Boston Red Sox trade target: Jeff Samardzija


Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws a pitch at Wrigley Field (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

As the Red Sox look to reclaim their winning ways, for this season and beyond, the team needs to focus on the starting rotation.

Winning begins with pitching. The Red Sox are playing just .400 baseball, and that record mirrors the success (or lack thereof) of its opening day rotation. Only Jon Lester and John Lackey have had reasonable success thus far. Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz have been a collective disappointment.

The club has quality arms in the minor leagues but, beyond Brandon Workman and Allen Webster, they largely require more development.

Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs is among the most sought-after pitchers in the majors. Scheduled to pitch today in San Francisco, he leads the majors in earned run average at 1.46 but has no wins in 10 previous 2014 starts. The former Notre Dame football wide receiver also pitched for the university’s baseball team.

He bypassed the 2007 NFL draft and signed with the Cubs. His major league debut was in July 2008 as a relief pitcher. He had a few spot starts in 2009 and 2010 and joined the Cubs rotation in 2012.

At 29, his arm has not been stressed as much as other starters due to his extensive bullpen work. He has a five-pitch repertoire and still has a year of arbitration eligibility.

The Red Sox need to acquire Samardzija for two important reasons. First, the club needs reliable veteran arms in its rotation; second, if the Red Sox do not acquire him, he likely will go to their division foe, the Toronto Blue Jays (with an outside chance of the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles).

The Red Sox have an advantage in negotiations with any other club because Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, is a former Red Sox general manager. He is familiar with the Red Sox farm system and was responsible for drafting many of its players. As he seeks to rebuild his team entirely, the players he favored while in Boston may have continuing appeal, including Doubront who could fill the roster spot vacated by Samardzija.

The climate is not the best for trades at this point of the season, but Ben Cherington and the Red Sox could enjoy an opportunity that few other teams do. For that reason, the time to act is now.