Cubs best strategy may be to hang on to Jeff Samardzija

Cubs best strategy may be to hang on to Jeff Samardzija

I hope everyone had a happy holiday.   The Cubs got a present of sorts when it was announced that Masahiro Tanaka would be made available this offseason.  As I have been saying since early last September, expect the Cubs to be in the thick of this pursuit with the caveat that it doesn't mean they will sign him.  That is because the Yankees have made him their top priority and it's possible the Mariners may go all out after appearing to go all in on Robinson Cano -- and then not doing much since then.   The Diamondbacks were reluctant to deal prospects for Jeff Samardzija, yet they have made it quite clear they are looking for MLB ready pitching.  Having since traded away their primary bargaining chips, they could well be in the hunt as well. The truth is, with the posting fee at "just" $20M, there could be multiple teams involved in the chase.

But the offseason for the Cubs involves more than just Tanaka.  Should they sign him, he would be, by far, the most significant MLB addition the Cubs will have made since the rebuild.  But that isn't the only starting pitcher that could make a significant impact on the Cubs for their short and long term future.

Tanaka is expected to be one of the three most highly sought after pitchers this offseason.  The other is David Price and the third is Jeff Samardzija.  Despite their relatively quiet offseason, the Cubs find themselves in the middle of two of the biggest starting pitching sagas.

One source is telling me now that the Cubs will shelve Samardzija trade talk until at least the trade deadline on July 31st.  So far the Cubs and the Rays have been disappointed in the offers for their young veteran arms and neither team has come close to making a deal.  It appears both clubs are willing to wait rather than settle for anything less than significant surplus value and MLB ready talent.  Interested teams have been reluctant to part with top prospects, so there has been little incentive to pull the trigger early the way the Tigers did with Doug Fister.

Perhaps that's a good thing.  As Steve Stone once said, sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make.  Could that be the case here?

If Jeff Samardzija was a free agent that would not cost the Cubs a draft pick to sign, I'd be willing to bet that he would be one of the free agents the Cubs would pursue this offseason -- but that would be contingent on having him for the next 5 years, enough to take him through his prime seasons.

But Samardzija is not a free agent.  He is not on the open market so he cannot expect FA money simply because the Cubs will probably only have to pay him in the $15M range at most over the next two years combined.  The deal has to involve Samardzija giving up the possibility of some free agent money in two years in exchange for some security that he won't get hurt or regress in the next two.

So far they haven't been able to work out that kind of deal and so a lot of the talk has turned to trading their most talented starter for prospects -- a move that would probably set the timeline back even a little further.

I've always gotten the sense that the Cubs prefer to keep Jeff Samardzija.  Epstein is said to like him a great deal and the team has already given up it's only other young MLB ready power arm in Andrew Cashner.  I think they are reluctant to do that again given their lack of can't miss starting pitching prospects in the minors.  That is, unless the return is multiple of the kinds of high ceiling, relatively low risk pitching prospects they lack.  They are just not getting that kind of offer right now, so the Cubs have chosen to hang on to their most promising MLB starter.  That is a wise decision, in my opinion.

For what it's worth, I did speak to a rival executive who said that he would keep Samardzija if he were in the Cubs position.  The Cubs have asked for a ton in return -- reportedly asking the D'Backs for both Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs and the Jays for both Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.  Additionally, they are said to have asked the Braves for Jason Heyward or Justin Upton to headline the deal. Other reports have them seeking two top MLB ready SP prospects plus a 3rd very good prospect in return.  So it seems to me that the Cubs agree in that they aren't really anxious to deal Samardzija.  Despite all the trade rumors, the Cubs asking price indicates they prefer to keep him.  The MLB ready portion of their asking price also tells me they're not willing to push the timeline back too far -- if at all.

It appears that the interest in an extension is mutual, as Patrick Mooney wrote on Tuesday.

“They’re listening and that’s what any team would do on any player. I just feel like there’s still that common ground of what we both want to do...I feel like we’re on the same page with that (and) it has been (amicable). They haven’t been ripping me and I haven’t been ripping them. I think we’re on common ground with how we feel about each other. I just feel like there’s a decision that they need to make about what the plan is and what the future holds.”

What that future holds is still up in the air and much of it has to do with whether the Cubs are able to sign Masahiro Tanaka.  If they do, that likely speeds up the timeline, especially if the Cubs hang on to Samardzija to start the season -- something I am expecting them to do as it stands today.

Samardzija's concerns about the future seem to have to do less with money and more with the team's ability to compete in the near future.  He has been frustrated with the losing and in particular, Samardzija has publicly voiced his concern about the Cubs sell-offs at the deadline in each of the past two years.  That's not to say he's not on board with what the Cubs are doing,

“I like to approach all this and keep my head online for the big picture of what we want to do, which is win here and win at Wrigley Field. And that’s that."

It's just that the ultra-competitive Samardzija, like many fans, would like that winning to come sooner rather than later.  Rather than specific dollars, I believe he wants to be assured the Cubs are making progress toward that goal before he commits.

So what if the Cubs do land Masahiro Tanaka?

Suddenly you have a staff that looks pretty strong with every pitcher except for Jackson being less than 30 years old.  Even Jackson himself is just 30 and won't turn 31 until the end of next season, so all pitchers would be in their prime years....

  1. Masahiro Tanaka
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Travis Wood
  4. Edwin Jackson
  5. Jake Arrieta

The Cubs will likely keep Samardzija for now and that may work in their favor.  If teams are only willing to deal for him for what he is now - an innings eating mid-rotation type,  then that is unlikely to change much by the deadline anyway.  So why not wait?

