OAKLAND — The beginning of July's first blockbuster trade occurred about a month ago, when Athletics GM Billy Beane called Cubs executive Theo Epstein to ask about RHPs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
Beane told Epstein he liked the starting pitchers and he was going to be aggressive in an attempt to improve the AL West leaders. Fast forward to this weekend, when Beane proved just how serious he was during that call.
Oakland and Chicago announced a big trade Saturday, with Samardzija and Hammel heading to the West Coast for a package of prospects that included the A's first-round selections in each of the past two drafts.
The Athletics began the day with the best record in baseball, but Beane felt he needed to add depth to a rotation that has responded well to season-ending injuries to RHPs Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. LHP Drew Pomeranz also is on the disabled list with a broken right hand.
Samardzija and Hammel join LHPs Scott Kazmir and Tommy Milone and RHP Sonny Gray in one of the majors' best rotations. Hammel and Kazmir were teammates on the Rays from 2006-08.
"We had to dig into our depth really early, and we felt like we needed two (starting pitchers)," Beane said.
Minor-leaguers Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily went to Chicago. Russell is the key, a shortstop who is widely regarded as one of baseball's best prospects.
JAYS STAR HURT: Blue Jays 1B Edwin Encarnacion was helped off the field in the first inning with a right leg injury. Encarnacion, who entered Saturday fourth in the AL with a .590 slugging percentage, beat out a double play ball but began limping as he reached first. Toronto described the injury as right quadriceps soreness.
CARDS STARTER DONE: Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia will need thoracic outlet surgery and is out for the season. The surgery usually involves having a rib removed to alleviate a nerve issue.
ANGELS-D'BACKS TRADE: Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen by acquiring LH reliever Joe Thatcher and OF Tony Campana from Arizona for OF Zach Borenstein and minor-league RHP Joey Krehbiel.
BREWERS: RF Ryan Braun left after the first inning with lower back spasms.
DODGERS: Former Rays LF Carl Crawford, out since May 28 with a sprained left ankle, started a rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque.
METS: LHP Jon Niese isn't expected to miss a start after a comebacker hit him on his left side during Friday night's game. … 3B David Wright returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an injured left shoulder.
ROCKIES: RHP Jair Jurrjens said the chest tightness he felt after Friday's start turned out to be nothing more than a scare. X-rays and blood work revealed nothing out of the ordinary, he said. … SS Troy Tulowitzki missed a second straight game with a tight groin.
YANKEES: C Brian McCann was a late scratch because of a sore left foot and is day to day.