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Trade-deadline rentals come at a price

CHICAGO – Would Chicago White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija or any other half-season rental be worth it for the Chicago Cubs?

The case to trade for Samardzija, of course, is an easy one. He’s a good pitcher whom the Cubs know well. He would probably give them his best two months as he prepares for free agency. He would add depth to a thin starting staff. But that still doesn’t answer if he would be worth it.

On Friday, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer sidestepped the question of trading for a player who’s headed to free agency, opting not to discuss his team’s strategy this month. But the fact of the matter is a starting pitcher acquired at the July 31 trade deadline can only affect 10-12 games. Minus a couple of exceptions -- namely Rick Sutcliffe in 1984 -- that pitcher isn’t winning 90 percent of those starts. It just doesn’t work that way when a player changes teams.

Samardzija could net the Cubs a few more wins, but the Cubs would have to pay dearly for him -- or Johnny Cueto of the Reds -- or whoever else hits the market in the coming weeks. Would you trade players like Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Mike Olt for Samardzija? Remember, he’s gone after this season.

The Cubs traded for a consensus Grade-A prospect in Addison Russell when they essentially moved two rentals, Samardzija and Jason Hammel, last year to the Oakland Athletics. And the Sox sent four players to Oakland for Samardzija when they grabbed him this past offseason. Bottom line, it’s going to cost the Cubs – if the teams actually discuss the option.

“We would be willing to talk to them,” Hoyer said about the White Sox regarding trades in general. “If it came to discussing players, we would certainly do it.”

Here’s the problem with depleting the Cubs' talent base even a little: It leaves them with less to offer for a bigger fish who can be part of their rotation for more than two months. Whether it’s Cole Hamels, who has years left on his deal, or a young Mets pitcher the Cubs can control for several seasons, it makes more sense to spend their assets in that direction.

And remember, the Cubs are nine games out of first place. Trading for a high-end pitcher might simply keep them where they are now -- in the wild-card race. And that might be worth it, but to spend the assets in order to play one extra game is a lot to consider. And as long as the Cubs' pitching staff is healthy it’s not like Samardzija would necessarily be a playoff pitcher until they got deep into a series.

Still, the idea of seeing Samardzija back in a Cubs uniform – pitching for the postseason – can’t be just dismissed. It just might not be the smartest move.