Baseball may be turning its eyes towards Cincinnati for next week's MLB All-Star Game, but the real action will be held via telephone, email, text message, and any other form of communication you can think of. One name that will be thrown around quite a bit in the next few weeks is Jeff Samardzija, the right-handed free-agent-to-be of the Chicago White Sox.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is no stranger to trade rumors -- even the slightest ripple will earn space in one of his columns -- but he reported that the Tigers were one of the teams interested in Samardzija as the trade deadline approaches.
The match makes sense; the Tigers desperately need a starting pitcher, and Samardzija is a good one despite his 4.33 ERA and league-leading 126 hits allowed. Samardzija's 3.51 FIP is nearly a full run below his ERA, and Chicago's league-worst defense is doing him no favors. His strikeout rate has dipped compared to his past couple seasons, but that was largely due to a lackluster April. Since the beginning of May, Samardzija has a 3.29 FIP while striking out 21.4 percent of the batters he has faced.
Will the White Sox trade Samardzija, though? Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported that Chicago won't be in full-scale sell mode at the trade deadline. While they may not climb back into the playoff race, they are taking a long-term view of their roster, and that may very well include Samardzija on a long-term deal. They have the payroll space to do it -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon are all locked in to very team-friendly deals -- and Samardzija is a northwestern Indiana native.
Being in the same division as the White Sox presents an additional hurdle for the Tigers. They have struck deadline deals with their divisional counterparts in the past, but never one of this magnitude. President and general manager Dave Dombrowski has acquired Jhonny Peralta and Delmon Young from the Indians and Twins, respectively, in previous midseason trades, but both were for low-level prospects due to underperformance with their previous club. The Tigers also made a three-team deal with the White Sox in 2013, sending Avisail Garcia their way while receiving Jose Iglesias from Boston. The Tigers have gotten the better of this trade so far, but teams like to avoid sending cost-controlled talent to a close rival whenever possible.
Despite his high ERA, Samardzija will still be a valuable commodity as the month rolls on. Cafardo lists the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros as potential suitors for Samardzija, and it would not be surprising to hear other contenders -- the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and typically dormant Toronto Blue Jays come to mind -- pop up in the coming weeks.