Thoughts on Jeff Samardzija, Yasmani Grandal, Nelson Cruz, and maybe the White Sox too

God, I miss pretending that actual baseball games were as boring as this.

We've had a few days to chew around Jeff Samardzija rumors and put good thought into whether we want to swallow them. CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes found more reasons why it won't work than why it will.

While Samardzija would provide the White Sox rotation with a significant upgrade, winning teams are normally extremely strong defensively in the middle of the field. Replacing Ramirez would be a challenge as Anderson might not be ready until the end of 2016.

Dipping into the farm system also would be costly.

While Anderson, Johnson, Carlos Rodon, Francellis Montas and Tyler Danish give the club some of its most talented prospects in years, the system isn’t loaded with elite talent. There is more depth than the White Sox have had in the past four seasons, but giving up several of their top minor-leaguers could rob the franchise of future opportunities to win.
— Dan Hayes

Best I can hack it, it will probably take significant pieces to secure a trade for Samardzija, especially when there are reportedly other bidders, and it's really not going to be worth it to the Sox to do that just for the sake of 2015. Moving Alexei Ramirez could be self-defeating for a win-now approach, and actually dipping into their decent, but far from deep prospect reserves just isn't worth it; not when their offseason has so gently tiptoed around sacrificing any future resources.

This is understandable--the 2015 team still needs 2-3 significant pieces added correctly AND a bullpen revival--but reflects the Sox eternal weirdness. They're competitive and want to win but don't want to go all-in for 2015, and want to set up a long-term competitive window while signing two over-30 dudes to short-term deals and clinging to their 33-year-old shortstop.

Yasmani Grandal

Wait, what could the Sox have to do with promising, cost-controlled young catcher Yasmani Granda--

There's not a lot of understanding the 'why' here, but it's intriguing all the same. The White Sox have other problems, but Grandal is a 26-year-old catcher with a career 119 wRC+ and under three seasons of service time, much have been spent working his way back into the groove from an ACL & MCL injury from an unfortunate slide in 2013.  There's weirdness in his profile; his power returned in 2014 along with a massive strikeout jump, but he's a great hitter for a catcher who has hinted at better. The larger issue is his future as a catcher, since major knee injuries are not a great thing for that position, and he's never been particularly good at throwing or blocking. Despite only starting 67 games at catcher last season, he led the league in passed balls while only throwing out 13% of basestealers. He might need to be good enough at the plate to subsist as a part-time catcher, part-time first baseman. But he might be good enough to do that!

The Pads are under new management now, and apparently could be clearing out the designated cornerstones of the previous administration, which might mean trading the former stud prospect catcher and rolling with the 31-year-old who hit ten miles over his head for half a season. Fun!

Olney also tweeted that the Padres were looking for immediate offensive help and the Sox only really can flaunt mediocre MLB-ready middle infield prospects, but the Padres infield was a disaster in 2014. Pre-arb extension awardee Jedd Gyorko (again, who might not be as beloved by the new crew in charge) had one of the worst offensive seasons in baseball, one-time All-Star shortstop Everth Cabrera stunk, got arrested for DUI and is now loathed, and Chase Headley was traded. They could probably find something to do with Marcus Semien, Conor Gillaspie, Carlos Sanchez, and Micah Johnson, even though they would need to have company.

The White Sox are historically short on developing young hitters, so when a team is inclined to put one on the market for inorganic reasons, it behooves them to look into it, especially since Tyler Flowers might still be terrible.

Nelson Cruz

The Mariners locked up 34-year-old OF/DH Nelson Cruz on Monday to a four-year, $57 million deal that certainly could look pretty bad down the road and looks pretty bad immediately since the Mariners hemmed and hawed their way out of having Cruz's production in 2014 for far cheaper and without losing a draft pick. The league doesn't actually dock teams wins for stupid contracts or take away runs driven by a crucial Cruz blast in a September game because his $/WAR is out of whack but this kind of critiquing is all we have at this point. The Mariners took a bunch of cagey fliers last season to fill their DH-slot and wound up with with the worst production in the league. They have another prime year of Felix Hernandez they don't want to waste, Hisashi Iwakuma's last season before free agency, and they decided to overcorrect. This is not unreasonable behavior.

Per Nick's piece from yesterday, we are horrible sources for comment on this, since we tend to trust Rick Hahn and write-off Jack Zduriencik as misguided, but it seems preferable to have Adam LaRoche fill the DH slot for two years of his late-30's rather than Cruz for double the time and almost $2 million more per season.

Presuming opium is not picking up renewed popularity in the Pacific Northwest, the Mariners have filled up their DH-slot for good, and while one can never really know why they were ever interested in trading value for Dayan Viciedo, the requirement to play either him or Nelson Cruz on defense might be a final straw in pursuing a deal. At this point, the Mariners can just wait out to see if the Sox will DFA Viciedo tonight.


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