At the time of the 2010 Chicago Cubs Spring Training, there were no fewer than four guys competing for two back-end rotation spots: Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva, Sean Marshall and Jeff Samardzija. Marshall pitched the best out of the group, but ended up in the bullpen. Silva and Gorzelanny won the rotation spots. Samardzija pitched the worst of the group, ended up in the bullpen, and groused about it.

This year, Samardzija is out of options, so it’s make-the-big-club-or-bust, and the competition for the starting rotation is much steeper: it’s Samardzija, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Jay Jackson, and James Russell battling for two rotation spots (though one spot has been all but given to Andrew Cashner, and if the other spot doesn’t go to Randy Wells, then this organization is just f’d). Given those long odds, and his option situation, you’d think Samardzija would be singing all the right notes: I’m here to do what the Cubs want me to do, I just want to contribute to the team, etc., etc.

But unfortunately, he sounds a bit more like he did last year.

Samardzija sounded a bit like a guy with a chip on his shoulder at the Cubs’ recent fan convention. “You don’t want to sound selfish or anything, but I’ve really in the offseason just taken care of what I can take care of,” he said. “I’m sure the list is up to about seven or eight already, guys trying to start. The same song as it is every year.” Samardzija opened the 2010 season in the bullpen before being demoted to Class AAA Iowa, where he found his groove as a starter. Samardzija also might click better with new pitching coach Mark Riggins than he did with Larry Rothschild, who went to the Yankees. Riggins was the Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator. Yahoo! Sports.

I suspect that, if he doesn’t make the rotation, Samardzija will, in fact, say all the right things this time around. Very few in baseball believe he’s got a future ahead of him as a starter at the ML level, and so the bullpen may be his best option. At some point, he’ll realize this, and he’ll put all of his focus into transitioning into an effective reliever.

At that point, the question becomes: is there even a spot for him in the bullpen? With Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, and John Grabow locked into spots, and only two or three more to go to guys like Scott Maine or other youngsters, and the losers of the starting rotation competition, it’s going to be a battle just to win a spot in the bullpen.

  • pfk (Peter F. Kempf)

    The fact is, Samardzija just doesn’t have the tools to be a MLB starter – as you pointed out. In fact, once MLB hitters got the book on him, he wasn’t even effective anymore out of the pen. All we are doing now is going through the process of figuring out what to do with him, i.e., release him, trade him, etc. He is a classic $10M bust. If he was smart and not so stupidly cocky, he’d start looking for a team that could use his football talents because he isn’t going to make it in MLB.

  • roughriider

    Jeff Samardzija has the arm to be successful in MLB. The Cubs should never have signed him to a major league contract. He has actually been harmed by the expectations and the need to get him to MLB and justify the contract. He would have been, and the Cubs too, better served by spending more time in the minors. Now he is out of options and unless he matures now he is destined do be moving from organization to organization until he does mature or MLB gives up on him.

    • philoe beddoe

      The Cubs had to pay him that to keep him from being another one of the guys Cutler was over throwing yesterday….actually..there is a Hendry/Notre Dame connection that I can’t quite recall…

    • pfk (Peter F. Kempf)

      That was back in the day when Hendry was throwing money around like a drunken sailor. Even the best prospects now don’t get that kind of money – only the occasional super #1 like Washington had. Since then, I don’t believe anyone has signed for that kind of money. We talk of Soriano but the Samardzija signing was just as horrific.

      • Tex

        Did you forget already about Matt Szcur? 1.5 million for a 5th round pick? Actually, I am happy about that signing, but my point is that teams will do this to convince a prospect to sign instead of going to college or choosing to play another sport. Samardzia has a major league arm! I agree with Roughrider! He was not a polished prospect when the Cubs got him due to him playing major college football. I am not ready to give up on him yet. Hopefully he will have a good spring and force the Cubs to make a hard decision on the last spot in the rotation.

  • Tex

    Another point about Samadz….. If I said that we have a pitcher in the minors last year who is 6’5, throws mid 90’s and his pitching line was this….

    Record- 11-3
    Innings pitched-111.1
    Hits allowed- 86
    Batting Average Against- 212

    Would anyone not agree that this guy has some potential. Those were Samardz numbers last year at Iowa! Remember he is still 26 so I think it is a little premature to say he is a bust just yet!

    • Bric

      I’d agree those would be big numbers if the name was redacted but I’d also want to know his age. A smart fish can become big in a little pond with time. Just ask Thomas Diamond and J.R. Mathis. The difference between AAA and MLB is the same as low A and high A… huge.

    • jstraw

      The money he’s owed changes everything. He’s trade bait with those numbers and a sensible contract, not with the serious dough he’s owed.

    • pfk (Peter F. Kempf)

      Yes, some of his stats were impressive but the one stat that still kills him is that he walks 5.5 batters per 9 innings. 67 walks in 111 innings pitched. THAT just isn’t going to do it in the majors and he hasn’t improved his control one iota in his whole minor league career. You can get away with that in AAA but in the Bigs they’ll eat you alive. That is the reason they kept him down – to see if he could learn some control, which he failed to do. I agree with the money they gave Sczur. And the Rickets are wise to devote more signing bonuses. But the number one pic didn’t even get $10M last year. The only one who got more was 2 years ago and a sure fire winner not a speculative project.

  • Serio
  • KB

    “Having a major-league arm” does not a successful MLB pitcher make.
    This should be obvious to anyone who has ever seen a baseball game. I’m not as down on the Shark as most Cub fans, but I’m afraid that there really isn’t a spot for yet another hard-throwing rightie in the pen (and he sure as eff ain’t starting).

    Ace said the most on-spot I’ve read all day: “…one spot has been all but given to Andrew Cashner, and if the other spot doesn’t go to Randy Wells, then this organization is just f’d.”

    Especially that second part.

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