Now that Masahiro Tanaka is with the Yankees, and the only potential impact pitcher still left not tied to compensation, Matt Garza, has signed with the Brewers, the options for teams looking to acquire short term pitching help have dwindled.
Only Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana remain on the market and both are tied to comp picks. There's no way around it at this point. If you want one of the top pitchers left on the market, you are going to have to give up at least one young player.
Meanwhile in Chicago, there seems to be little progress with regard to signing Jeff Samardzija to an extension. In fact, the two sides have yet to agree to a deal for 2014. Samardzija is looking for $6.2M and the Cubs have offered $4.4M. We all know the real value payout will end up somewhere in between, probably around the $5.5M range.
That salary makes him a bargain for teams looking to save payroll space, but only if they're willing to give up a lot more in terms of player compensation.
Both Jon Heyman and Bruce Levine both tweeted recently that the Blue Jays have kept in contact with the Cubs regarding Samardzija while earlier reports had suggested the Orioles were doing the same. I've also heard an unconfirmed rumor that the Mariners remain interested.
It's more than likely that the teams are just keeping tabs and leaving the door open. There is no indication that any momentum has been gained with any of these teams. Judging by the Cubs reported asking prices, there's also no indication that the team is all that eager to trade him at this point.
Still, the Cubs have to be prepared to deal Samardzija. If he doesn't want to sign an extension, then he becomes a 2 year player and that doesn't do the Cubs a lot of good given that most don't expect the Cubs to contend until 2016. Even if they'd rather have Samardzija remain as part of their core it doesn't make sense to do that if they are going to lose him before they are ready to win. Especially not if a team is willing to give up a top package of prospects.
The Cubs do have time on their side.
They have Samardzija under control for two more years. That gives them 2 years to try and put together a competitive ballclub and convince him to stay. Judging that the Cubs have picked up the following players at the deadline the last two years for rental pitchers: Arodys Vizcaino, Kyle Hendricks, Christian Villanueva, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, CJ Edwards, and Neil Ramirez -- what exactly is the incentive for the Cubs to settle for anything less than what they want now?
They are certainly going to want a lot more for two years of Samardzija than they did for 2 months of Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza. And if they don't get significantly more, they're better off waiting until the deadline -- when they have proven they can extract surplus value once those teams have a greater sense of urgency to make a deal. In the meantime the Cubs can get at least a half to one and 1/2 years more of production from Samardzija without a significant loss in return. The Cubs have no reason to sell now at a price that they can likely extract later.
That's the decision teams that are interested in Samardzija will have to make. Do they want to pay a premium to get the extra 1/2 to 1 1/2 years with Samardzija or do they wait until the 2014 or 2015 deadline and get less value in return?
For the Cubs, should they make a trade, the task would be to replace Samardzija in the short term. It'd be interested to see what they decide. They could decide to replace him with Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana if they feel they can get an extra player (or perhaps even a competitive lottery pick) in a deal to replace the cost of a 2nd round pick. But that is anything but easy. Such a deal would probably have to be set up as a PTBNL, there is no certainty that type of pick would be available to the team that deals for Samardzija. I find this whole scenario to be a long shot, though it wouldn't surprise me if that idea was tossed around a bit.
The bottom line here is that, barring an exceptional offer, the Cubs have every incentive to wait here so rumors or no rumors, I expect Samardzija to open the season with the Cubs. What happens from there is anybody's guess.