Is Jeff Samardzija Pitching His Way On Or Off Cubs?

Is Jeff Samardzija Pitching His Way On Or Off Cubs?

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.

@TomLoxas

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  • The last paragraph sums it up. In addition to whether there is agreement on money (and it sure doesn't appear to be) the question is whether Jeff thinks this club will be a contender by 2016, not just whether Theo can use him then.

    I don't know if (and doubt that) he has enough influence to force a trade to someone who would give him a better new contract before then, but it sure looks like even if that isn't the case, he has a chance for a better deal or a deal with a better team then.

  • I don't think Shark fits into Theo's plans. And I don't get it. Samardzija is only in his third year as a starter and is just now learning how to be effective. Anyone else, and they would be pleading for patience. I don't know what he is asking...perhaps crazy money. But you would think that someone with his talent and competitiveness would be a keeper.

  • My guess is Epstoyer realize they have enough money to pay one pitcher the going rate for a TOR starter. And I also guess they'd rather take a run at Scherzer or Shields with that money than they would with Samardzija.

    I'd agree with that IF they could get one of those guys and a Masterson (whose price seems to be going down based on his performance this year) and get a great prospect haul for Shark.

    Yes, I'm dreaming. I don't think we'll get any high level free agents this offseason as Epstoyer's bids seem to be computer generated -- exactly what their WAR shows and not a penny over. And in today's climate of high dollar TV contracts...not a penny over isn't going to win anything.

  • In reply to Deacon:

    Would I rather have Scherzer? Probably. But as you say IF we can get him. What if we can't? I'm a little worried about being able to bring in free agents at least right now, because things don't look good. If Bryant and Baez come up this year and have an impact, not saying we need to make the playoffs but if we start playing better with them, then I can see that being attractive to free agents. But are free agents going to care about a team with a great minor league system, which is basically just intangible?

    That's kind of why at this point I want to keep Shark. I also believe that for the Cubs money will not be an issue. I don't buy into Wittenmeyer's BS. When the Cubs are ready to compete they will spend where they need to. So if they sign Shark now, they will also have money for other free agents to supplement the roster where they can't rely on homegrown talent.

    I feel like the way he is pitching now, the Cubs will actually keep him this year, to see if he can finally be consistent. Then they will make a decision in the offseason.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Given what TheoJed have done up to now, my betting is that he is gone by the July 2014 deadline. Need to pick up at least 4 pitching prospects.

    Not much different that Lou Alan Ding being gone at that trading deadline when he didn't take the deal.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    But maybe more relevant, not getting as much for Garza when he was injured at a comparable trading deadline.

  • Some good points everyone. I think at the end of the day it's hard to pay him ace money when overall he hasnt shown it up until now. One more haul like could really put the system in elite territory. Then spend some & on pitching.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I'd love that scenario, if I knew we'd be able to sign a Scherzer. But I don't really know if we can. Will it just be Anibal Sanchez all over again? I realize there are a few free agent pitchers on the market in the offseason, and if the Cubs continue to find guys like Hammel then it's possible to actually put together a competitive rotation for when we are ready to compete. But is that somewhat cobbled together rotation, without a true ace, enough to get us all the way?

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    I hear your concerns. It is nice to know these guys can put together the 3-5 part of your rotation. Now that hard part.

  • If Samardzija is demanding TOR free agent money now we might as well wait until he is a free agent to pay. If he will take less than top dollar signing him now makes sense. Trading shark for TOR prospects is risky because I don't think he is an injury risk and young pitchers are dropping with arm injuries. Maybe because prospect high end pitches threw too much, too hard, and too early. Samardzija is durable if not an ace.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He has certainly shown durability.

  • The whole Samardzija question is not about whether he is good or great or will be. It's all about rebuilding and multiplying your assets. The Cubs don't have enough horses. They need more horses, and good players won't come here until there are more horses. Samardzija too -- who still has to prove he can be the pitcher he thinks he is for a whole year -- doesn't want to stay until the Cubs have more horses. So how do you get them when they won't sign as FA's just yet, and it takes awhile to develop them internally? You must trade for them. They achieved that with the Garza and Dempster trades. They didn't multiply with the Marshall trade, but kind of did by trading a 80 innings a year set-up man for a 200-inning starter. The jury is out if they achieved multiple assets with the Feldman for Arrieta/Strop deal. So it only makes sense try to get multiple assets for both Samardzija and Hammel. They will also be in a position to trade to take some expensive veteran contracts off people's hands at a discount and for lower tier prospects -- essentially becoming the opposite end of the Soriano deal. It's a painfully slow process, but it is the right strategy.

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