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Jeff Samardzija is Inigo MontoyaJeff Samardzija, perhaps the most discussed Chicago Cubs player this offseason – no small accomplishment, given the Starlin Castro/Anthony Rizzo focus, as well as the actually really good seasons put in by Travis Wood and Welington Castillo last year – met with the media yesterday to discuss all manner of topics.

Samardzija, 29, is under team control for 2014 and 2015, and there’s a serious question about how good the Cubs may or may not be for those two years. That combination of things – the team control, but the crumminess – provides an undercurrent for virtually everything Samardzija is asked these days, and necessarily informs his responses.

You can listen to Samardzija’s press conference here at ESPNChicago, but among the highlights:

  • Samardzija said everyone believed from the start of the arbitration exchange of numbers that they’d come to an agreement on the 2014 contract. It just took so long because folks have a job to do.
  • Yeah, but what about a long-term deal? “You know, we are not really going to talk about that,” Samardzija said. “We are worried about this season. We are looking to get ready to compete and win some ballgames. We don’t want any distractions. Whether it is with that or with trade talks or with this or that. So, for me it is a no comment. I am out there getting ready to do my thing. Like I said before, put no doubt in anyone’s minds about who I am or what I can be for this team and for this organization.” No surprises there, and although Samardzija wouldn’t discuss extension talks specifically, he did touch on a number of topics that are intertwined with those talks. Well, and he kinda sorta did discuss extension stuff further.
  • Samardzija said that, if there wasn’t a gap in negotiations on an extension, a deal would have already been reached. I don’t intend this as a back-pat, but Samardzija framed things in pretty much the same manner I have for the past few months: neither side is being unreasonable, they just have their own positions. “Both sides are justified. It is not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they are coming from and they understand where I am coming from …. Sometimes you’re just a product of the situation and I think that’s where I’m at.” Having made a fair bit of money already in his career, being 29, and being just two years away from free agency (in an exploding market), I can understand Samardzija betting on himself (and willing to sign away free agent years right now only if the Cubs pay near free agent prices (and/or step up their level of competitiveness)). And, being in a rebuilding situation, having certain financial limitations, understanding that two years of arbitration control has value, and recognizing that it’s risky to guarantee free agent dollars two years away from actual free agency, I can understand the Cubs wanting a more limited extension, in terms of price.
  • On wanting to stay with the Cubs for emotional/personal reasons, but weighing that against the business and reality of the game: “It is tough, the emotional attachment I have to this organization. A lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt that just how it works because the way I feel about being here and about how bad I want to be here. So, the more this process goes along the more I realize it is a business and that attachment only goes so far. But like I said before all of it comes down to production. It all comes down to what happens on the field. I know if I do my part and do what I expect of myself and the team expects of me then everything else is clear about what the future holds.”
  • Samardzija added a little something that sounds a lot like what Ryan Dempster (with whom I believe Samardzija was close) said in his final half-season with the Cubs: “All I can do is increase my value as much as possible. I think in the end it is going to help the organization no matter what. Either it helps the organization by keeping me here and proving to them I am that guy. Or I increase my value and it helps them get prospects in return.” Even if the two sides aren’t aligned in their beliefs about a reasonable extension, this is one thing the Cubs and Samardzija can definitely come together on: Samardzija performing well out of the gate in 2014 can only mean good things for him (contract) and the Cubs (either performing well and keeping Samardzija, or trading him for a better package).
  • Speaking of trading players away for prospects, Samardzija clarified some remarks he made late last year about the Cubs trading away guys like Scott Feldman, which some perceived as critical of the front office. Essentially, Samardzija wasn’t criticizing the front office for making those trades – he understands they’ve got a job to do, and have to look out for the long-term health of the organization – but was instead speaking from his heart about it being a bummer to lose teammates like that.
  • Samardzija also correctly hinted that, if the Cubs surprise this year and play well, the entire discussion here changes. Suddenly, the Cubs probably don’t want to trade Samardzija, probably really want him on the team in 2015, and maybe both sides are more ready/willing to come to a compromise on an extension.
  • Voice of Reason

    How sad is your team when the most talked about player in the off season is Jeff samardzija?

