Winter Meetings Denouement: What Did or Didn’t Happen with Jeff Samardzija, and What Comes Next?

winter meetings 2013As it was last year, the Winter Meetings were something of a let down, in terms of overall baseball activity. Whereas last year’s meetings were dampened by teams adjusting to the implications of the new CBA, this year’s meetings were dampened by the unbelievable volume of activity last week. There simply weren’t as many moves left to make. Plus everyone’s still waiting on Masahiro Tanaka.

The rumors were aplenty, though, as always. At least that kept us a little toasty.

For the Cubs, specifically, there was little movement. The team picked up outfielder Justin Ruggiano this morning in a minor trade, grabbed a minor league catcher in the Rule 5 Draft, and made another minor league signing. The word “minor” loomed heavily.

The biggest story coming into the meetings for the Cubs was what might happen with Jeff Samardzija. Would the Cubs finally break through and extend the soon-to-be 29-year-old righty? Would the Cubs finally break down and trade him?

The answer, of course, is that the Cubs did nothing with him – outwardly, at least. Which is not to say there weren’t a great many discussions involving and surrounding Samardzija (“minor” discussions?). Unfortunately for anxious fans, there is no requirement that things happen this week. Rushing into decisions makes for crappy decisions.

“We continue to try to move the ball forward as much as we can on one of two or three possible outcomes,” Theo Epstein said of the Samardzija situation this week, per Cubs.com. There hasn’t been any fundamental change in the situation. Communication is good and we continue to view Jeff as a really big part of what we’re doing, even as we admit there are several possible outcomes.”

We’ll never know precisely what this week’s meeting produced, but we know there hasn’t been much movement on the extension front. Samardzija is under control for two more years via arbitration, and seems reluctant to sign a long-term deal that doesn’t pay him commensurately with the exploding free agent market. He’s a confident guy with a ton of upside, and he remains content to bet on himself.

That, of course, leaves the Cubs in the crummy position of fielding offers for him without actually knowing whether it’s going to make sense to trade him. That was probably part of the conversation this week, and it will probably remain a part of the conversation through midseason, at least. So long as Samardzija remains with the Cubs, anyway. Epstein sounds like he wishes that the trade talk, publicly, would go away.

“At some point, I don’t think Jeff deserves to read about this every day,” Epstein said, again, per Cubs.com. “It’s a tough thing to read about someone speculating on where you’re going to work. We’ll put it to bed. The situation now is Jeff’s our Opening Day starter and that’s how we’re moving forward …. I don’t want Jeff to have to read the paper every day that there’s speculation that he might be traded or not.”

Although it’s a completely legitimate and thoughtful point from Epstein, the reality is that, with an on-field product that is unlikely to provide compelling headlines on its own merit, the rumors involving a front-line, popular starting pitcher are going to carry the day. We just won’t hear the Cubs talking about it.

From here, I can only assume that each side knows where the other stands. I can assume further that many of the possible trade partners out there have let the Cubs know generally where they stand, and the Cubs have responded in kind. Each of those sides is probably waiting for more clarity on the starting pitcher market – Tanaka being made available, David Price being shopped, any of Garza/Santana/Jimenez signing – before getting too serious in trade discussions.

In the interim, the Cubs will continue to go about building their 2014 roster as wisely as possible. There will be an effort to put together the best possible team, with an understanding that big dollars aren’t forthcoming right now, and flippability is still an attractive feature in a free agent.

That will be true whether Samardzija opens the season with the Cubs or not. The sad reality? Even if the Cubs kept Samardzija, signed Tanaka, and signed Shin-Soo Choo, they still wouldn’t project to win anything close to the 90 games necessary to have a fighting chance in the NL Central or the Wild Card in 2014.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

343 responses to “Winter Meetings Denouement: What Did or Didn’t Happen with Jeff Samardzija, and What Comes Next?”

  1. YourResidentJag

    Ed Sherman ‏@Sherman_Report 1m
    “@ChicagoSports: Ron Coomer the front-runner for #Cubs radio job, via @Sherman_Report. http://trib.in/1hPP0zA

    1. YourResidentJag

      Todd Hollandsworth I believe out at CSN. Taking full time radio job for MLB Radio. Just in case you wanted to know.

