Jays watching Cubs' Hammel, Samardzija

 * The Blue Jays have scout Russ Bove watching Chicago Cubs RHP Jason Hammel on Monday at Marlins Park in Miami and Tuesday night RHP Jeff Samardzija starts. Both are believed to be available as the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31 nears. ....  

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Letters of Intent


By Bob Elliott

Less than seven weeks remaining until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Will the Blue Jays add a much-needed arm for their rotation?

“I’m a big Mark Buehrle fan, I love his approach, he works so quickly, fields his position and hardly walks any one,” said one evaluator, “but come October, you need someone who can hump it up there at 95 MPH.”

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey doesn’t fit that description.

So who starts Game 1 of the Jays first post-season since 1993, assuming that A) they get there and B) there is time to set the rotation?

Until they are oh say five games back in the wild card race the front office has to try to find an answer to that question.

“Remember Dave Parker would say ‘when the leaves turn brown I’ll be wearing the batting crown’?” asked one scout. “Same with pitching: when the leaves turn brown you have better have some hard throwers.

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine both won well over 300 games. Both had losing records on good teams in October.”

The usual suspects are still where they started the season: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays, Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs; James Shields, Kansas City Royals and Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians.

What we do know:

_ The Royals have won eight straight to move to within a 1/2 game of the AL Central Division leading Detroit Tigers going into Tuesday’s games. It would be a surprise if Shields, eligible to become a free agent at year’s end, went anywhere other than the corner of 12th Street and Vine.

_ The Indians are two games below .500, tied for last -- 3 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Masterson is headed for free agency.

And the asking price for any established, front-line starter will be prospects. Lots of them.

_ Lefty Daniel Norris made his 13th start for class-A Dunedin on Thursday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium before 809 fans and watchful eyes. Chaim Bloom, Tampa Bay director of baseball operations, and two Rays scouts were there; as were Cubs vice-president Tim Wilken, along with Blue Jays assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish, special assignment scout Russ Bove and pro cross checker Dean Decillis.

Norris, 21, pitched five scoreless innings against the Daytona Cubs, allowing three base runners on one hit and two walks, while striking out three. Norris lowered his ERA to 1.22 as he walked 18 and struck out 76 in 66 1/3 innings.

Now, the Rays and Cubs scouts could have been out for a drive and saw the lights and stopped for a hot dog, or they could have been checking out the Jays prospects.

They could have been looking at Mississauga outfielder Dalton Pompey, 23, who as one evaluator said this week is “having an MVP-type” season in the Florida State League. He leads the league with 24 steals and is amongst the leaders in slugging (.462), OPS (.854) and hits (74).

Or see seeing how stacked the cupboard was. There is plenty Taylor Cole, 24, is 5-2 with a 2.19 ERA walking 16 and striking out 95 in 78 innings, lefty Matt Boyd, 23, is 5-1 with an 0.55 ERA walking nine and fanning 55 in 48 2/3 innings (who scuffled at double-A New Hampshire 0-2, 8.31) and K.C. Hobson, 23, has 57 RBIs in 61 games (with seven homers) and major league blood lines, the son of Butch Hobson.

There was talk this spring that the Rays could not afford to keep Price this year. He’s in his seventh season, but had four years and 164 days service on opening day. So, he’s eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. Can the Rays afford him? He’s earning $14 million US and is eligible for salary arbitration.

In his seventh season, Price only had four years and 164 days service time on opening day. He’s eligible for salary arbitration while free agency remains down the road.

jeff samardzija

_ Jays senior advisor Mel Didier and Decillis were at Wrigley Field to see Samardzija beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 earlier this month. He pithed seven innings allowing two runs on five hits and one walk. He fanned eight in an 103-pitch outing.

The Cubs are preparing to move Samardzija and the asking price, according to those in the know, is four players in return.

Samardzija, 29, is eligible for salary arbitration next season and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. He’s had little run support this season and is 2-6 with a 2.77 ERA in 14 starts walking 26 and fanning 82 in 91 innings.


_ And a new name to the mix: Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel, 31, who began his big-league career with the Tampa Bay Rays, then moved to hitter’s parks: Coors Field with the Colorado Rockies and Camden Yards in Baltimore.

“He’s not Samardzija or any of those top guys, he’s probably a No. 4, but he would not cost as much,” said an American League scout.

Bove, one the Blue Jays most trusted scouts a man who helped general manager Alex Anthopoulos learn to scout years ago -- Bove was at Olympic Stadium scouting for the New York Mets, the current GM was an Expo intern -- was at Marlins Stadium in Miami Monday night.

On the mound for the visiting Cubs was right-hander Hammel, who pitched six innings allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk. He struck out nine, leaving with the score tied 4-4 as the Cubs won in 13 innings. He is now 6-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 14 starts walking 19 and striking out 85 in 92 1/3 innings.

And facing the Marlins on Tuesday is Samardzija.

The search for October help continues.


Briefly: Colorado first baseman Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) singled home a run Wednesday for his 900th career RBI moving him past Matt Stairs for second place on the all-time RBI list of Canadians ... Dave Pepe, the 31st round second baseman the Jays signed from Pace University, is the grandson of legendary former New York Daily News scribe Phil Pepe ... The search begins: Jays scouts Chuck Lamar and Mike Mangan were at the Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers beginning to look for players for the 2015 June draft. Mississauga’s Josh Naylor of the Ontario Blue Jays hit a triple and set a showcase record when his throw from first base was clocked at 93 MPH ... Great Sport Chek commercial with Casey Janssen, his father Jack, Brett Cecil, his pop Duane and Steve Delabar and his father also named Steve ... Happy Father’s Day.