    A #3 starter at best.

    • brainiac

      the cubs have only one #3 starter at best. so if we piss on him and let him leave for a winner, what does that make the team, which has at most only two pitcher prospects currently in the system?

      • brainiac

        at BEST

        • Eternal Pessimist

          If he is a number three wanting to be paid as a number 1 or 2 your trade him before his time runs out with the Cubs…then you pick up a couple 3’s that are ready to come here, paid as a 3, and compete while playing with an up and coming team.

          • brainiac

            why would another team scout us, deliberate that he’s at best a #3, and then send us two #3’s? the *cubs* are the team that usually comes up on the short end of the the trades under jed. i’m sure if he tries to dump shark for purely monetary reasons – and that’s the reason these trades are taking place – that he’ll end up on the short end because other GMs know exactly what’s going on.

            • Eternal Pessimist

              I didn’t say trade for two #3’s, i said pick up (meaning sign) them. MYbe a couple anibel types.

        • Greenroom

          I know Doc already blew this point out of the water with actual stats. But if you keep saying it, then at least it will be real for you.

      • Voice of Reason

        For what shark wants we can replace his level of talent at a much lower price.

        And, why would we worry about pissing off shark? There is not one player on this team that I’m worried about pissing off.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        The Cubs have more than two pitching prospects in the system.

  • Mike

    So we ended up signing Bonafacio? Meh

  • cubbiekoolaid2015

    Did the Cubs sign Bonifacio to a minor league deal?

    @ESPNChiCubs: Yes. Cubs sign Emilio Bonifacio to minor league deal, per source RT @ChiefsOrioles: @ESPNChiCubs https://t.co/H2j7MQvP9y Any truth?

    • Mike

      Looks like it. Not sure how he fits in with the glut of infielders we have at the upper levels.

      • Kyle

        He fights Watkins and Roberts for the last MLB infield job, and if he doesn’t get it, he probably gets released to find someone else who will take him. Once injuries start hitting in ST, surely he can find a job somewhere.

        • Mike

          Yeah, most likely. I certainly can’t see him taking time from anyone at Iowa.

      • bbmoney

        He can play some OF too not that the Cubs need another OFer. But the versatility could make him a useful guy on the roster. He did show some signs of life in KC last year after a pretty bad year and a half, although 2012 we can probably blame some of his struggles on injuries.

  • Tommy

    Thanks for that article. It was nice to get a quick breakdown of where Samardzija’s heart is. And the last paragraph is a good reminder to all of us that now is the time to be optimistic as we’re currently tied for 1st in the division, conference, and league. You never know what can happen with a few lucky breaks! Unlikely, yes. Impossible, no.

    • another JP

      I’m with you on that thought Tommy. Everyone’s talking about how bad the Cubs will be this year and that the team hasn’t made any moves, but I believe they could be surprisingly competitive. There’s an awful lot of things that went bad last season and with a new manager, better bullpen, and some bounce back candidates the Cubbies could be at .500 by the ASB. Not very likely but crazier things have happened.

  • Ivy Walls

    Come on, baseball is a business and that means the players view it as such as well. Cubs need to continue to build inventory where Samardz can provide a multiple and Samardz needs to get his big payoff before his value seriously diminishes.

  • another JP

    So Bonafacio signs a minor league deal with the Cubs… not a good development for those pining for Logan Watkins to make the team. And more motivation for Barney to get his act together this season.

  • dunston donuts

    Brett – Teheran just signed for 6 years / $32.4 million. I think an argument can be made that Teheran has a higher ceiling than Shark. Do you think this contract extension for Teheran impacts the Cubs extension offer to Shark? Or Sharks willingness to sign an offer?

    • bbmoney

      I’m not Brett, but the situations are pretty different. Teheran is 5 years away from FA yet and has never made any real money. Shark is only 2 years away, already in abritration and has made well over $10M already because of the contract his signed out of college.

      Just my opinion, but I don’t think it has any real impact.

    • aaronb

      Teheran had 5 years of club control left. Samjay only has 2. Apples and oranges.