      1. YourResidentJag

        Correct that, he still could stay with CSN Chicago.

    2. Brian Peters

      Who in the HELL is Ron Coomer? He won’t last.

      1. TWC

        Oh, well if YOU haven’t heard of him, the Cubs should definitely stay away. God forbid that this hire doesn’t get the Brian Peters Seal of Approval.

        But, you know, in case you’d like someone to that tricky “Google” thing for you, here’s who the HELL Ron Coomer is: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/coomero01.shtml

        1. Brian Peters

          Lol!!!! You make me to laugh. Give me Holly!

      2. CubsFaninAZ

        Former Cub, most infamously known for his ability to amazingly stretch an obvious double into a single! lol He’s the one guy that made Mark Grace look like he can haul butt!

  2. jmc

    Cheryl, Jon. I just need another bleacher nation fix in the morning.I’ll be fine

  3. Deacon

    Just curious on the headline…how can you have a “denouement” if the story has no climax??

  4. Kyle

    Just doing some lame back of the napkin guesswork, Choo, Tanaka and keeping Samardzija puts them at right about a .500 projection.

    Mostly because Choo really isn’t all that good.

    1. Rebuilding

      Kyle, get over to the Wada thread. That’s where the action is. “Mainly because Choo isn’t all that good” – He was a 4.8 WAR player last year, but his defense is atrocious (-1.8). I think a Lake/Sweeney or a Scierholtz/Ruggiano platoon could put up a 3.5. So yeah 1 win = $20 million

    2. dAn

      They would have been close to .500 last year if they had a good bullpen and normal performance w/RISP. Instead, they choked their way to roughly a .400 winning percentage. Whatever they do, they need to continue to address the bullpen and stop the bleeding. The RISP issue will eventually normalize. They need to add OBP but it would be a major upset if they were to get Choo. He’ll go to Houston unless he wants to go to a contender (Texas) for less money/years.

    3. Serious Cubs Fan

      I have to agree. Choo is just a piece not an answer. Not a star, and definitely deserving of nine figures (IMO). Solid defensively, and has good OBP skills, with a little pop in the bat. Nothing against the guy but he is not what we need at this point and not worth overpaying for especially since he’s on the wrong side of 30

  5. Moe C

    You know whats Crazy is how the market hs changed. We had Sosa(and lets take out all the steriod and cheating talk and focus on numbers) he was making about 16-18 mil and was hitting about 60hr stealing 30plus bags 100+ rbis and about .280 BA and now we are trying to get choo a 20hr 54rbi 20steals and 280 avg for 20mil per year wow. Its crazy to think how much Sosa, Bonds or Mcgwire would get now.

    What i guess im asking for is that tge Cubs dont over spend on players but at least get some pieces in place. I really liked a Josh Johnson, Santana, corey Hart i mean some one anyone. And i dont mean Joe Schmo from nantuckett to play catcher or be some no name minor leaguer

    1. dAn

      Choo was second in the NL last year in OBP and R. OBP is much more important/valuable than BA is. R are just as important/valuable as RBI. So, you’re looking at the wrong stats with Choo. It would be like saying Kenny Lofton wasn’t a good leadoff man because he didn’t hit enough HR and drive in enough runs. Choo is a very valuable offensive force.

      A guy like Choo is what the Cubs need. The Cubs were 28th of 30 teams in OBP last year, with only Miami and Houston trailing them in that category. People who have studied the issue note that there is a direct and strong correlation between OBP and the ability to score runs. The Cubs don’t need more low OBP power hitters like Corey Hart–that’s not really addressing their offensive problems. They need more high OBP guys like Choo. But it’s getting tougher and tougher to add players of Choo’s ilk as more FOs get hip to the way offenses produce runs.

      1. Ferris

        Agreed..choo an garza

      2. Serious Cubs Fan

        Choo is 31 going to 32 next season. I don’t expect us to compete in the next 2 seasons so he’ll be 33-24 by the time were contending at the earliest. Well past his prime. Not too mention the guy might command 9 figures to lock up. No thanks. Yes he would be a great piece on a good team, but that is what we clearly aren’t right now and won’t be for another few years

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