Cubs

Could Cubs and White Sox get together on a Samardzija trade?

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Could Cubs and White Sox get together on a Samardzija trade?

The White Sox have such a complex about the Cubs that it’s almost impossible to see them trading Jeff Samardzija back to the North Side.  

The Cubs already have the iconic ballpark, the star manager and the team living up to the offseason hype. Why would the White Sox want to help the Cubs this summer and guarantee all the baseball buzz stays in Wrigleyville?

Especially when the Cubs believe they are at the beginning of a long run as contenders and the White Sox are so sensitive to the idea of being the city’s other team.

It’s still the perfect topic for a crosstown series that began three weeks out from the July 31 trade deadline. Even if the White Sox brass — chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, executive vice president Kenny Williams and general manager Rick Hahn — hasn’t fully committed to the idea of selling yet.

[MORE: Cubs vs. White Sox: What if Joe Maddon managed on the South Side?]  

The official position statement from Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer:

“I know that we’re in the same city,” Hoyer said before Friday’s 1-0 loss to the White Sox. “I know that might make it difficult. But certainly the last three years we would have been able to have a conversation with them. I don’t think they’re at the point yet where they feel like they’re there. But we would obviously be willing to talk to them.

“Listen, we’ve known Kenny and Rick for a long time. They do a great job over there. And if it came to discussing players, we’d certainly do it.”

In terms of financial flexibility, the Cubs are believed to have no more than a few million dollars stored up for this summer. Samardzija is owed less than half of this year’s $9.8 million salary before he looks to make a splash in free agency.

This is Year 4 for the Theo Epstein administration, which views last year’s Fourth of July blockbuster as a major turning point for the franchise. The Cubs packaged Samardzija and Jason Hammel in a deal with the Oakland A’s that yielded two former first-round picks in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney.

[RELATED: Crosstown Question: Who would you build a franchise around?]

The Cubs still need pitching, even after getting good news on Hammel, who lasted only one inning against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, leaving with left hamstring tightness.

An MRI revealed no significant damage, leading the Cubs to project Hammel won’t go on the disabled list and will be able to start the fifth game after the All-Star break (against the Cincinnati Reds on July 21).

“‘Scare’ is probably a good word,” Hoyer said. “It makes you realize that every team, every pitcher can go down at any time. You have to have the depth to handle it.

“We know that’s going to be our focus at the deadline — to try to add depth.

“Jason’s injury maybe kind of underscores that a little bit.”

The White Sox traded for Samardzija last December and immediately put him front and center in their marketing campaign, trying to capitalize on his Northwest Indiana roots and Notre Dame name recognition. But Samardzija wants to test the market this winter and won’t be giving any hometown discounts. 

[MORE: Cubs, White Sox enter Crosstown series on different paths]

The White Sox began the day in last place in the American League Central, but still only 5.5 games back in the wild-card race.

“They have a pitcher over there?” Hoyer said, checking his watch. “We have heard of him. We traded him a week ago last year.”

That morning, Baseball Prospectus gave the White Sox a 3.3 percent chance to make the playoffs while projecting the Cubs at 77.5 percent. Samardzija said he still follows his old team “just a little bit.”

“You don’t really hear too much about the Cubs in Chicago,” Samardzija deadpanned. “They don’t get that much coverage so…

“Yeah, it sounds like they’re doing pretty good.”

Samardzija loves the bright lights and the big stage and still has a strong relationship with Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio, who helped him make the transition from inconsistent reliever to frontline starter. The two talked on the field before Friday’s game.

Hoyer tuned in to see part of Samardzija’s dominant performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon. Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a complete-game shutout at U.S. Cellular Field.

[NBC SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here]

The Blue Jays have been fixated on Samardzija for at least two straight seasons, the Baltimore Orioles are also believed to be interested now and everyone needs pitching. After a rough April, Samardzija (6-4, 4.02 ERA) has thrown at least seven innings in 10 of his last 11 starts.

“I don’t think he cares” about being on the trading block, Hoyer said. “He’s a competitor. He goes out in any game and he’s going to battle.

“The deadline noise or the uncertainty — I just think he’s a guy that’s pretty unaffected by it, which is a pretty big positive.”

So you’ve been scouting Samardzija?

“I watch a lot of games,” Hoyer said with a laugh. “That’s my job. They’re on TV a lot.” 

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: