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Jeff Samardzija is Inigo MontoyaJeff Samardzija’s 2013 season will be his first arbitration year, so he’s under Cubs control through 2015. But we’ve talked a bit before about the possibility of a long-term deal between the Cubs and Samardzija – he’s got a young arm, he broke out last year in a big way, and he figures to be a big part of the Cubs’ next competitive roster. Clearly he’s a great candidate to keep around.

One issue with any extension talks, though, is that Samardzija, as a guy who got a big league deal out of the draft, has already made quite a bit of money in his career. The usual leverage a team has over a first-time arbitration-eligible player (i.e., that first big-time payday) doesn’t really exist for the Cubs.

So when Samardzija told the media earlier today that he wasn’t quite ready to sign a long-term deal with the Cubs this past Fall, you can understand why.

“We were talking, and we both have the same interests in mind,” Samardzija said, per Carrie Muskat. “We both want me to be here, and we want to be a part of this team for a long time. When we feel we’re on the same page with that, then we’ll get it done. That was offseason talk, that’s what happened at the end of the year.

“I still haven’t proven myself to where I want to be as a player. I was happy with last year but I don’t want to stay there, I want to improve and get better. I think the more I show them that, the more comfortable they’ll be with getting a deal done. [Contract discussions are] not even close to the front of the burner right now. It’s so far on the back, it’s history, to tell you the truth …. It doesn’t make much sense to sit down and try to negotiate anything out when I don’t have a full season under my belt,” he said. “Now we’re just talking potential.”

Of course, locking down “potential” is what the Cubs want – that’s how you get an under-market deal, and how you preserve value that can be used elsewhere on the roster.

But Samardzija believes in his own potential, and he knows that if he goes out there in 2013 and does what he did in 2012 – or, better yet, improves upon it – his payday is going to increase substantially. With the money he’s already earned in his career, he’s in a prime position to take the risk that many players at his level of service time are unable to take. It isn’t perfect for the Cubs, but you can hardly fault Samardzija for being smart about his earning capacity.

Fortunately, he does genuinely seem interested in remaining with the Cubs long-term, and I’m quite certain the Cubs reciprocate that interest. Something will probably eventually get done – it’s just a matter of how much it will cost. Maybe, as with Starlin Castro, we start seeing extension talks picking back up in the second half of the season.

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