If the Cubs open with that kind of staff, it could show Samardzija and other soon-to-be free agents that the Cubs are serious about winning.  In fact, given how competitive the Cubs were last year despite off years by their core, a poor bullpen performance and injuries to their rotation, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Cubs take a significant step forward with that kind of rotation pitching in front of what should be an above average defense.  That would put less burden on what should be a below average offense.

In that light, I think it's worth it for the Cubs to give this a half season before they trade Samardzija -- particularly if they beat the odds and sign Tanaka.  Remaining competitive through July and retaining their core players would send a message that the Cubs are closer than we think.  And who knows?  Maybe if the Cubs feel like they are getting close, perhaps they'll buy instead of sell and get the jump on a potential 2015 free agent market that is expected to include much needed LH hitters like Chase Headley, Colby Rasmus, and Brett Gardner, not to mention a lot of talented starting pitching.

My guess is if that happens and Jeff Samardzija is a big part of that step forward, then the mutual incentive to sign an extension will get even stronger.

Perhaps the Cubs can go into the next offseason with an entirely different outlook with their top prospects on the doorstep, a strong 2015 free agent class, and an in-prime rotation that includes a newly extended Jeff Samardzija.

Theoretically the Samardzija and Tanaka cases are separate, but it may not be that simple.  It seems that despite the Cubs words to the contrary, the two fates are inextricably tied.  Not dealing their top starter may help show Tanaka that the Cubs are serious about winning soon while signing Tanaka may show Samardzija that the Cubs intend to field the kind of competitive team that could convince him to extend.

Whatever the case, the next few months -- particularly as it pertains to Tanaka and Samardzija -- are going to be big for the Cubs as far as determining their direction in the next couple of years.


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    Probably we should keep him, no guarantees on what happens with Tanaka.

    Lots of chatter has the Yankees really wanting him, and taking the position that they will not be outbid. And apparently the Cubs won't be outbid either. But one of them has to be outbid.......Tanaka could get crazy expensive really fast.

    Regardless, I think the Tanaka contract will carry alot of risk, no matter who ends up with it

  • In reply to Zonk:

    It's the exact right kind of risk. The Cubs have minimal money committed beyond 2014. The Yankees are old and crazy expensive already. I think they can and should be outbid.

  • First, best wishes to all readers (and of course writers) for a healthy and happy new year. I just want to emphasize here the importance of these coming days and weeks for this regime. This is, in my opinion, a big reason why Theo was hired. With all due respect, there are probably close to 30 GMs who can unload performing veterans for youngsters that were identified by the scouting staff. Maybe even some of us could simply relay a large $ offer to the Tanaka camp! BUT, I for one will be grading Theo on whatever intangble qualities he could include in his pitch to get Tananka to put on a Cub uni. What with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, etc. reportedly in, it won't be easy. But, is this not among the most important reasons why Theo was hired?

  • In reply to JimmyLeeMcMath:

    The Cubs will likely have to get creative to be able to land Tanaka as starting a bidding war is probably not a good idea for anybody. I'm not sure what he can do, perhaps give him an out clause the way the A's did with Cespedes. Whatever the case, I think the Cubs will have to try and sell him on something other than money.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's why I went with the 30 million year 1 with 1 million less every year after deal. I am not sure the cubs patience toward superiority via building the farm system first has them in the proper footing it needs to be in to compete with the likes of Yankees and Dodgers. I hope tanaka will give the cubs one last chance to get creative before making a final decision. Would love to see him under 25 million in a cubs uniform. Just not sure it will happen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think we should start doing car washes and making cookies to raise a $10million signing bonus! I think the guys wearing the aprons should be the biggest whiners here! If the wives and girlfriends are going to help out at the car wash, maybe we can get Davide Martinez to donate some time to coach them.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Haha! A long time ago, I used to work for a Fortune 500 company that would set up fund-raising events like car washes to benefit employees.

  • I've been saying this for a while. Felzz did an article about "other peoples stuff" i.e. prospects a while back and its the truth. everyone assumed that since jeff wouldn't resign, he was being greedy. So they tossed him to the side and fell in love with other peoples stuff...

    The best situation for us all is to keep and re-sign him and have him take that next step in his development. Which he has shown signs of being able to do. I'd be curious to see how he does when there is no sell off,etc...

    In his interview with Mooney, Jeff even mentioned the revenues and wrigley development as a stumbling block which I found interesting because he claims not to read the rumors or social media, etc... I wonder if they offered that as an excuse for not showing progression. Could this be a play by the FO to have the fan base apply pressure to the rooftop owners?... IDK...

    Anyways, I really can't fault the guy for wanting to see some organizational progress at the MLB level before committing to a new deal with a hometown discount....

    "IF" we do get Tanaka, then we definitely should keep Shark. for one, Tanaka will need the competition so the whole weight isn't on his shoulders. second, competition for the opening day starter & staff ACE roles might help bring the good Shark out more consistently.

    No matter how you slice it, landing Tanaka and keeping Shark will do more for this rebuild than rebounds by Castro./Rizzo and debut's of Baez/Soler/Bryant...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Nah, the best situation for us all is for someone to give us an absurd prospect package for Shark and then for us to use the money we would have spent on him elsewhere. More value in that scenario.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    But that's not realistic. I'd be all for it if someone is willing to overpay i.e. Sanchez & Stroman, plus, etc... But teams seem more willing to overpay with cash vs prospects under this new market....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm just saying, you said that the best situation is to re-sign Samardzija and I disagree. It's to trade him for a huge package.

