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The Seattle Mariners and Jeff Samardzija

While we wait for the Nelson Cruz fiasco to come to a resolution, the Mariners still have a need for some end-of-the-rotation pitching. For a while it was rumored that Ervin Santana might end up with the Mariners, but the latest rumors seem to point to him going to (who else?) the Yankees. While that makes me mad, there’s still some other guys available before the Cactus League gets underway.

The Chicago Cubs have been fielding calls for right handed starter Jeff Samardzija. Given that the Cubbies are in a major rebuild right now, Samardzja seems like a very likely candidate for a trade. Given that the Mariners are accumulating MLB-ready players, the two seem like a match made in heaven.

Samardzija’s current contract gets him over $5 million in 2014. While that’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, the Mariners are on a bit of a spending spree anyways. Not to mention, it’s no secret that Jack has been looking for a deep rotation guy to back the Felix/Iwakuma combo. At the moment it looks like we’re going to see this:

Now, not to be pessimistic, but the back end of that rotation has very, very little MLB experience. Heck, I have more fingers than Walker and Paxton have starts, combined. They certainly have a lot of potential, but it could end up being a long, hot summer if those guys can’t step up to big league form. What’s worse is that we might end up with another Aaron Harang situation.

Jeff Samardzija certainly fits the bill for the Mariners. The 29 year-old right-hander has been in Chicago since 2008, where he’s been a staple in the middle of the Cubs’ starting rotation. His best year came in 2012 when he posted a 9-13 record, ERA of 3.81 and WHIP of 1.219. He also ate up 174.2 innings that year, and followed that up with 213.2 innings in 2013.

Given last year’s bullpen issues, the Mariners would love to have another guy plow through 200+ innings and get the Danny Farquhar/Fernando Rodney combination out there to close some wins out.

Barring a surprising breakout season, Samardzija isn’t going to bring any Cy Young awards to Seattle, but what he will bring is a proven arm for the middle of the rotation. The Cubs were able to milk about 8 or 9 wins out of him for the last few seasons, and that’s the same Cubs who finished 15th in the NL two of the last three seasons (the third was 14th). Ideally, the M’s could pull 8+ wins out of him in the next few seasons as well.

Here’s where it gets dicey though, even though the Cubs are overhauling the team, Samardzija is still going to be costly. The general consensus is that the Cubs are going to want some pretty highly ranked pitching prospects in return, and the ones highest on that list are also the same ones currently penciled into the 2014 starting rotation.

Taijuan Walker? Forget about it, I’m not wasting a paragraph on that, there’s pretty much no way he’s going anywhere.

That leaves Paxton, Ramirez, Brandon Maurer and maybe even Danny Hultzen. The injured Hultzen is out for most, if not all of 2014, but still ranked high enough on past prospect charts to warrant a look. Barring that, we’ve still yet to see anything happen with Nick Franklin and/or Dustin Ackley. With Robinson Cano in the picture, the Mariners are even more flexible to deal one of those guys. Bring in Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz, and the whole situation could very quickly turn into a trade-festival with Jack in the middle yelling “Deals! Deals! Deals!”

A quick look makes this look like a good fit for both teams, the Cubs want someone who will develop with the team for the next few years, and the Mariners want a proven guy who can carry lots of innings and get to a championship soon. The only drawback is that Samardzija is a free agent in 2016. If Jack thinks he can win by then, we’re good, but I don’t see the team making that fast of a turnaround. It would be nice to get more than a few seasons out of him rather than treat him as a rental.

The hot topic right now is Cruz and a multi-year offer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a trade suddenly popped up and the Mariners got their hands on a new starter for next season. In the mean time, head over here and throw some support to the Mariners and the 10th Man campaign.

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