OAKLAND, Calif. – One of baseball’s best rotations is about to get even better.
The Oakland Athletics have an agreement in place to acquire right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs for three top-line prospects in a surprising trade for baseball’s top team, two people with knowledge of the deal said Friday night.
The people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was still pending, said the A’s will send top shortstop prospect Addison Russell, outfielder Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily to the Cubs. An official announcement will likely not happen until today.
The trade is a rare move under general manager Billy Beane in which Oakland – one of baseball’s most frugal franchises – parted with talented young prospects for proven players to chase a World Series title.
The A’s are a major league-best 53-33 after beating the Toronto Blue Jays 1-0 in 12 innings Friday.
Samardzija and Hammel give the two-time defending AL West champions a powerful punch to add to a rotation that includes Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray and Tommy Milone. Oakland could use such strong arms after being eliminated in a decisive fifth game at home against Detroit’s Justin Verlander in an AL divisional playoff the past two seasons.
The hard-throwing Samardzija has just a 2-7 record on a Cubs team in last place in the NL Central. But he has a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 108 innings this season.
Out of contention again this summer, the Cubs wanted to get the most for Samardzija while they could. The former Notre Dame football star is set to become a free agent for the first time after the 2015 season.
Hammel is 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings this season. While he will turn 32 on Sept. 2, he has still been reliable as ever for the Cubs.
The win-now approach comes at a cost for Oakland. Russell, McKinney and Straily are the kind of young – and inexpensive – players that the A’s have long built their foundation.
Earlier in the day in Washington, Hammel picked up what turned out to be his last victory for the Cubs. Hammel pitched six-plus innings and Justin Ruggiano homered for the second straight game, leading the Cubs to a 7-2 victory over Washington.
Chicago was leading 4-1 when Hammel was pulled after Anthony Rendon hit his 92nd pitch for a leadoff double.
I would have liked to have stayed out there in the seventh, Hammel said. I have no idea why I came out of the game. I honestly believe you learn how to pitch when you get to 100 pitches. If you’re not allowed to reach that I think that’s hurting you more than helping.
Hammel has gone over 100 pitches in eight of his 17 starts, including his previous two outings.
The Cubs broke it open in the ninth when Ruggiano singled in Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro added a two-run single.
Ruggiano connected for a solo shot against Tanner Roark (7-6) in the third inning.
He has seven RBI in his last two games and is batting .444 (12 for 27) in his last seven games overall.