing first).”

Adding depth to the rotation will go a long way in that regard in Oakland. Already without Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin – who sustained season-ending injuries – the A’s did not want to pin their hopes squarely on the arms of Scott Kazmir and Sonny Gray. Both have been stellar, to be sure, but each carries a bit of uncertainty.

“He’s really worried that his rotation is really starting to break down,” Gammons said of Beane. “Gray’s never pitched 170 innings. He’s got guys that he’s taken off the scrap heap, but they’ve never thrown a lot of innings.”

Thus, Beane made this move with one eye on the future and one eye looking over his shoulder.

“Billy’s really worried,” Gammons reiterated. “Seattle has the third-best run differential in baseball (+64). The Angels have the second-best run differential in baseball (+71). And he wanted to make sure – or do everything he could do – to try to finish first. So, that meant giving up more than he probably wanted to give up, but he probably gets, what, seven, eight, nine more starts out of Samardzija and Hammel?”

The value in that cannot be understated. Samardzija and Hammel have made it to the sixth inning in 34 of their 35 combined starts this season.

“That’s really important,” Gammons said. “It takes a lot of pressure off his bullpen, which he’s invested a lot of money in, and I think it gives them a lot better chance to finish first.”

Now, if they end up playing the Tigers again, and (Max) Scherzer and (Justin) Verlander and (Anibal) Sanchez are all throwing great, they may lose again. If they end up in the World Series and they face (Clayton) Kershaw, (Hyun-jin) Ryu and (Zack) Greinke, they very well might lose.

“(This trade) just gives them an opportunity,” Gammons continued. “I think (Beane is) worried about the number of players in the next two years that are going to end up in free agency or won’t stay in the ball park they play in. I thought it made a lot of sense. It was one of those deals (between) two very smart people – Theo (Epstein) and Billy – who are fearless. They’re not afraid of what people say about, ‘Well, they should do this, they should do that.’”

Beane also knows that while Oakland has one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, it’s not his job to simply develop prospects for the Yankees and Red Sox; it’s to win.

“Billy said to me the other day, ‘I’m in the business of trying to build a good team. I have a good team. I’m not in the business of building prospects. And in this case, this gives us a chance to have a really good team,’” Gammons recounted. “And I think he thinks if the A’s could win once, it would mean a great deal in that market. I just think it’s an incredible deal for the Cubs, though.”

Indeed, Beane – in reference to shortstop prospect Addison Russell – apparently told Epstein, “I just traded you Barry Larkin.”

“That’s how much they think of Addison Russell,” Gammons said. “And I must say, how great is it that the Cubs now have a player named Addison? The guy’s already got a street named after him on the North side.”

 

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