Fantasy Baseball

Athletics Trade Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox In Six-Player Deal

Prior to the official start of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, rumors of a Jeff Samardzija deal from Oakland to Chicago began to surface. The rumors turned to fruition during the first full day of the Winter Meetings as General Managers Billy Beane and Rich Hahn engineered a six-player swap that landed the White Sox a right-handed starter they desperately needed.

The Deal:

To the White Sox: RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP Michael Ynoa
To the Athletics: IF Marcus Semien, IF Rangel Revelo, C Josh Phegley and P Chris Bassitt

Samardzija is clearly the headliner of this deal, and although he’s only under team control for 2015, the White Sox brought the Indiana native back to the midwest because they needed a right-handed power arm to complement southpaws Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks. Presumably, those will be the three left-handers to start the season in the rotation, with Carlos Rodon making his way on to that list at some point during 2015.

In Samardzija, the White Sox are getting the right-handed power arm they’ve been looking for. He’s coming off a career best 2.99 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 33 starts between the Cubs and Athletics. He’s an inning-eater — Shark dished 174.2, 213.2 and 219.2 innings in each of the last three seasons — and he’s a career 22.5% K% guy as well. Samardzija cut the free passes just about in half last season — down to 4.9% BB% from a career 8.2% BB — which could be partially attributed to nailing down the first strike (65.5% F-Strike%) and causing hitters to offer at pitches out of the zone (33.2% O-Swing%) better than he has in the past.

In addition to cutting out the walks, Samardzija has gradually induced more ground balls in each of the past three seasons from 44.6% to 50.2% while reducing the fly balls from 33.1% in 2012 gradually down to to 30.5% in 2014. The improvements in both along with a similar decrease in line drive rate over that same time frame will play better for the right-hander at U.S. Cellular Field — the 7th most hitter-friendly park in MLB. Hopefully he can reduce the amount of homers allowed by keeping the ball out of the center of the zone. Here is a zone map of all of the home runs Jeff Samardzija has surrendered since 2008, courtesy of BaseballSavant.com:

Shark HR

The only thing missing in this equation for fantasy purposes are the win totals. He’s gone 9-13, 8-13 and 7-13 in each of the last three seasons, clearly not reflective of how well he’s pitched over that time. But if by chance your league values quality starts, you’ll be sitting in decent shape with the Shark as he’s notched 59 in the past three seasons.

The White Sox may try and extend the right-hander before too long — and being that this trade was a “dream come true” for Samardzija, a deal could potentially get done — but by all accounts testing free agency after the 2015 season seems likely. If you’re a believer in the “contract year” theory, Jeff Samardzija is an excellent starting pitcher target for your 2015 fantasy baseball team. He’ll likely be targeted as a high-end SP2 in fantasy drafts this Spring, but he does have SP1 upside.

Michael Ynoa is a 6ft 7in, 210lb right-handed hurler, who was once referred to as the top Latin prospect in 2008 when signed by the Athletics. He’s struggled to stay healthy, including a Tommy John procedure in 2011, so the addition of the the Dominican to the deal seems almost like a lottery ticket for the White Sox. However, it is a fresh start for the youngster, so hopefully the new home  will serve him well. Keep your eyes peeled for progress form this youngster.

More on what the White Sox gave up to the Athetics later…

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