jeff samardzija gatorade showerWe’ve haven’t quite yet reached the Jeff Samardzija Rumorpalooza part of the offseason, which will inevitably come at some point in the next two months, now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed and guys like Matt Garza are going off the board. When it arrives, you’ll hear much of the same that we heard back in November and December: the two sides want to marry on a long-term deal, but there’s a disconnect in price (and future competitiveness). With Samardzija under control for two more years, the rumors will go, the Cubs have to deal Samardzija now to maximize the trade return.

For my part, I hope that window of rumoring is brief, because I tend to think it’s more likely Samardzija is dealt at the Trade Deadline, if at all, given the way the market apparently wasn’t to the Cubs’ satisfaction back in December. With two years of control, the Cubs needn’t be in any rush to move Samardzija. Even if an extension isn’t going to happen, there’s considerable upside in hoping Samardzija’s performance matches his peripherals in the first half of 2014, and a team needing marginal wins in the second half will overpay for the big righty. Plus, well, the longer the Cubs go without trading Samardzija, there’s always that small chance the two sides come together on a reasonable extension. Let’s not throw that out the window entirely just yet.

Against that backdrop, and after the Cubs missed on Tanaka, Samardzija was on with Bruce Levine and Ben Finfer at The Score this weekend. You can listen to the interview here, or you can read a transcript over at The CCO. I just wanted to highlight two thoughtful things Samardzija said:

  • In response to a question on whether missing on Tanaka impacts Samardzija’s desire to stay with the Cubs and impacts the team generally, Samardzija said, “You know I think it could be a blessing in disguise to tell you the truth. I think around the convention I was excited for it obviously because the idea of adding a player like that, you know, that’s a good thing. But I think this could be a positive. Opening up and showing on the table that you have some money to spend allows us to go out and maybe add, instead of one guy, maybe we can add, you know, two, three or four guys that can really help this roster out come Spring Training and come the start of the season. So maybe you can allocate those funds in a different direction and really help improve this team. Maybe instead of one guy, you add maybe a few more guys and maybe even cheaper the cost still.”
  • To the extent that’s true – that the Cubs can allocate the funds differently to improve the team – it almost certainly won’t be until after the 2014 season. That’s partly because the free agent market is mostly exhausted at this point, and partly because the 2015 Cubs look like they might have a chance to surprise, whereas the 2014 Cubs look like they have no chance. Mostly I just liked that Samardzija was doing his best to put a positive spin on the Cubs trying, but failing, to land Tanaka. He was also probably trying to nudge the front office: hey, spend some of that money making the team better, whydontcha.
  • On a related point, Samardzija discussed something we’ve talked about here as it relates to the impending arrival of top prospects: “I was excited [about the possibility of Tanaka] just because that would kick [the building process] in the right direction. I still don’t think that is off the table. I think obviously we have these prospects coming up and everybody’s talking about them, but there has to be the buffer zone in between that helps those guys learn to play the game the right way and learn to have success and be winners at the next level. So, there are still some guys that you can add that can help those guys out and really cushion that entrance into the big leagues. So, I’m still excited. There are things you can do and once you’ve shown that you have the money to make moves and you’re willing to make moves, usually you see other things follow after that.”
  • Samardzija is pretty spot on with that one. Although the core prospects rising through the system can be the backbone on which the next competitive Cubs team is built, they can’t be the only thing upon which the Cubs try to construct a winner. I’m already nervous about the overwhelming pressure that would/will face Javier Baez and Kris Bryant if they make the bigs at some point this year. Imagine if they, together with anyone else coming up over the next 18 months, are expected to carry the entire weight of expectation without any veterans on the roster to handle some of the expectations and production. I don’t want to think about the possible downside there. If the rebuild is all about putting the organization in the best position to succeed consistently for the long-term, then you also want to see the organization put these youngsters in the best position to succeed when they arrive. As Samardzija aptly puts it, having a “buffer” in place at that time in the form of quality, established big leaguers sure would be nice. Hopefully that includes guys like Samardzija, and Anthony Rizzo, and Starlin Castro, and Travis Wood, and Welington Castillo. But hope is not a strategy.
  • DarthHater

    Shark being considered as first-ever Player-GM. 😛

  • JB88

    Intentionally or not, I think you left out the most critical piece of that interview; i.e., Samardzija’s desire to be paid like an ace. I see almost no way that he and the Cubs can reach an extension before the trade deadline with that goal as a backdrop.

    • DarthHater

      Yea, Jeff’s letting it be known that, now that the Cubs have shown the money, they should show it to him.

    • D-Rock

      He has not done enough yet to show he deserves to be paid that kind of $. Make him go out and pitch “ace-like” this year and then maybe the Cubs will show him the $.

    • Brett

      I’m not sure I left it out – that’s always been part of the backdrop, and the distance in negotiations was discussed up top.

