It can’t be easy to be in a situation where you know that as soon as a pitcher on just about any team in baseball goes down with an injury – or there’s even a hint of an injury – you’re going to be bombarded by trade rumors and related questions.
That’s how it is for Jeff Samardzija right now. Which is not to say it’s not understandable. Samardzija is two years from free agency, and hasn’t been able to come to terms on an extension with a team that is currently in a rebuilding phase. Among the players that could potentially be dealt in the next five months, Samardzija is precisely the type you’d expect to be at the top of the list. So, when guys get injured, the rumors and questions will come.
That’s how it was yesterday with news that the Braves – already with some rotation questions – may have lost both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to some kind of injury. Medlen is dealing with a forearm strain, which could be something more (and the Braves just now revealed that it “involves” the ligament, which is damaged – they don’t yet know the extent), and Beachy left his latest start with “biceps tightness”, which could also be something more.
In any case, knowing that the Braves and Cubs had previously discussed a Samardzija trade, and knowing now that the Braves are even more hard up for a starting pitcher, Samardzija addressed the questions yesterday as smoothly as possible.
“Just going with the flow, man,” Samardzija told Cubs.com. “I keep getting stronger and I really like how I approached this offseason with spacing it out and not throwing until a little later. I feel like I’m peaking at the right time. I can’t control [rumors] …. You’d be lying if you said things don’t cross your mind like that. I’m human, and I have different thoughts throughout the day. Sometimes the uncertainty of the situation pops in my head, for sure. Ultimately, that’s just an excuse. I want to go out there and pitch and do my job with no excuses. I’m not about to come in and say my mind’s shaken because of this or that. It’s not going to happen.”
Pretty smooth response from a guy who’s been dealing with the questions for eight months. He knows that the scouts are there every time he pitches – they were reportedly out in force once again yesterday – and all he can do is go about his business.
The future is unclear for Samardzija, though a trade – be it now to a team like the Braves, or at the Deadline to the highest bidder – still seems very likely if an extension isn’t in place soon. By all accounts, the gap between Samardzija’s extension demand and the Cubs’ extension offer remains significant enough that getting to a deal that makes sense for both sides right now doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.
As for the Braves, it could be that they’re over a barrel right now. That could mean the Cubs pounce, or it could mean that the Braves dig deep and bump up the budget to grab someone like Ervin Santana. It might depend on how the evaluations of Medlen and Beachy turn out over the next few days. Given the team’s recent spending splurge on locking up in-house talent – long-term extensions for Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Julio Teheran, and Andrelton Simmons – I don’t see the Braves suddenly punting on 2014 because of some injuries. Instead, it seems like they’d be even more likely than most teams to make sure they add a replacement piece to put themselves in a better position to succeed.