Today I spoke to a source who believes that coming up short on Masahiro Tanaka may end up costing the Cubs Jeff Samardzija. It's always been my understanding that it's more about winning for Samardzija than it is dollars and cents.
Barring an unexpectedly good offer, don't expect that trade to happen this offseason.
The understanding I have is that the Cubs would prefer to keep Samardzija, but another losing season may force their hand.
It's difficult to be optimistic about the Cubs chances in 2014. They will start the season with largely the same roster that finished up the 2013 season at 66-96. It seems likely that if the Cubs have another sell-off at the trade deadline, it will include Samardzija this time.
There are essentially two ways to prevent that from happening. The obvious way is that they extend him before the season starts. The way things stand now, that seems unrealistic.
The other way to keep Samardzija is for the Cubs to surprise and make significant progress toward a contending team. While that is admittedly improbable, the same source said that if that happens, "nobody is going anywhere."
That said, it seems like 2014 is about getting all their ducks in a row for 2015. With several top prospects reaching the upper minors, the Cubs will have a good idea about their direction moving forward. In addition, the Cubs will learn a lot about several young pitchers, including Jake Arrieta, Justin Grimm, Alberto Cabrera, Kyle Hendricks, Arodys Vizcaino, and Dallas Beeler. Can they be part of the rotation? The bullpen?
There is also the question of the core players. Can Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro bounce back? Can Welington Castillo build on his strong 2nd half? Can Travis Wood extend his good 2013 performance into 2014?
There's a lot of questions to be answered and indirectly, it all affects Jeff Samardzija and whether he remains a Cub. I, for one, hope he stays because that will only happen if the Cubs play well. Trading him would essentially mean taking another step back. And I've been as patient with the rebuilding process as anyone out there, but that doesn't mean I don't want them to start putting some wins together. When the trade deadline comes around in 2014, I'm hoping the Cubs will be in a position to buy a piece that will help them for the present and the future.
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