    • Drew7

      Teheran isn’t even arb eligible until 2016. His contract will have zero impact on a Samardzjia extension.

      • David

        Is this the guy that we almost got for Dempster??? Still burns me. I wonder how that would have changed things now??

        • Brocktoon

          Nope, that was Randall Delgado.

          • David

            What’s he doin nowadays?

            • bbmoney

              He’s on the Diamondbacks, might be a back end starter this year, but Arroyo may have pushed him out of the rotation. Got included in the Prado and Upton deal.

  • bobdawg78

    I’d rather see Barney moved ASAP. Bonafacio provides us with a super sub, he can play 2nd, 3rd, all OF positions, and a little SS if needed. He’s a switch hitter, with plus speed on the base paths. Barney should be moved for anything, and Bonafacio should take his 40 man spot.

  • When The Musics Over

    This article is a sad reminder of what extreme and purposeful losing does to the psyche of players. You sadly migrate from really wanting to win and be part of the fabric of an organization to looking at your participation in sports almost exclusively as a soulless, pulseless suit. I don’t blame him. The warping of his mentality has been forced upon him.

    • brainiac

      i wonder what this has done to theo too. he’s had to transition from player development to ruthless financial overlord. and now the players don’t trust him and he’s beginning to only view them as financial pawns.

      i talked to old chicago friend who has since moved, who was a very, very serious cubs fan, and his words were “the cubs are dead to me now. it will never be the same under these guys”.

      i’m not quite as in despair but i’m pretty pessimistic that the team will ever act in good faith when they have different priorities than sportsmanship.

      • brainiac

        and i hate to say it, but cubs culture under epstein does pale in comparison to st. louis, who treat their players well.

        i hate the cardinals. what the hell is wrong with the cubs.

        • roz

          Because there’s any indication that the Cubs don’t treat players well. Don’t be dumb.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He talked about wanting to win and being excited about playing this year several times during the press conference. I didn’t include those bits because, like, duh. But I guess if you’re looking for reasons to put down the front office/ownership, you don’t assume the obvious.

      • When The Musics Over

        We all have the ability to view/understand what people say in different ways. Alot of what he is saying, at least to me, is play it nice lip service. The real telling part, that’s at least so sad to me, in spite of how others view it, is when players, such as shark or Dempster, begin to view themselves as assets in the same way the suits up top do. When hes talking about bringing back prospects as a very likely byproduct of building up his value, it makes me sad. It means players are beginning to view themselves almost exclusively as a mathematical equation, which sucks.

        Also, I saw the interview. His body language said as much or more than his words

      • When The Musics Over

        And Brett, you really have made a concerted effort, at least far more than in the past, to back/defend the front office. No where in my comment did I rip ownership or the front office. I simply said it sucks to see certain negatives come about as a byproduct of purposeful losing. I don’t think the front office or ownership would deny that losing has been a big part of their plan.

        But for whatever reason, taking comments out of context as a defend the ownership/front office auto-response has ticked up recently. Could be you’re tired of hearing the same arguments repeated in perpetuity, could be you’re more on board with the plan than you were in the past, could be fighting the dissenters (both the ones on the periphery and the ones in the center of it), I don’t really know.

        • baldtaxguy

          I assumed you were with “the warping of his mentality has been forced upon him.”

          • When The Musics Over

            It has, but I don’t think the front office or ownership would argue it hasn’t either. My point was that his mentality change due to extreme losing, especially of the purposeful variety, is sad. It’s just another byproduct the of losing that people gloss over. Not everything can be graded in wins/losses or farm system rankings. Player (and fan) morale and many other meaningul negatives creep around losing cultures. They are costs that, while impossible to quantify, certainly should not be ignored

        • brainiac

          just for the record, Brett always lets me say what i want, if it’s pessimistic, if i’m trying a new rhetorical spin to see how it’s received, or if i’m just being flip. this is a fan site so i do think it’s appropriate for the host to keep things hopeful, especially to counterbalance the wildcard like your resident brains.

          i do mean what i say every time, though sometimes only on a wide spectrum. i’m very, very worried about the cubs’ identity these days. building a bigger business for the rich is not the same as building a better team for chicago.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I read your comment the way you wrote it. The overtones were clear.