      • NorthSideIrish

        Clearly you left it out because you’ve lost your objectivity…

      • JB88

        I guess it is the first time I have heard Samardzija, himself, say he wants to be paid like an ace. My recollection is that always came out third-hand. And I didn’t see the part in the article where it was mentioned that Shark explicitly said that in this interview.

        • Brett

          I think we maybe heard it different ways. I didn’t take him to literally be saying he wants to be “paid” like an ace – just that he wants to be the ace of the team. I know it was in response to a “what do you want” question that implied money.

          • Brett

            To put it another way, I couldn’t tell exactly what he was saying by his answer, and I didn’t want to presume he was saying he wants to be paid like an ace (because that’s a loaded comment – and you’re right, it would be the first time he’s said anything like that) unless he was crystal clear that that’s what he meant. I can see why you heard it that way, though. And he may have meant that.

          • JB88

            We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. For what it is worth and consistent with my take, after Shark finished the call, both Levine and Finfer seemed to infer from Samardzija’s comments that he was saying he wanted to be paid like an ace.

            • David

              I heard the interview this past weekend… I got the impression that he said he wanted to be paid like an Ace.

              • Edwin

                Doesn’t every pitcher want to be paid like an Ace?

    • Orval Overall

      That’s the most overblown part of the “Trade Shark” grassroots movement. No one outside of Shark, his agent, and the Cubs has any idea what offers they’ve made to him and what demands he’s made in return. People are at most taken a phrase out of context and assuming it means he wants King Felix money, when for all we know he’s asking for Matt Garza money.

  • Blackhawks1963

    If I’m Theo, Jed and Ricketts then I don’t offer Samardzija a new contract. Not until we see what he does in 2014. I’m a fan of his pitching, but for crying out loud the guy was an enigmatic underachiever prior to 2012. Then at age 27 he produces an excellent surprise season as a starter in 2012. But last year he was very inconsistent.

    Lets just see what an age 29 Spellcheck does in 2014. There is zero urgency to sign him to a new deal. Hopefully he does become a frontline starting pitcher…if he does, then he’ll get his payday and I’m sure the Cubs will be happy to get to the front of the line to sign him to a new deal. All I know is that if the Cubs do ink him to a new contract, then I want it fully aligned with what he REALLY is on the mound…I don’t want to be paying ace type money for a guy who pitches like he did in 2013. Or a guy who reverts back to what he was pre 2012.

    • Cheese Chad

      I completely agree. with BH63. I actually think the Cubs are in a decent position. If he steps up and pitches well in the first half then that stubborn asking price might just be reached. If he pitches more consistently similar to two years ago, then maybe his asking price goes down. Obviously if he pitches poorly or close to last year then nobody wins.

    • brainiac

      if i’m theo, jed, or the ricketts i take a bath in my tub full of silver dollars and laugh at the poor schmoes who actually care about their hometown team.

  • itzscott

    >> Imagine if they, together with anyone else coming up over the next 18 months, are expected to carry the entire weight of expectation without any veterans on the roster to handle some of the expectations and production.<<

    What happened to Rizzo and Castro carrying most of that weight by now??

    • nate1m

      Isn’t that the last sentence. But you still need a couple other guys

      • itzscott

        Ah yes….

        Time for me to visit Evelyn Woods!

  • Chad

    There is no urgent need to trade or extend him. A lot can happen in the next 6-12 months. It will at least be an interesting follow on here.

  • Kyle

    I’m less concerned with Samardzija’s desire to stay with the Cubs than with the Cubs’ desire to keep Samardzija.

    Without Tanaka, the 2015 window looks iffy at best. So what do I want to gamble on for 2016: A 31-year-old Jeff Samardzija or a reasonably equivalent return in prospects?

    Given the high attrition rate of pitchers, I’m taking the prospects. I want to make a meaningful effort to be decent every offseason, but we didn’t, and as such even fringe contention is likely out of our positive variance range. No reason to risk getting nothing for Samardzija if he feels a twinge in March and has surgery later that week.

    • Sandberg

      I’m going to have to agree with this. Trade him before we end up with another Garza situation. Tired of hearing this “young arm” bs.

      /sarcasm Besides, we can always sign him when he becomes a free agent.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Yes but. Cub fans won’t be patient forever. Whether or not Shark is ever an ace, he’ll probably be a respectable innings eater, probably better than averag3, probably not a bad arm to have on a playoff team. And the question for the Cubs will likely be, Do we have enough arms to compete in 2015? If they don’t sign Shark, are there enough other options for 2015, knowing you don’t win every player you want? They might have to suck it up on Shark a little. But unless he’s a monster in 2014, ace money will be off the table.

  • Elden14

    I think the situation you’re fearing for Baez/Bryant would be very similar to the one thrust upon Rizzo when he first came up. He was almost deemed as the face of the organization before he had a full season under his belt.

    People expectations of him were Joey Votto lite, but have since simmered.

