Fantasy Impact of the Oakland-Chicago Blockbuster

by Jeff Hopkins on July 7, 2014

Jeff Samardzija


Hopkins takes a look at the blockbuster trade that shook the fantasy world this weekend.



Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum – the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics – started the MLB trading season with a bang this week. The Cubs sent their two best starting pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland, in return for shortstop prospect Addison Russell, first-round pick Billy McKinney, pitcher Dan Straily, and a player to be named later.


The Cubs get:


The Cubs get the top shortstop prospect out of the A’s organization in Addison Russell. Russell was the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft and posted a line of .275/.377/.508 in A+ in 2013 along with 85 runs, 60 RBI, 17 HR and 21 SB in107 games. As with all young prospects, who knows what they will turn out to be, but he has shown some good potential at the plate and good speed on the bath paths. Not sure what the Cubs are planning here with Starlin Castro already signed at SS, and Javier Baez the #6 prospect in MLB and Kris Bryant at 3B in the minors… maybe a move to 2B for Baez, who knows?


Billy McKinney was the 24th overall pick in last summer's draft and is a 19-year-old outfield prospect playing in High-A. The Cubs aren’t exactly strong in the OF in the big leagues so any help they can start to build in the minors is a positive.



Dan Straily is a sneaky bargain for the Cubs as he is still only 25 years old. He struggled pitching in Oakland this year, but with age on his side, a change of scenery might help him out – I don’t expect much more than a bullpen gig for now.


In short, Theo Epstein seems to be collecting some potentially valuable trade chips and did very well with this deal… the future on the north side looks brighter with a collection of prospects like Russell, Baez, Bryant and McKinney in the system.


The Athletics get:


Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to add to an already jammed-with-talent rotation. With Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir already entrenched in the top two spots in the rotation, Samardzija and Hammel should slot in right after them leaving a single spot for Jesse Chavez, Tom Milone (who was optioned to Triple-A today) and Drew Pomeranz (who is currently on the DL) to fight for when all are healthy in the second half. Odds is one of those starters gets moved for a bat this month, or Milone and Chavez head to the bullpen if and when Pomeranz returns and pitches well. It's not like having too many good starters is a bad thing, and the A’s get Samardzija for 1.5 year and a half season from Hammels as they take their shot at the World Series.


Fantasy Players helped by this deal:


1.Jeff Samardzija moves from the hapless Cubs to the top scoring team in MLB in a park that cuts down overall scoring by almost 10%. His 2-7 record over the first two months should be totally opposite from here on out at least, and his 2.83 ERA and 1.20 WHIP that he fought so hard to get in CHC should come much easier in OAK. With another year of arbitration, the A’s want The Shark around and he will want to produce to drive his price up in his new home. Samardzija pitched seven strong innings, allowing only one earned run, for his first win of the season today against the slumping Blue Jays.


2.Jason Hammel should also gain a slight bump in fantasy value with the move to the Bay and he is already 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. I don’t think he will improve on those numbers, but the luck that carried him to them in CHC can drop off a little and he still should be pretty close to those numbers over the second half. With Hammel a free agent after the 2014 season, expect him to push and push hard for the shot at that big payday.


3. The Oakland bullpen as a whole, as they will have two more starters who can pitch past the 6th and 7th inning so their workload should be lightened this summer, saving them for September and the playoffs. Samardzija will most likely become the top starter in the OAK rotation in my opinion and should easily log another 100+ innings from here on out. I don’t know if he will even last the whole season, but even Jim Johnson might get a boost from this… but I doubt it.


4. All the hitters in the NL Central who don’t have to face these two anymore, making a date with the Cubs probably the easiest matchup in the NL Central by a lot now. Guys like Matt Holliday, Pedro Alvarez and Joey Votto, who are all struggling to their own extent, certainly won’t miss facing then two or three times this second half.


5. Tsuyoshi Wada will get the call to start this week and should be a short term option for the first little while for the Cubs. His 9.30 K/9 rate in AAA is good. The other youngster who will get a shot is Dallas Beeler who is 5-3 with a 3.93 ERA in 11 starts for Iowa this season, while Wada has gone 9-5 with a 2.66 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts). Both might have a short burst of fantasy value in deep mixers or NL Only leagues.


Players hurt by this deal:


1.Jesse Chavez, Tom Milone and Drew Pomeranz – all are SP4-SP5 guys and there will only be one spot for three pitchers soon, so it’s a lose-lose for two of three, and the one who remains won’t have a very long leash.


2.Addison Russell now finds himself on the third rung of the infield prospects ladder instead of on the top waiting. Sadly, this is part of life for most prospects until the make it to the bigs and make an impact. I doubt the Cubs will be able to hold on to all of Baez, Russell and Bryant for too long, so likely one gets moved.


3. The Cubs bullpen – of course there isn’t really much you should own there anyway, but if you do it won’t be fun with the top two starter pitchers and inning eaters now gone… poor Cubs fans.


In the end, the Athletics got magnitudes better (which is hard to believe), and they were already the best team in MLB. Their rotation is likely the best in the land to go with the highest scoring offense in MLB – in short, both pitchers will get fantasy boosts moving to the Oakland Coliseum. The prospects sent to the Cubs make the future brighter, but there is no fantasy news to speak of with them for 2014.


Catch me on twitter @canuckhoppy


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