    It's not realistic to trade Robbie Ray and 2 spare parts for Doug Fister either and that happened.

    All it takes is one desperate GM or owner who wants to dream on Shark being a possible #1 and doesn't want to wait for the kids. Sounds like this front office is going to do everything they can to find that situation.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Saying trade him for a "huge package" is as unrealistic as saying sign him to a "longterm discount." I agree with Hoosier, get Tanaka, keep Shark. With our now rebuilt, cometition-heavy bullpen, decent rebounds from Castro and Rizzo, Bryant/Baez knocking on the door, and a pleasant surprise or two from Sweens and/or Lake and/or Ruggiano and 2014 could be a really good year.

    Getting Tanaka kicks the rebuild up from slow-crawl to warp speed. And he wouldn't cost us a draft pick or any prospects.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I'm not saying it's likely, I'm just saying it's the best case scenario.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Maybe, but that is also the most difficult and unlikely scenario.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think at some point you have to have your foundation and start building around it. You can't keep pushing that backward. Deals for prospects very often don't work out. The Cubs could use the kind of cost control prospects give them but ultimately they win with impact talent. And say what you will about Samardzija, but he's a 3 WAR pitcher and that makes him an above average SP with potential to be better than that. I think the Cubs need to start building a foundation of MLB talent so that they have something to build on when prospects start arriving and the revenue starts coming in. I've never been comfortable with the idea of sitting still and flicking a switch at some point in the future.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We're saying the same things. So is Epstoyer... Shark sounds like he is on board too. Shame on the media for painting a picture to the average fan that he was being greedy or difficult in the negotiations...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed. He just wants to win. I think if he thought the Cubs were on their way to contending and that he would be a long term part of the plan, he'd have signed by now

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    "...landing Tanaka and keeping Shark will do more for this rebuild than rebounds by Castro./Rizzo and debut's of Baez/Soler/Bryant..."


  • John is there any word on the team trying to extend travis wood? he definitely seems like a guy they want to keep around and if they can extend him at a decent value that will give us more money to sign samardzija/tanaka and give us more cost control going forward.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    They would like to extend Wood as well. I like the idea of having Tanaka, Samardzija, and Wood as your foundation for the rotation long term.

  • I don't really see a Tanaka acquisition as speeding up the timeline. Tanaka himself isn't enough of a difference maker to push this team from doormat to contender.

    The picture would look a little clearer and the team that will eventually compete will have more of its pieces in place, but I still think it'll be 2016 before this team is a realistic playoff contender.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I see it this way. There are no other free agents, this offseason or next, that fit nearly so well as Tanaka. I think the Cubs have no business having less than a top 10 (and really top 5 would be better) payroll once they are actually trying to win. Viewed through that lens, Tanaka is the guy to overpay. If that means there's a season or two up front where his performance doesn't push them into the postseason, but they have him in 2016 when the offensive pieces are in place, it's sensible to sign him now. I would also extend Samardzija at that point, because as John noted, you'd then have a rotation capable of keeping up with what should soon be an explosive offense.

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    In reply to Eddie:

    Haven't the A's, O's and Rays taught us that success is not necessarily tied to a high payroll? Meanwhile, the 2012 Marlins added three free agent all-stars and won 69 games, and the Angels have signed the likes of Pujols, Hamilton, Wilson and had back to back 3rd place finishes.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Let me expand. I expect the majority of that high payroll to be spent on extending the guys internally who form the core of a championship caliber team. Rizzo and Castro have already gotten theirs. Samardzija may be next. We're a ways away from Bryant, Baez, Almora, et al. I don't want the Cubs to go nuts in free agency. I want them to go out and spend what it takes to land THIS free agent.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    That's pretty much how I would put it.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    They've also taught us that turnarounds can happen at any point in the rebuilding process. An artificial timeline didn't stop the A's from landing Cespedes. It shouldn't preclude the Cubs from trying to get Tanaka.

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    In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    When was the last time the A's, O's, or Rays won a WS, though? I think the advantage the Cubs will have, being in a larger market, is that they will be able to supplement the homegrown core with smart spending on outside assets!

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    And perhaps more importantly, the ability to retain their own valuable assets if they choose.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I agree that he's not enough of a difference maker to push us into contention. But I do think he accelerates the rebuild because there is no one presently in our organization except for Shark that can match his upside & time frame within a year or two. It's a stretch to think CJ Edwards can in 2 years. No team has ever been competitive in the playoffs with out solid pitching.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I don't see it as accelerating the rebuild simply because I think the plan was always to acquire a top of the line pitcher. Whether it's Tanaka or someone from next year's free agent class, signing a top of the line pitcher is just staying the course for this rebuild, in my view.

    Not getting a top of the line pitcher this year or next year would be viewed as a setback to the rebuild and I think the front office would agree with that.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Of course it would change things. The Cubs aren't going to sign Tanaka and then continue to sell off parts. If the Cubs land Tanaka then that will lead to making other moves to coincide with the arrival of prospects. If the Cubs get Tanaka and keep Samardzija, then acquire a LH hitter, I don't think it's inconceivable the Cubs could be in contention by 2015. The Cubs have said repeatedly they don't intend to wait for prospects alone. I think either way they'll add veterans next season and Tanaka gives them a head start.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haven't you been talking about how Shark and Tanaka are unrelated in the eyes of the front office? If that's the case, then it sure seems like they may try and sell off parts. I think they'll still try and flip players at the deadline if they're out of it. They will (and I think they always will) see what value they can get on the trade market for young players close to the end of their contracts that won't sign extensions (a la the Rays).