  • woody

    “But hope is not a strategy”. But as every snake oil salesman and politician knows hope can be sold. Whether people are buying or not is the question. Never in my life have I seen fans so obsessed with players that haven’t even got to AAA ball. It defies logic really. I think you were spot on about needing a “buffer” for the youngsters to lean on. But the problem as I see it is that Castro and Rizzo could have used that buffer last year themselves. I have to believe they were feeling intense pressure to live up to the contracts and expectations. I would hardly call that group named as veterans. Example: DeJesus was costing the Cubs very little and he was propably one of the best club house guys you could get and a role model for the young players. Can’t remember the justification for moving him. I think for IFA signing purposes. Take his OBP and Sorianos bat out of that lineup and we witnessed a near colapse at the end of the season. My argument is that we need a buffer for Castro and Rizzo too. They are by no means veterans and will start the season under the same circumstances that they ended on. I have to think they feel the pressure. We were playing pretty good ball last year until the bullpen fell apart and considering all of the one run games it could have been different. So now Rizzo and Castro are the veterans? The leaders? I certainly hope they live up to those expectations.

  • Spoda17

    I like Jeff, and I am [okay] with him on the Cubs, but I would deal him now if possible. I don’t want to take another chance like we did with Garza… I know we got a great haul for Garza ultimately, but I think it was more luck than anything that he was able to get healthy and put a few good starts together. I’d rather not take the chance.

    And I know this kinda contradicts my first sentence; but I am also not convinced Jeff is a front of the rotation guy.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The best thing to happen to the Cubs is for Samardzija to have an outstanding April, May, June, July and for a few contenders to get desperate for a still cost-controlled “low mileage” starter.

    Anthony Gioloto in Washington makes my heart go pitter patter. I think the Archie Bradley in Arizona thing will never happen though.

    • On The Farm

      Gioloto is getting an insane amount of love. If Bradley isn’t happening, at this point, I wouldn’t count on Gioloto either.

    • Isaac

      I think you’re looking for either Lucas Giolito or Anthony Rendon. I certainly don’t see them dealing Giolito, if they weren’t willing to deal Bundy.

    • YourResidentJag

      I think one of the better SP the Cubs could get is Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles during the deadline. (And I’m not a big proponent of waiting until then).

  • rabbit

    Brett what would you consider a fair contract for Samardzija. I know the Cubs were offering 5 years 50 mil, but what would be the maximum amount you would offer for Jeff. Cubs need pitching and that need isn’t going to ever go away. It would be nice to have a veteran arm in the rotation when the Cubs are ready to compete (b/c you never know what will be available via free agency and whether Cubs would be able to actually sign them). I think it’s fair to let him pitch one more year and then you get 3 years of SP to see where he stands and then offer him a contract extension. Unless we can get pitching prospects close to MLB ready I don’t see the point in trading him for a couple of low a pitchers when we will be in great need for pitching these next few years.

    • Brett

      I’ve always pointed to Matt Harrison’s 5/$55M extension as the bench mark, given the many similarities at the time he signed the deal. The market has shifted upward a bit since then, so 5/$60M, 5/$65M seems appropriate. He’s set to make just $13 million or so over the next two years, so that’s still an extremely handsome salary for those first three free agent years.

      For his part, I can understand wanting to gamble on much, much more money. It just might be a situation where the Cubs are being reasonable in saying “we can’t go higher than 5/$65M,” and Samardzija is being reasonable in saying “I can’t give up those free agent years for less than $20M per year.”

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Not Brett, but you figure he’s going to make about 5.5 next year and… if he’s absolutely lights out… he MIGHT jump to 10 in 2015. So then what do you think he’s worth as a young 30s free agent? 15? So that would put you at about 5/60. I think the chance of 10M for 2015 is low. Jeff probably thinks he’ll be worth 20 in those last 3 years. If he dominates in 2014, maybe the Cubs will believe him enough to come up to 17 or 18 on those last 3 years. If he looks like 2013, the Cubs won’t be budging much. A lot of this hinges on what years we buy up. If we hold him through the end of the yeae and extend him next offseason, we’re only eating 1 arb year, so maybe the contract becomes 5/70. If we sign him this offseason, 5/60 seems more likely. If he turns the corner in 2014 though… I could see the Cubs going 5/85 for 2015-2019. Big IF though

  • ruby2626

    5.50 ERA after the All Star game, why are we even using the word ace or potential ace? I heard that interview live, he also mentioned 2 things he needs to improve upon, giving up large leads and lowering his 70 something walks. Agree on both points.

  • Ballgame17

    I’m convinced I know who “Blackhawks1963” is. On a personal level outside of BN. BH1963 do you play in a band?

    • woody

      If he tolld you he would have to kill you. LOL

  • http://bleachernation 29bigcat

    Signing garza woulda been great but why not arroyo,two yr 25m w option..cj edwards is one maybe two yrs away,bronson would take sharks spot allowing us to move him for more pitching prospects…..if olt rebounds an theyre serious bout having an o.f. of bryant,almora,soler…an baez at second base…well thats a little right handed but i see alot of pieces along with shark we could get some real pitching talent with