          What I defended was, like, accuracy.

          In any event, I don’t view myself as defending the front office unapologetically – I defend individual moves/decisions/schemes/plans/etc. with which I agree. I just happen to agree with the vast majority of things that this front office does.

          But even as recently as two days ago, I expressed reservations about a particular signing (James McDonald big league deal).

          • When The Musics Over

            If the James McDonald signing is your best recent example of something the Cubs did that you weren’t 100% behind, then yeah, we’re definitely operating in very contrasting universes.

            As for me. You can take my comment however you want. Tones, whether over or under, are certainly tricky to interpret in print.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Best recent example? They just announced the contract this week, for crying out loud. It was THE most recent move besides the Bonifacio minor league deal.

              • When The Musics Over

                Read below. I should have provided more context in the original comment. I don’t care about James McDonald, just like I don’t care about the dumpster dive moves. I feel nothing.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  Gotcha.

              • When The Musics Over

                And I don’t understand your frustration here. Am I really that annoying or infuriating?

          • When The Musics Over

            And to give you context. From your comments in the past, I understand you are very interested in even the most minor moves the Cubs make. When James McDonald is brought into the fold on a team forecasted to lose 90+ games to perhaps be a fifth starter or a bullpen piece and the byproduct is the bullpen picture likely gets more competitive, I’m really not concerned with thinking much about it either way. For now though, this is just a very low end bridge the gap move. Same can be said for Bonifacio. Do I find him interesting, sure, but it doesn’t move the needle either way for me, at least not right now.

            As for Shark, we view what he says in different ways. I think he’s an extremely frustrated guy, mostly saying the politically correct things because that’s what athletes are supposed to do in this age (deviations from this course of action really only have a downside). I think if you were having beers with him at a bar, you’d receive an extremely different outlook. As for the comment I specifically latched onto, which was viewing himself as a trade chip. Some may view that in positive light. I don’t. I think it’s sad. While contradictory to some of the other stuff he said and you quoted about wanting to win, he’s saying that he’s pitching for a contract or to get traded. He’s given up on winning as his primary goal this year. In sports, that sucks.

            Also, a lot of what comes out of me isn’t necessarily ripping on the front office. It’s debunking some of the run away train myth-into-reality group think opinions that have become so very common. Sure, it often takes on a negative/cynical undertone, however, that’s just my personality. Again, detecting tone in print is tough, even among good friends.

    • Joshua Edwards

      Woo hoo! Armchair pseudo-psychology (based on no evidence) from sad fans that justify personal despair! And plenty to go around!

      By all means, let’s keep believing whatever helps us feel not-better.

      (Sorry to rain on your rainy day, fellas. But I’m a Cubs fan and it’s Spring Training so I want to be hopeful for at least a few weeks.)

      • When The Musics Over

        In this instance, I don’t really consider my comment too deeply reading between the lines. He now views himself at least partially as an asset, the same as the front office. It’s sad.

        • mjhurdle

          I find it strange that you are just now realizing that Shark (along with every other player in MiLB and MLB) views himself “at least partially as an asset”, and i am confused as to why you think that is sad.

      • cubzfan23

        I agree 100 percent… Jesus have some positive thoughts. I really believe this team will be at least 500.

        The bullpen will be better and Castro, Rizzo, and Jackson will be improved. I am also staying positive about Shark. He should improve also.

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          If this team breaks .500 then Renteria will be in the running for manager of the year.

          • brainiac

            if the team this year stays over .400 renteria should be promoted to mayor.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              That’s an awfully low bar. .400 would be, what, 65 wins?

              • brainiac

                that’s about what i have them pegged for – 65-70 wins at best. this takes into account inevitable further salary dumps of our last decent players, injuries, and the notion that we might not actually have 4 HOF quality players from the minors up by the end of the season.

                • brainiac

                  if renteria gets us 75 wins i will buy him a case of goose island matilda or zombie dust.

        • When The Musics Over

          If only all the wills I believe in my life were locks to become true. One things for sure, I wouldn’t give a shit about Shark thinking about himself as an intangible object.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Shark in a 5 way deal gets us Baker Volstad Molholm Dempster and Feldman and they are all flipped for prospects most with TJ issues.
    WTF sign this guy would you?!

