Cubs President Theo Epstein appeared on the MLB network this past week as he was promoting Wrigley Field's 100th birthday celebration.
There was the expected back and forth between Epstein and the extended panel until the subject turned to the Cubs' rebuilding process. Epstein rattled off some young core players the Cubs have to build around. Names such as Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Travis Wood, and Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija, huh? You don't say.
Political pundit, author, and high-profile Cubs fan George Will didn't waste any time in checking back with the Cubs boss on whether Samardzija was indeed considered part of the Cubs' future. Epstein predictably gave his current stock answer that he would like to see it happen, then reiterated that the club and the pitcher's camp have decided not to publicly speak about negotiations going forward.
I've recently pondered whether and how the Cubs brass could be influenced by Samardzija's very strong start to the season.
Would they actually reconsider adjusting their offer based on the way Shark is dealing? Or was Epstein mentioning Samardzija just vocal posturing to crank up the price of their biggest chip for a huge summer haul? Nothing Epstein says is a throw-away comment.
Could this front office truly see him in a Cubs uniform long term? My hunch is still no, but weirder things have happened. Is it at least possible that Samardzija is developing into a top-of-the-rotation starter right before our eyes? That is the $100 million dollar question. Our own AJ Walsh will take a look inside the numbers for us soon to give us his take.
Personally, I must admit that Samardzija is kinda messing with my head. Since last summer, I have been thoroughly convinced the Cubs should deal their ace pitcher. He has been inconsistent up until now, and his self-confidence, for me, always bordered dangerously on arrogance, particularly for a guy without the track record of being a dependable horse. Now, if he wants to keep pitching this way, he is going to make it tough to say goodbye.
The issue is that the Cubs and Samardzija's camp have been so far apart on how they perceive the pitcher's value. Whispers I've heard suggest Samardzija's camp wants top-of-the-rotation money, while the Cubs have generally regarded him as more of a mid-rotation talent. Could that change?
The main knock on Shark has been his issues with control and maintaining success throughout an entire season.
Those who make the argument to deal Samardzija state he would be in his early 30's by the time the Cubs compete in earnest. I'm not so sure that is as much of a concern as I once thought though; after all, you never know when the window will truly open. 31 or so is not exactly old, and you have to consider the fact that his arm is really younger than his drivers license states.
Without question, Shark looks like TOR material so far this season, if not perhaps a true number one. Samardzija doesn't even have to be a true ace to help the Cubs win, as there aren't many pure number ones in the game to begin with. If he proves he can be a solid 2-type, well, those pitchers are getting paid like aces these days.
You can almost be certain Samardzija will receive a deal that averages in the upper teens of millions annually; that is the market. He isn't ready to settle for less, as he told Patrick Mooney.
“Without a doubt,” Samardzija said. “I’ve said it before: Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years".
“When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you,” Samardzija said. “I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be.
“And rising as they should be, in accordance to the economy and the state of the game. That’s more important than anything else — what you owe the players that did it for you and then the players behind you.”
Yeah, sorry, Jeff if I'm not exactly buying that sentiment of helping others.
You don't need to get into semantics to reject the supposedly-crummy deal Epstoyer has offered you thus far. I was also told earlier this year by an AL exec not to discount Samardzija's desire to compete, and soon. He hasn't exactly enjoyed this rebuilding thing too much.
I do buy that Samardzija is pitching for his next deal right now, and also quite possibly pitching his way onto a contender in the very near future, which likely means off this club.
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