    I don't think think it really changes anything. As you said, the Cubs said repeatedly they don't intend to wait for prospects alone. If that's the case, then they always planned on acquiring some assets before the kids and Tanaka is a great fit. Regardless of whether they get Tanaka or not, I expect them to go after another front line pitcher next offseason too. I just don't think getting Tanaka really changes the general timeline at all. Tanaka, Shark and a LH hitter are unlikely to make the Cubs contenders in 2015. Is it possible? Of course, baseball is a crazy sport, teams get lucky, players get hot or have career years, etc. But the general feeling will still be 2016 is the year the Cubs will enter as legit contenders.

    Just my opinion.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    I have but as is stated in the post, I think the two fates are tied together whether they like it or not.

    The key to your post is they'll trade players that won't sign extensions. We don't know that that's not the case with Samardzija yet. It appears he wants to sign but for him it's more about the team being competitive than it is with money, which is why his fate is tied with Tanaka's to some degree.

    There has to be a foundation built to build on otherwise you run the risk of a perpetual rebuild. For that reason, in the absence of an offer that blows them away (which is highly unlikely right now), if the Cubs can sign Samardzija to a deal they like, they will do so. Timelines to me are largely artificial, so any kind of strict adherence to a certain year as to which they can start competing is also artificial. You build and continue to make progress without regard to setting arbitrary deadlines or starting points.

    Should the Cubs sales pitch to Tanaka should be, "Come to Chicago and we promise that we'll begin to try and build a winning team 2 years from now"?

    You always have to be prepared. There is no value in setting limitations and constraints. So while the Tanaka signing in a vacuum isn't enough to make the team competitive, it does get them closer to a tipping point, particularly if they keep Samardzija and both perform as expected or better. That's what's important here. Granted, reaching that tipping point will also require a better bullpen and better years from their core players -- but having Tanaka in addition to those circumstances could well bring them to a point where they will be 55-48 rather than 48-55, as they were at one point last season. While he can't do it by himself, there should be no doubt Tanaka can add to and be a part of that realistic kind of swing that brings them closer just as Cespedes did with the A's two years ago.

    You cannot assume what will happen, you can only put yourself in a better position and be prepared if things improve and a little luck finds it's way. You prepare yourself to win every year and then decide to sell at the deadline if it doesn't work. You don't decide to sell at the deadline before the season starts.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    3 things:

    1) I think we've taken away different things from Samardzija's recent comments. I think he's certainly interested in being on a winning team, but I haven't gotten the impression that it's more about being on a competitive team than the money.

    2) The Rays have basically showed that a foundation is overrated. I love the Rays model and I'd love to see the Cubs adopt a similar model, but with more payroll. Get young cost controlled players, try and extend them to team friendly contracts, ship out the ones that won't sign those contracts. The Cubs already have 2 players locked up in this model with Castro and Rizzo, similar to what the Rays did with Longoria and Zobrist.

    3) The other paragraphs to me can be summed up as: Yeah, it probably doesn't move up the timeline, but it's at least the next step they needed to take towards competitiveness. You talk about building, luck, adding pieces, etc. and all that is obviously important, but when we look season by season, it still boils down to 2016 being the next year they'll field a competitor.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You're hired!

  • If we sign Tanaka for $200mm, which is a very real possibility, Shark is going to expect his. We won't get him cheap. Trading him next July might be the only option.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I agree.

    He sees Edwin Jackson getting $53 million, Tanaka possibly getting $150 million+, isn't it natural to think "where's my money at?" I see his price going up if the Cubs get Tanaka.

    I don't read too much into him saying he wants to stay, like someone else said, Garza and Dempster are recent examples of saying that. They're far enough on an extension that they haven't agreed to one yet, paying gigantic money to another pitcher will only widen the gap IMO.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Both of those guys did want to stay. The difference is that the Cubs want to keep Samardzija. Jackson and Tanaka are on the open market, so it doesn't work that way and I'm sure Samardzija knows that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The Cubs wanted to keep Garza too, there were talks of an extension mid-season.

    That's more the reason for Jeff to test free agent waters after 2015 and not sign an extension, even if he does come back to the Cubs it drives his price up being on the open market.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    The Cubs didn't want to keep Garza nearly as much as you read in the papers.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Tanaka will get a boat load of money, but he isn't getting $200 mil., even with the posting fee.

  • John, I don't think it's "creativity" that's gonna land him. It's gonna come down to $$$$$! So my question is: if you're Theo, how far would you go in terms of $/yrs. to make sure you get him?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I disagree... Yes, the $$$ has to be there. But, he's going to have 9 figures thrown at him from multiple teams. He will choose the best opportunity for him.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I think it will take both. The A's creativity helped land Cespedes despite rumors that other teams offered more money. But the A's were very close with money too. For me it will take a combo of both.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I really am very interested to hear your view on how much money you'd be willing through at Tanaka to get him.

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    I'm not sure the Cubs would be outbid for Tanaka. It is possible the Tanaka takes less money and choose a team like the Yankees as he may feel like a place he'd rather pitch for the next 4-8 years.....

