WASHINGTON — The Cubs put on their own blockbuster fireworks display Friday night by trading ace Jeff Samardzija and eight-game winner Jason Hammel to the Athletics for four prospects.
The trade will be announced Saturday — the same day Samardzija was scheduled to pitch against the Nationals and one day after Hammel was upset about being pulled after throwing only 92 pitches in six-plus innings of a 7-2 win.
The stunning deal occurred nearly four weeks before the July 31 trade deadline and involved the Cubs’ top two bargaining chips.
The Cubs will receive the A’s top two prospects in shortstop Addison Russell, 20, and outfielder Billy McKinney, 19. Baseball America ranked Russell as the No. 14 prospect in baseball entering 2014. He was batting .333 in 13 games at Double-A Midland after missing most of the season because of a hamstring injury.
The Cubs also will receive Triple-A Sacramento pitcher Dan Straily and a player to be named.
The trade completes nearly 12 months of speculation over the future of Samardzija, who had a 2.83 ERA despite a 2-7 record and a lack of run support in several starts.
Samardzija, 29, can become a free agent after 2015, and he and the Cubs couldn’t agree to terms on an extension.
The Diamondbacks had interest in Samardzija late last July, and the Blue Jays, Braves and Mariners were among the teams that had followed him closely since this spring. The A’s had one of their top scouts at Friday’s game to watch Hammel.
Hammel, 31, was signed as a free agent in February and was deemed a rental for the Cubs to use to restock their farm system.
Despite having the majors’ best record (53-33), the A’s were seeking to upgrade their starting pitching.
The trade honors the desire of Samardzija — the Cubs’ fifth-round pick in 2006 after an All-America football career at Notre Dame — to play for a contending team.
Before the trade, center fielder Justin Ruggiano sensed the inevitable after his three-hit performance against the Nationals.
“We all know it’s more than likely (trades are) going to happen,” Ruggiano said.
McKinney was the A’s first-round pick in 2013 and was batting .241 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs at Class A Stockton. Straily was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 27 starts for the A’s last season and was 4-3 with a 4.71 ERA at Sacramento.
The Cubs now have three of the top 14 players in Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list and six of the top 41. The trade gives them more depth to acquire more pitching for their system.
Twitter @MDGonzalesCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun