The Braves have once again been linked with Cubs' starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Gordon Wittenmyer, the Cubs' beat writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote Saturday that "the Braves, Mariners and Blue Jays are among the most interested, with one source suggesting offers already have been made by at least two teams."
Rumors floated in spring training that Atlanta had talked with the Cubs about a deal that would send Jason Heyward to Chicago for the right-hander. That was after the Braves lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries.
Samardzija is 2-6 this season for the lowly Cubs, but he's got a 2.77 earned run average. He's allowed 81 hits in 91 innings, with 26 walks and 82 strikeouts in 14 starts.
Samardzija, a former wide receiver on the Notre Dame football team, will become a free agent after the 2015 season. He turns 30 years old next January.
But with a crowded rotation already, why would the Braves want Samardzija? They have five starters now, with David Hale in the bullpen and Alex Wood in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Well, you must remember that three pitchers in the Atlanta rotation will be eligible for free agency after this season. It's unlikely that Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang or Gavin Floyd will be back next year.
So Samardzija would give Atlanta another top starter for not only the rest of this season, but for the 2015 campaign as well. Plus, the Braves would have an inside track on negotiating with Samardzija on a long-term contract.
If the Braves did get Samardzija, they could trade two of the veteran starting pitchers for help in other areas (another bullpen arm or a bat off the bench) or maybe get prospects that would help replace the ones they would have to put in a deal with the Cubs.
As far as the price for Samardzija, it will be steep. The Cubs need pitching prospects, so they may ask for Hale or Wood. The Braves would probably be more willing to give up Hale. Williams Perez, doing well this season in Double-A Mississippi, could also be a Cubs target. J.R. Graham is another pitcher that might be on the table. And with Evan Gattis flourishing in Atlanta, that might tempt the Braves to include catching prospect Christian Bethancourt in a major deal.
The rumor is somewhat surprising, considering Atlanta's rotation depth. But considering their prior interest in Samardzija, it's something to keep in mind as we get closer to the July 31 trade deadline.
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