CHICAGO -- According to Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, there’s more trade conversation about players such as pitcher Jeff Samardzija outside the front office than from within -- at least right now.
"It [trade talk] doesn’t happen every day," Epstein said Friday afternoon. "It’s typical for this time of the year. The rule of thumb is there is more speculation this time of year than actual trade talk. Teams don’t like to rush into those types of things. Buyers don’t like to rush into those types of things. It takes time to develop."
But that doesn’t mean the market won’t develop quickly for Samardzija and a few other Cubs, including pitcher Jason Hammel.
"Unless someone shows it to me, I don’t know about it," Hammel said of trade rumors.
It was only a couple weeks from now during last season that the Cubs pulled off an early July deal with the Baltimore Orioles, moving Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Epstein said that’s not indicative of anything except that particular deal came together quickly. It’s possible Hammel could end up on the same path, but Samardzija might go to the highest bidder at the latest possible time. He’s more attractive, partly due to the fact he won’t be a free agent until after 2015. Hammel is a free agent after this season.
"The parity creates more potential buyers," Epstein said. "A lot of teams are out there that could be one or two players away from getting into the playoffs and doing some damage."
Going into Friday’s games there were seven American League teams and six National League squads within five games of a playoff berth, to go along with those that would be in today if the season ended. That’s the kind of large market Epstein hopes develops, and is the reason no less than eight teams are reportedly interested in Samardzija, who has turned down every offer the Cubs have presented to him over the past two years -- including one report this week of five years, $85 million.
Epstein isn’t showing his hand.
"Just try to keep the players focused on the field," he said. "It’s where we want their focus to be. The realities of the game at this time of the year take place on the Internet and in the paper than take place in reality. When moves do come we address them at the time. There’s no point in preparing players for things that might happen down the line. It’s part of the game."