    For the Cubs to land Tanaka the money difference would need to be significant.

  • I agree that if the cubs are not getting the offers they want, they should keep him... But I don't understand whats so hard for Shark to understand that the players beinh traded at the deadline have no future with the team.... Garza, Maholm and Feldman were all free agents this offseason and Dempster was a free agent last offseason... To me Shark needs to focus on pitching and let the FO do their thing... This competitiveness is good as long as he's a good player, like Big Z was... The moment Shark struggles fans will turn the word "competitive" into "head case"... Travis Wood is very competitive too but he showed more leadership this season talking about the team coming together and him liking what the FO is doing and wanting an extension, instead of questioning what the FO is doing.

    Samardzija was vocal about his disappointment when Feldman was traded, but what kind of welcoming was that to his new teammates (Arrieta and Strop), who made the trade totally worth it.

    I might be the minority here but I just want Shark to show that competitive nature by pitching instead of second guessing the Front Office or the coach when a shift is on... JMHO.

  • Should not give a no trade clause to anybody.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think the NTC is Samardzija's way of saying he doesn't want to be a part of the selling off process. He wants to be here and wants some assurances they are signing him as a long term core piece.

  • Market price for a quality player is seemingly always higher in July than in January. Look at what the Cubs got for Garza. For that reason alone, I think the FO should sit on Shark for now.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Agreed. I think the loss of some cost control is at least somewhat offset by greater certainty of contention and a greater urgency to complete a deal.

  • IF we can sign Tanaka, then it makes sense to extend Spellcheck. Him and Tanaka would make a nice top of the rotation, especially if the BP is improved and the offense shows some consistency.

  • First - Merry Christmas and best wishes for a healthy, prosperous New Year to John, Mauricio, Felzz and to the denizens of the Cubs Den board.

    John, this is a wonderfully written article with extraordinary detail on both sides of the argument. Not that I'm trying to - but I can't disagree about a single thing you said. It's as perfectly reasoned and well thought out as I've seen on the subject. Hearty congrats!!

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    If Shark and Tanaka are both here in 2014, then I believe it sets up a couple of other options that could make 2014 interesting. If Yanks lose out on Tanaka, they are still going to need an SP. A trade for Gardner w/EJAX as the focal point would make sense. Then another one Nate to Ms for Ackley would make me a happy Cubfan. I know there is only 1 year of control on Gardner, but I think he is worth a QO. But he and Ackley, combined with some of the other players (Roberts, Valbuena, Olt, Sweeney and Lake) would give Ricky some versatility to build a lineup based on match-ups.

  • The potential free agent market for position players in 2015 is brutal, in my opinion. John mentioned probably the three top options (Headley, Gardner, Rasmus) but none of those are particularly appealing to me given their age and where they would fit on our team. Headley will be 31 and we are very deep with 3B prospects, plus he took a big step back last season. Gardner will also be 31. Rasmus will be 28 and perhaps the most interesting but he has been anything but consistent. Not to mention our top prospects are hitters (although obviously they all won't work out and/or be productive right away).

    There are definitely some interesting starters that might be available. I'll assume Kershaw and Scherzer will sign extensions but one guy I can see being available who could fit what we are doing is Homer Bailey. He'll be 29 and in his prime and I can see the Cubs making a significant investment there, regardless of what happens with Tanaka and Samardzija.

    As for Tanaka, I think we'll give him a fantastic offer. I'm not concerned about the Dodgers - the Mariners are the team that scares me the most actually, followed by the Yankees.

    And finally, there is no reason to trade Shark right now if you can't get what you believe he is worth. Ideally you extend him but if not hopefully he performs like he did in the first half last year and some team gets desperate.

    With the lack of top pitching prospects and the lack of big bats on the free agent market in the near future, I could see us investing our resources into pitching.

  • "As Steve Stone once said, sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make. Could that be the case here?"

    As much as I hate to agree with a quote from Stone,.... he's on the mark this time.

    His 'value' to the Cubs is in his potential to be a #1 or (more likely) #2 type starter. If they can't get at least that much potential in value back from trading Samardzija elsewhere, trading him now is silly.

    'We' can always trade him in June/July if his value is holding that level or above,... and a contract cannot be hammered out in the meantime.

  • I agree with John that the best thing to do at this point is keep him. I have felt that way all along. Theo and Jed have said, OK if you want him then we want A, B and C and if thats too high a price, fine. We will just keep him and see what happens at the deadline which I feel is very smart. I think they will pay him when the time comes, I just think it will come down to what Jeff wants to do and I think he really wants to stay. By July we should have our answer. I also think that the Cubs will be in on any pitcher that will help the cause. Jed and Theo know it's pitching that wins.

  • Dream on Cubs fans . Cubs will be outbid for Tanaka. Cubs management is just saying they will go after Tanaka to make everyone think they are trying to move forward. But its just smoke and mirrors. Expect the Cubs to lose on this one. It will cost 20M up front plus you will have to pay him another 100M or so. Also if you're Tanaka the Cubs mean nothing to you. Now the Yankees, Dodgers, Mariners all have meaning in Japanese baseball not the Cubs. So forget it . Get ready for another sub 500 team .

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    John, it's a good think-piece. On the one hand, one might not have anything to do with the other, but on the other hand, it might. I see it from both sides, and I think you do to. Then there is the third perspective, the fans.

