Kasper: Fun to make early evaluation of big trade
It's way too premature to assess the trade the Cubs made with the Oakland Athletics on July 4, but it is fun to look at what has gone on since that big deal.
Jeff Samardzija has gone 4-4 with a 3.57 ERA in 11 starts with the A's. With that, he has been worth 0.6 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com (after putting up 2.1 WAR in 17 starts with the Cubs).
Jason Hammel hasn't done so well. After going 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts with Chicago, he has gone 1-5 with a 5.77 ERA in 8 starts as an Athletic. After compiling 3.2 WAR with the Cubs, he's actually put up a negative number with Oakland: -0.7 WAR, which means he has fared worse than a replacement-level starter.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have gotten great value out of the two guys who spelled Samardzija and Hammel in the rotation.
Left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada has been worth 1.5 WAR in his first 9 starts (4-2/2.79 ERA), while righty Kyle Hendricks has racked up 2.3 WAR (5-1/1.91 ERA) in his 9 starts.
This is remarkable and a bit head-scratching. Samardzija and Hammel combined for 5.3 WAR with the Cubs but have been worth -0.1 WAR to the A's. They'd have fared almost the same (if not better) over this stretch with any other available (i.e., replacement-level) starters instead of Samardzija and Hammel.
And in fairness to Samardzija, it's Hammel who has been by far most responsible for that pedestrian number.
I wouldn't have predicted that development in a million years, which goes to show you how mercurial the game is over small sample sizes. Nobody in their right mind would have guessed the two ex-Cubs combined would be worth so little to their team to this point, which likely means they are due to be better in September.
Wada and Hendricks have put up 3.8 WAR in their stead.
While Samardzija and Hammel might have fared better as Cubs than they have as A's, the rookies have been worth about 4 more wins than the veterans since the trade.
Now, the regression-to-the-mean theory tells us that Wada and Hendricks are quite possibly due for a correction over the final month. Even so, there's a decent chance their combined WAR will be comparable if not better than Samardzija and Hammel post-trade.
And we can't forget, the Cubs got one of the top prospects in all of baseball in return in 20-year-old Addison Russell, who has been terrific defensively with Double-A Tennessee with an OPS of nearly .880.
Outfielder Billy McKinney, who also came in the deal, has an OPS of over .820 with single-A Daytona (he just turned 20).
Russell and McKinney were Oakland's top two prospects respectively, according to Baseball America. While there is no guarantee either player even gets to the big leagues, it's an easy bet to say Russell will and could ultimately be the Cubs' everyday shortstop.
Lastly, the Cubs acquired 25-year-old right-hander Dan Straily, who struggled in his lone start with the Cubs and may or may not be a part of the rotation moving forward.
The bottom line here is that while the Cubs gave up two veteran top-of-the-rotation starters, they not only got a nice haul in return, their in-house rotation replacements have more than picked up the slack.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter@LenKasper and check out his baseball-blog with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com.