The White Sox are talking trade with the Oakland Athletics for right-hander Jeff Samardzija, with one source speculating they were at a “serious” stage Saturday.
Whether the Sox would have to part with shortstop Alexei Ramirez isn’t known. Samardzija is in his final year of arbitration, and he has said he isn’t interested in signing a long-term deal until he becomes a free agent. He likely will be dealt to any team as a one-year rental with a projected salary of $9.5 million.
Giving up the 33-year-old Ramirez, who is under club control for two more seasons at — by market standards — a club-friendly $10 million per year, would be a steep price to pay unless the Sox get another player or prospect in return.
One report linked the A’s to the Atlanta Braves in trade talks. Ten teams reportedly have discussed Samardzija with A’s general manager Billy Beane, who traded All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday and is revamping his roster.
Samardzija, acquired in July in a trade with the Cubs, stepped up last season with a 2.99 ERA in 2192/3 innings, striking out 8.3 batters per nine innings and walking 1.8. Most scouts and executives view him as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
Samardzija, who turns 30 on Jan. 23, is a northwest Indiana native who grew up following the Sox and spoke favorably during the season about the possibility of pitching on the South Side.
The A’s, who can use a shortstop, probably would make that happen if a trade involves Ramirez. He played in 158 games in each of the last four seasons and was a Gold Glove finalist and won his second American League Silver Slugger Award last season after hitting .273 with 15 homers, 35 doubles and 74 RBI.
“If I’m Oakland, if I can get an every-day shortstop with offensive potential for two years for Samardzija, who they’re not going to sign, I make that deal,” a major-league executive said. “It’s a gamble for the White Sox for me.”
Having Cy Young candidate Chris Sale and MVP candidate Jose Abreu under contract for multiple years in their prime, GM Rick Hahn is pushing harder for more immediate results this offseason than his first two. In the last two weeks, he signed first baseman Adam LaRoche to a two-year, $25 million deal and left-handed reliever Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million deal. He promised that he wasn’t finished, and a right-handed starter is at the top of his wish list.
If the Sox wish to have Samardzija for the long term, they know it’s not Beane’s style to grant negotiating windows to potential trade partners as a condition of a deal.
“That’s not going to happen,” the executive said. “And [Samardzija] will want the market to play out at least into this offseason. [Max] Scherzer turned down $140 million. Who knows what these guys are going to get? He won’t want to sign something on Dec. 1.”