    From the fan perspective, signing Tanaka and extending Samardzija might be the best thing that could happen. It probably means the Cubs are competitive sooner rather than later, and it means it in a way that the young core is still intact, not that they were ever going to go that route anyways.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks -- and as you know, that is almost always my intention with longer, analytical pieces. I don't like getting trapped into one way of thinking (i.e. the Cubs have to trade Samardzija). I don't think most choices are ever that cut and dry.

    We have to read into things sometimes. There's a reason the Cubs haven't settled for certain reported packages or why their asking price is huge. They obviously don't feel they need to trade Samardzija right now. As much as the rumors have been covered I think it's been assumed that there is a sense of urgency to make a trade on the Cubs part. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Eric's comment about Homer Bailey got me to thinking. I have a bad man crush on Homer Bailey and I do think he is certainly better than Shark but that isnt the whole story.

    Say we were to miss out on Tanaka and move Shark this offseason or at the deadline, wouldn't we be in the market, with MANY others, for Bailey? Bailey is roughly the same age as Shark and somewhat better than Shark but it's not unreasonable to think that Shark could close the gap in the next season or two. What does Bailey get on the open mkt- 6/120mil, easily? If Shark is really sincere about returning, doesnt it make sense to "cave" and go to say 5/75? Given the massive difference in cost , doesnt it make sense to lock down the guy that you know is at least willing to be in for the long haul? At some point , we're going to have pay up for SP and I think it makes sense to go for the guy where there is at least some embedded discount to mkt price, due to the buying out of arb yrs.

    We get so caught up in whether Theo/Jed are willing to spend and fail to realize that it is only part of the equation. Our big-league team has deteriorated to the point where we're really not an attractive destination for FAs, right now. Furthermore, management and ownership aren't being very forthcoming about what exactly that timeline is, though they may be more forthcoming with that info when negotiating with players. I think we'd all agree that will probably be the biggest obstacle in Tanaka negotiations.

    Bottom line is that if we jettison Shark, we're likely to be looking for his reasonable facsimile in the next 18 months. If somebody were to give us Bradley/Bundy type, I can see it but it doesn't appear that will be the type return we're talking about.Take the bird in the hand.... Overpaying Shark a bit -relative to what he should earn based on service time/free agency considerations- will be much cheaper- on an absolute basis- than overpaying Bailey or even Tanaka, for that matter.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Bailey is one of many intriguing potential free agents for next year. I think regardless of what happens with Tanaka and Samardzija, the Cubs could be in the market for Bailey or another of the many SPs potentially available next offseason.

  • Planning around a Pitcher that we don't have yet, takes away from other important issues on this Cubs team......... Yes, we can dream of having Tanaka, but in the long run, Tanaka will not bother with a team that has not seen a winning season for awhile.....or a World Series.....this guy wants to win now, not in 2018....

    Now on Shark, I said earlier that the trade haul for Shark would be greater next July based on Supply & Demand........look what Texas offer for Garza back in 2012, and we got even more in 2013 trade.......if Shark is at the top of his game and the Cubs are not going anywhere, the trade return will be greater........

    Why go after Headley?.....I rather see Theo spend the money on F/A pitching....

    I heard Shark wants to stay with the Cubs.......but I heard that same tune from Dempster & Garza.....that is nothing but PR from Sharlk's camp.......

    I believe these are the most important issues for the Cubs going into the 2014 season.......

    1 - Can Renteria communicate with his players?

    2 - Can Castro & Rizzo bounce back to good years?

    3 - Can our Bullpen save the close games?

    4 - Who will the Cubs take at #4 draft choice?

    5 - Can Olt & Edwin Jackson make a difference and surprise the fans?

    6 - Will Javier Baez be a Mega Star?

    7 - Will Theo do one more "house cleaning" in July?

    8 - Will Theo hear the Boo Birds at Wrigley by June?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Interesting points you make.

    1- I think he can, but the ones who he can't should be the ones traded off.

    2. I think yes, for Castro. He's already shown for 3 years he can get it done. Rizzo last year might be the best Rizzo can be. We don't know if his call up year was just a pre-scouting film bounce for him.

    3. BP is a good question... regardless if we feel it's been upgraded or not... Can the starters get us to the setup men, & will those set up men hold the game, let alone the closer to saving it. Can the batting lineup get us in games so the BP has a say...?

    4. Lol, that shouldn't be funny, but it is. This should be the last on the list, but unfortunately, all of the previous questions, along with a point or 2 I made, puts this in play sooner than we'd other wise like. I believe if 3 pitchers are taken ahead of their pick, they'll go Turner. If Turner is taken, they'll probably go Kolek. That's w/Rodon going 1st & Hoffman probably going 2nd. I'll save my analysis as to why I think that for a different reply.

    5. Wow, those are 2 really big ifs. How much does EJax improving really help the overall win column though, giving the offense & BP questions? Olt being a "star" would be a big bounce for the offense. If he's just avg. or a step above Valbuena, then what?

    6. That's a question more for either the end of this yr. or next...

    7. My guess is he'll be dealing for sure, but could be guys like Sweeney, Schierholtz, Barney, Valbuena types... maybe even Lake for the right return. Sam going is still a long shot in my opinion, but it wouldn't be for guys that would help this yr. Probably for what's been discussed.

    8. He might, but probably won't be directed at him... It'll be the players or Mgr. decisions. Theo's a god for about 90% of the Cub fans. He still has a couple years remaining on his honeymoon here.

