Do The Toronto Blue Jays And Jeff Samardzija Make Sense?
The Toronto Blue Jays sit in first place in the AL East on May 23rd, 2014. Yes, you read that right. Everything is clicking for a team that is currently playing like they were supposed to in 2013. They're hitting, pitching, and playing defense. A winning combination that is stirring up excitement as the Blue Jays begin a stretch of 16 of their next 19 games at home.
The starting rotation was considered the team's biggest weakness but it has been a surprising strength, as the rotation ERA leads the AL East. Mark Buehrle is having one of the best, if not the best, season of his career to this point, R.A. Dickey has pitched a lot better than his surface numbers suggest, and Drew Hutchison is evolving into a nice middle of the rotation to top of the rotation type arm.
The last two rotation spots are currently filled with J.A. Happ who has pitched well enough to get the overrated win stat in three of his four starts, and would be a nice fifth guy if he develops consistency and continues throwing like he has thus far. Liam Hendriks starts for the Blue Jays tonight against the Oakland Athletics left hander, Scott Kazmir. Hendriks has been great in AAA and the Blue Jays are hoping he continues throwing the ball like he has in Buffalo.
There is no doubt the Blue Jays have the offense and the bullpen to compete. The rotation has been exceptional but many feel if the Jays add another quality arm, they might be able to keep this lead in the AL East.
The name that continues to surface is Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija was linked to the Blue Jays this off-season and there is definitely some interest as Blue Jays scouts have been seen at his starts. The question now becomes, does Samardzija, or "Shark" make sense for the Blue Jays?
There are definitely two sides of the coin to that question. Obviously, a power arm that Samardzija is would bolster the rotation and would make sense for the club but the other side of that coin is the steep price it will cost. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez were the reported asking price for Shark in the off-season and given how he has thrown in 2014, that price will only go up.
Samardzija features a fastball (93.9 MPH), two seam fastball (93.7), cutter (91.8), splitter (84.8), and a slider (84.0). A lot of hard stuff is thrown by Shark and he has experienced success with his repertoire. He currently is throwing to the tune of a 1.46 ERA, 2.87 FIP, and 3.47 xFIP. His defense is definitely playing a key piece in his success but his FIP and xFIP are still solid numbers.
Shark is currently throwing a K/9 of 7.15 (19.9 K%), which is down from 9.01 (23.4 K%) in 2013 but despite the drop in K's his other numbers have improved. He is walking fewer batters (2.78 BB/9) and is inducing more ground balls at a nice 51.6%.
The most impressive number that Samardzija has cut down on is the home runs. His HR/9 is at a minuscule 0.26 compared to 1.05 in 2013 and 1.03 in 2012. That number is key considering if the Blue Jays were to add Samardzija to a home run hitter's ball park, they would hope that trend continues. Buehrle and Dickey have both cut down on the home runs allowed which has contributed to their 2014 success, much like Shark.
The only thing stopping the Blue Jays is the price. Stroman and Sanchez is an extremely steep price to pay, especially considering the amount of young prospects they gave up in 2013 trades.
If the Blue Jays are to pursue the Shark, the time is not quite ripe. With a chance to truly take a comfortable lead and begin to pull away from the rest of the AL East with 16 of the next 19 games at home against quality opponents in the Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals, a quick three game road trip against the Detroit Tigers, and back home to face the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Minnesota Twins. The Blue Jays would be very smart to see where they sit in the standings after this stretch.
After the big stretch of home games, they take to the road to play the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, and Cincinnati Reds. If the Blue Jays are still in first before the stretch of road games, I would expect dialogue between the Blue Jays and Cubs to heat up.
The time is not quite ready for the Blue Jays to pursue Samardzija. They can still see what they have in Hendriks and likely Stroman in a few turns through the rotation, to truly evaluate where they sit in the standings and if such a drastic move is necessary.
Shark definitely makes sense, but the situation needs to be monitored carefully and the price has to be right. Expect talks to heat up even more if the Blue Jays are still in first place come mid-June after the crucial stretch of home games.