What an exciting weekend to be an Athletics fan as Billy Beane went for the roster jugular grabbing Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel without even remotely impacting his on-field roster. In fact, suddenly Oakland has a bounty of starting arms and a pitching staff that is as deep and flexible as the team's roster of position players.
On the Athletics side, Samardzija's great Oakland debut Sunday (seven innings, four hits, a walk, and five whiffs) is largely what the team and roto owners should expect as the team with the lowest team ERA in the league actually collected a legitimate top flight starter with a current three-year stat base.
For Samardzija, he gets a team that is both in contention and can score runs, which makes the deal win/win in every possible direction. Furthermore, the Athletics will have the rights to the former Cub for 2015 as well.
If you are in an AL-only configuration, and Samardzija is available for a FAAB pick-up, throw a max bid out for him, for if you need a starter, the tall right-hander is exactly what you need, and if you don't need pitching, you will have a surplus from which to trade, for one thing. For another, this will allow you to have more control over the distribution of talent within your league. (note he went for $85 in Tout AL.)
Much the same can be said for Jason Hammel, who at 31 is a couple of years older than Samardzija, is having the best campaign of his career, going 8-5, 2.98 over 108.6 innings with a 1.021 WHIP and a fine 104 strikeouts over 108.6 frames. Hammel steps into the same Oakland rotation that to a large degree has been piecemeal this year, and just makes the entire cluster that much more potentially stable and reliable over the course of the most challenging part of the year.
Hammel might not have the luster of Samardzija, but he is still a pretty good FAAB bet.
What about Tommy Milone, who just shut out the Blue Jays over six innings and who is 5-1 over his last six starts with a season mark of 5-3, 3.57, who has delivered 96 very strong innings stepping into the team breach left by injuries to A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker, and the ineffectiveness of the now traded Dan Straily?
Well, sending Milone down made administrative sense since he started Friday, and was unavailable to pitch for a couple of days anyway. I would expect that Milone will be back from Sacramento at the expense of Jesse Chavez as Brad Mills has already been moved to the bullpen.
Add in that Chavez is a great story, but he has already tossed 36 more innings than his career high in 2009, so a breakdown as the season progresses is not out of the question.
Meaning, in the event of an injury--because there haven't been any this year, right?--he is there, and if Billy still has his trading shoes on, Milone simply provides an extra chip. Irrespective, I suspect we have not heard the last of Milone this season.
Expect Straily to step into the Chicago rotation after a stint in Triple-A and help get some NL sea legs and working on command at Wrigley, despite the lumpy season he has endured thus far. As in a 4-3, 4.71 mark at Triple-A after being demoted from the Oakland rotation in May (1-2, 4.93 over seven starts).
Straily is pretty good at keeping runners off base with a 1.257 WHIP in the Majors, and he strikes out a reasonable share of hitters (8.0 per nine innings) but he does give up the long ball (1.4 over nine innings). He is just 25 years old, but surely has to work on the big fly, but otherwise he has a reasonable future out there, although I am not sure how much I would gamble this season.
In McKinney and Russell, the Cubs continue to add to their prospect riches for both are former #1 picks. Exactly where Russell winds up, in deference to position, with Starlin Castro on the roster is a question, but not one to think about for the most part until 2015. Either way, the Cubbies are loaded with talented prospects. The only questions are when and if they emerge as we anticipate.
While we are on the path of Oakland hurlers, what about former Athletic, now former Diamondback Brandon McCarthy, who is now a Yankee? Well, if Samardzija and Hammel make good bets, McCarthy becomes a reasonable gamble. He has had good success in the American League, and now goes to a contender.
The reality is that McCarthy has never really rebounded from the bang on the noggin from a line drive he received in 2012. I don't mean this as a criticism, for I was at that game and it was indeed wicked. In fact, I don't see how he can even go back on the mound.
Irrespective, McCarthy is 8-21, 4.75 over 244.6 innings with a 1.361 since returning from the injury, hence the use of the word "gamble."
Wheeler is hitting .299-7-31 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year, with 20 walks to 49 strikeouts. That means a .367 OBP and an .834 OPS. Wheeler might start out hot for the Pinstripes, but if you do select him, expect to exploit and then dump. I don't think the utility infielder will prove to be as successful as Solarte, even for half as long.
If you need to gamble on a middle infielder, however, I would rather risk it on Munenori Kawasaki. I really liked Kawasaki when I saw him in the spring in 2012 but he proved to be overmatched at the dish. But, now, with a couple of years in the Majors, he seems like a different guy at the dish, going with the pitch, and using his intrinsic skills and the edge now of his experience. Kawasaki should be starting at second base for a spell, and will not hurt your average and grab some swipes.
Finally, were I to gamble on a hitter this week who is likely floating around the free agent universe, it would be on new Blue Jay Nolan Reimold.
Reimold will likely step into a starting gig, with Edwin Encarnacion now down, and since Toronto has tried virtually every available piece in right field--assuming Jose Bautista grabs first base--Reimold has the cred and also tends to start out hot. He could give you a deadly season balance.