  • It seems unrealistic that teams lacking a frontline starting pitcher would want to trade their best pitching prospects to get one. That's like going to the used car lot and trading yours and your wife's car to get a car for your kid. I think if the Cubs were asking for a major league ready LH outfield prospect, for example, as the headline in a deal for Shark it would have been done by now. Likewise, if the Cubs were offering a prospect like Baez or Bryant from their surplus of hitting prospects, the pitching they would get back when added to Shark and Tanaka would set the rotation for seasons to come.

  • Actually, CubsTalk, your list of critical issues is fairly spot on.

    I think the most important one is the Castro/Rizzo item. I think we all assume those guys are going to be Ok but we have serious problems if they aren't .....

    With regard Baez, let's face it , this "rebuild" rests on the idea that he and/or Bryant are going to turn into 4+ win players , in pretty short order. That being said, I'm very confident that Bryant will- obviously his position will have an enormous impact on his WAR- and fairly confident that Baez will- in his case, he should be providing serious surplus offensive value at any of the IF positions.

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    Carl, CubsTalk isn't always wrong. He isn't always right either, but the way he says thing, if you read him to often, makes people want to kill themselves in the same way people in the movie "Airplane" kept killing themselves every time they had to listen to Ted Striker's sad-sob story.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Please don't encourage him and maybe he will go away.

  • You guys need to get realistic. Tanaka is not coming to Chicago.
    The Yankees are going all in on Tanaka, and are prepared to offer
    him 8-720. And the Shark needs to go. He's pushing 30, has a big ego, and is overrated. Trade him for the best haul you can get.

  • In reply to ELAN:

    The Cubs might as well just give up. Don't try to sign Tanaka and just dump Samardzija (because he has too much confidence) for a class A pitcher or two.

    Sounds like a great plan.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


  • In reply to ELAN:

    Tanaka will not the help the Cubs.....this team is still years away from contention.....better to trade Shark, build the farm system.....this is not a 3 or 5 year 2020, this club should be clicking...I doubt if Castro or Rizzo will be here by then...Castro / Rizzo will be replaced by Baez / Bryant / Future Draft Picks as our new Heroes.

    Too many Cubs fans fall in love with current players....oh he is from Notre Dame, he is a good guy...or ....he is a Northside kid.............what crap.....I don't care if he is Northwestern guy......too much stock put into local lets forget about that local connection and get players based on strengths and not on their hometown roots.

  • Yanks do not have unlimited funds. Theo knows roughly how much they are willing to go over the cap and yet he's still hopeful. I like our chances.

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    Happy holidays, John! Any thoughts on what a reasonable contract for Tanaka might be as far as years and average annual value?

  • In reply to Ray:

    Happy Holidays! Hope you had a good Christmans. I think reasonable is 6 years and $100M but I could see it going beyond that.

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    In reply to John Arguello:


  • In reply to SKMD:

    ohhh! This should be the next contest (since non of my free agent guesses have panned out).

    I'm in for 10/200

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you. Those numbers are about what I thought.

  • Heres one thing to consider about the Stankees. There clubhouse is filled with multi-millionaires who are starting the downside of the careers(Jeter, ARoid, CC, Tex, Ichiro, soon to be followed by McCann and Ellsbury) How many of those big egos can handle a guy who has never pitched a big league game getting paid more than they do? Remember, Darvish isnt the highest paid player in Texas.

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    John, in regards to Tanaka, does the Cubs relative payroll flexibility give the Cubs some ability to front-load a contract in a way other teams might not be able to?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I suppose it does, but you rarely see it done in baseball the way it is sometimes done in football. We saw it done to some degree with Edwin Jackson, where they gave him a 4 year/$52M deal, but 19M was paid in the first year ($8M bonus + 11M salary) and so now is owed 33M over next 3 years, which is a bit of a bargain at this year's rates.

    Wonder if they should actually try that with Samardzija, which would give him something of a no-trade clause in the first year since teams won't want to take on that kind of money in the first year. Could be a way to compromise.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the idea of front loading Sharks's contract (and anybody else's for that matter) but I don't think that it would be much of a trade deterrent as the Cubs could just eat some of the salary in that first year or two if they were really intent on dealing him. One possible way that the Cubs Front Office COULD give Shark some security without actually breaking their golden rule of "No Trade Clauses" is by adding "mutual option" years at the end of the contract which become "player options" and increase in value in the event that Shark gets traded. I have seen this done on multiple other contracts.

    For Example:

    Cubs & Samardzija agree to a contract of 6 years @ $76 Million with 2 "Mutual Options" in years' 7 & 8 that become "player options" in the event of a trade AND increase in value by $2 Million in year 7 and $3 Million in year 8.

    Year 1 - $16 Million
    (Arbitration year expected $5-6 Million = $9-$10 Million surplus value)

    Year 2 - 16 Million
    (Arbitration year expected $8-9 Million = $7-$8 Million surplus value)

    Year 3 - $11 Million
    Year 4 - $11 Million
    Year 5 - $11 Million
    Year 6 - $11 Million

    Mutual Option Year 7 - $14 Million ($16 Million player option if traded)
    Mutual Option Year 8 - $15 Million ($18 Million player option if traded)

    Total Contract Value w/ options = 8 yrs @ $105 Million
    Total Contract Value if Traded w/ options = 8 yrs @ $110 Million

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I forgot to add that the MAIN differnce for Shark would Guaranteed Money in the vent of a trade..