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Additional comment for our prospects of being a .500 ball club. Aside from the obvious which was the blown saves the other big factor was our record within our division. A little negative regression from the Reds and Pirates would go a long way towards a better record. However I look for the Brewers to be improved. We were 31 and 50 at home last year. Bringing that to near .500 would go a long way toward aan 80+ win season.

  • FortyFour

    I think the Cubs should deal Samardzjia and get some prospects. He is out of step with this rebuild and has been vocal in opposing trades like Feldman and Garza. If our FO listened to him, we would have no CJ Edwards, no Jake Arrieta, no Pedro Strop, no Justin Grimm, and no Mike Olt. Our Cubs might have had 78 wins last year and Garza would still be suiting up with the Brewers this season.

    I disagree with the idea that our FO or Theo does not treat our players well. I find it laughable that the Cardinals were cited by Brainiac as being so player friendly. I doubt Jim Edmonds would agree, nor would Albert P, Cory Rasmusen, or Scott Rolen. I respect the Cardinals, in part because they have two places for their SPs (on the mound every 5th day or on the operating table).

    We are trying to win a World Series and it will take the waves of talent suggested by the FO. Samardzjia would have served himself better last year to focus on doing his job rather than play armchair GM and oppose what turned out to excellent trades, without one TJ causalty in return and for the record I am glad we took Vizcaino because he’s ready now.

  • haveuseenmybaseball

    Keep him till trade deadline(unless they get a lot in return,which is what they are doing)if other teams in division fall off and the cubs play well(including shark)a prospect or two play decent ball or a few of are reject pick ups do well we can make playoffs.we have prospects to trade and money to spend so keep your fingers crossed.give theo 1 more year he is as smart as they come baseball move wise(the ownership is lacking)

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    Wanna get paid like an ace? Start pitching like one. Pitch deeper in games. Manage your pitch count.

    I wouldn’t trade him or extend him at this point. Wouldn’t wvwn move him at the deadline unless you get blown away.

  • arta

    agree.

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    Sounds like they’re close but Shark doesn’t feel he needs to compromise; that if he pitches a little better he’ll either be traded or the Cubs will come up to his number–or something higher. I can respect that. If the Cubs DO look to be competitive in 2015–Shark is one less FA to sign or one less trade to make, which makes it a touch easier for them to BE competitive. I don’t know what that’s worth to the Cubs, but it’s not nothing.

  • Jason P

    Nice optimistic article about Arodys Vizcaino:

    http://www.csnchicago.com/cubs/cubs-have-big-plans-arodys-vizcaino

  • Assman22

    If you watch film on Arodys, his slider is his out pitch…how he throws it could be simply switched to a sinker…one that cuts like Mariano…while many of you “hope” he becomes a starter again, he likely won’t…is it really all that bad if he’s the 2nd coming of Mariano Rivera?…combine his fastball with a slightly better slider turned sinker…he is Mariano Rivera…keep the faith…

  • FortyFour

    Vizcaino seems to be worth the wait and the last two seasons, he would not have made a huge difference as we were too short on other talent. If he is a shut down closer later this year or next, that would be fantastic. Strop is hopefully ready to get some spot closes here and there while he works at nailing down his role as the primary set up man.

    The Cubs are in a good situation with Samardzjia in that if he continues to improve, they will find it easier to justify raising their offer. If the Shark still won’t bite, they can leverage his success to achieve another Garza-like haul in a trade. The worst thing that could happen is that he continues to end up with a higher ERA and lower Win total, in which case the Cubs will be glad to have failed to over commit resources to him. Soon enough Samardzjia is going to hear the foot steps of others (Hendricks/Edwards/potentially this year’s 1st rounder) ready to out pitch him as a SP on behalf of the Cubs.

  • Sabermagician94

    It’s crazy that even though we think about him being out for 2 seasons, he’s only 23. People are starting to claim that this could be a make-or-break year, but he’s still so young…

    • Sabermagician94

      Vizcaino that is

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