White Sox acquire Shark in six-player deal
Chicago also gets young righty Ynoa for Bassitt, Phegley, Ravelo, Semien
SAN DIEGO -- The dream stands as a simple one for Jeff Samardzija, who is the newest member of the Chicago White Sox following the announcement of a six-player deal with Oakland at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday.
Samardzija's goal is to get a start in an Interleague game at a National League ballpark where he actually can hit and connect on a home run. It's not so much about the thrill of helping the White Sox with his bat, as he already has two career homers. It's about going deep and hearing Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the team's venerable and colorful play-by-play man who Samardzija listened to growing up in Indiana, call said long ball.
"He's not going to have to say 'Stretch!' because it will be way over the wall," said Samardzija with a laugh during a conference call Tuesday. "But I've got to get some at-bats and hit a homer strictly so I can get it on tape with his call.
"I'm excited. What a story that is to come around and listen to the guy on TV so long, and I have the opportunity for him to call my games."
A connection to Hawk becomes one of the many things that has the native of Merrillville, Ind., and the onetime Notre Dame baseball and football standout excited to join the White Sox. His new team is equally thrilled.
In order to acquire an elite right-handed starter in Samardzija and right-handed reliever Michael Ynoa, the White Sox gave up infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, infield Rangel Ravelo and right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt. The White Sox didn't want to give up any of the four players, per general manager Rick Hahn, with Semien and Bassitt probably figuring into the 2015 White Sox equation before the deal.
With Samardzija being in his final year prior to free agency and looking almost certain to test the open market after 2015, Hahn did not want to give up any of the top-tier prospects for possibly just one season. That one season ultimately didn't matter for a team that plans to contend now and hopes to sign Samardzija to a long-term deal.
"This was the guy we wanted. This was the guy that fit for us," Hahn said. "This was the guy we felt was a perfect complement to [Chris] Sale and [Jose] Quintana, and at the same time has the ability to fit in seamlessly within our clubhouse, obviously knows the market, has had success in the market. It might be a little bit of a gamble, but we're optimistic we're [going to be] able to extend his stay as well."
"Just the approach the White Sox had to get me, how it seemed they were really on a tear to put me on their roster," Samardzija said. "That's all you can ask for as a player, for an organization to circle a name on their list saying, 'This is a guy we have to have on this team.'"
Hahn made it clear that weekly or monthly updates about potential Samardzija extension negotiations weren't going to happen. The point is just as clear that the White Sox want Samardzija in their rotation past 2015.
When asked about signing an extension with Chicago, Samardzija sounded like a player who continues to be committed to exploring free agency. It also was hard for him to hide the excitement for him and his family over his White Sox addition.
Getting Samardzija inherently includes getting his exclusive negotiating rights for the next year in Hahn's big-picture view. Samardzija is looking forward to the getting-to-know-you process and how it could influence any future deals.
"Long-term deals are all about relationships and the future," Samardzija said. "Obviously, I just got traded. Winning on the field takes care of a lot of future talk. To be there for a whole year, to be with the team, to get to know the organization in and out, that's huge, because ... a big part of that process of being a free agent is trying to quickly learn an organization and what they're all about.
"Sometimes you have to do that in a month. It's important for me to be able to be on this team all year and really get to know all the players and what the future holds is exciting. I've been pretty adamant about being a free agent. It's really something you shoot for. You are so close to it and you really want to experience it, but like I said before, when the situation is right, it's right. When the numbers are right, the numbers are right."
Samardzija joins Sale, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer as the only pitchers to record 200 more strikeouts over each of the past two seasons. Samardzija has fanned 739 over 777 2/3 career innings, with 81 homers and 277 walks allowed.
Those numbers should play well at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, where the 2014 All-Star has a 0.47 ERA over four appearances. It's a ballpark Samardzija visited many times as a kid and drove past countless other times on his way from Chicago to his Valparaiso, Ind., home.
Now, he has the chance to pitch for the White Sox, something he told Hahn on Tuesday was a "dream come true."
"It's a trade on paper geared toward improving us for 2015," Hahn said. "At the same time, we are hoping to extend that period beyond."
"For it to work out this way, it's even more mind blowing," Samardzija said. "I'm still here soaking it all in and thinking about all the old ties I had and how fun it's going to be to go back."