    Guaranteed Money = $76 Million
    Guaranteed Money if Traded = $110 Million

    That's $34 Million of guaranteed cash for Shark if he gets traded, so while he might not get the geographic security he wants, he will get financial security if he gets traded.

  • I am concerned about the reputation that Chicago has in the Japanese mind due to the way Fukudome was run out of town.
    Granted he did not play up to his contract, the Japanese are very much concerned about "face" and their dignity. And they have a long memory.
    It may well be that even if we offer twice what the other teams offer we are off the list of places he will play.

  • In reply to dabirdguy:

    The Cubs nor their fans handled that situation well. Every team has had it's failures with Japanese signings but the Red Sox handled it much better with Daisuke -- so hopefully Japanese players realize that this is the same front office.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I am certain that if they don't remember that, that the FO may help rekindle that memory.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    True -- and the Cubs have treated Fujikawa well, so that may be a reminder.

  • I say keep him until somebody blows us away with a great offer. If this doesn't happen within 2 years and he is still a good pitcher ( maybe he even reaches his full potential ) we can always re-sign him

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    I'll stand by my prediction that tanaka goes to LAD, but I wonder if the one Ace the cubs hold is the fact that the golden eagles thought high enough of theo that they tried to hire him in the past. Could the golden eagles front office whisper in his ear that Theo's The Man to play for?

  • This is not encouraging:

    " Casey Close, the prominent baseball agent at Excel Sports Management who also represents Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira of the Yankees and pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers."

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Close represents dozens of players, one of the biggest agents in the game. He will find the team willing to spend the most money, he doesn't care who it is.

  • I see the bidding getting to 7 years and 140 million. That scares the bajeezers out of me. Images of Mike Hampton and Barry Zito dancing in my head. Franchise crippling stuff. I sure hope the scouting knows what they are doing on this one.

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    That's the risk you have to take when talking about a potential ace under 25 that only requires money. No prospects, no draft picks.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:


  • When you say franchise crippling, does that include two World Championships with Zito on the payroll? If so I would like the Cubs to get some of that!!!

  • Interesting....

    Sahadev Sharma ‏@sahadevsharma

    Hoyer on overpaying: When people say truly overpay, I think that’s going above and beyond to sign a player at all costs.

    Hoyer on overpaying: That doesn’t work out very often. If you’re going to do that it almost has to be that final capping piece on a team.

    When I posed that question, it was framed with regard to a team paying for a player maybe a year or so earlier than they believed they can compete

  • I want to mention something interesting that Sheehan/Rany brought up in their final podcast, which covered the offseason of the NL teams. When discussing the Cubs, they mentioned that they believe one area that the Cubs may flex $ muscle ,as the plan evolves,is taking on " bad" contracts with haircuts. The example they used was Kemp and it made a lot of sense. Under the right terms, clubs can extract a lot of value in those types of deals. I think we, as fans, take a look and say someone like Eithier or Kemp is overpaid and/or in decline and fail to look at the $/WAR relationship that might be created with an appropriate subsidy. You're not gonna get Andrew McCutcheon in a salary dump but you still might find some valuable pieces at an attractive price( i.e Fielder, Reyes,AGon, Crawford). You have to look at it, like anything else,from a relative value perspective. Fangraphs , for example, recently ran a piece breaking down how taking on Eithier makes more sense , comparatively, than signing Choo. Their thesis was that the small differences in expected performance didn't justify the enormous difference improve tags.

    To be quite honest , I'm surprised the Kemp idea didn't have more traction. He's still young enough to have several more good seasons & isn't far removed from an 8-win season. If they're able to corral Tanaka , it might be a way to establish credibility without necessarily sacrificing long-term objectives- price would need to be right. Point is that this route is definitely something Epstoyer should and , I'm sure, is open to.

  • To bad Tanaka can't come in on a beautiful Late June day when the ivy is in full bloom and the temp. is around 80 on a sunny afternoon. That's what sold me on the Cubs 55 years ago.

  • In reply to kevie:

    Haha! Good point.

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    In reply to kevie:

    Indeed. I don't know if he has a wife and kids, but I would think that Chicago might be more attractive to a young family than LA or NY

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    The other thing that's interesting about that rotation is that it would leave no spot for Pierce Johnson or CJ Edwards. (Maybe the 5 slot if Arrieta continues to struggle.) That's a good thing because it would allow the Cubs to play the Cardinals trick of bringing pitchers up in the bullpen where they can more easily manage their pitches and situations to ease them into a major league role.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    You can never have too much pitching. They could start in the bullpen, but I also think that in 2 years or so when those guys are ready, a spot may open up.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree Edwards is two years away. But Johnson is a college pitcher who would have been a first rounder but for the forearm strain and will start this year in AA. I think he could force the issue next spring (that is, spring 2015) with a good year.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He certainly could. I suppose it will depend on how well they are performing. I think if Johnson or anyone else is pitching well enough to be in the rotation, then maybe they'll find a spot for them. If they can't then I could definitely see them starting off in the bullpen.

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    here is the one thing no one has discussed
    a signing of Tanaka at whatever dollar is on Theo

    he has to go to ownership for the money / commitment
    when you get into the 6 year deal for a pitcher at these AAV we are talking about - GM's jobs are on the line

    so I could see another team - who is in win now mode
    willing to do more than the cubs who look destined for another
    90 loss season.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    I think this is an exception because of the age. With Tanaka just turning 25 he can help win-now and rebuilding teams equally. If anything, he favors teams looking long term. Win now teams could get a much cheaper pitcher for the short term.

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