jeff samardzija white soxWednesday night, Phil Rogers reported that Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and former Cubs starter, and current free agent, Jeff Samardzija were hanging out in Chicago. Given earlier rumors that there could be mutual interest in a reunion between the team and the player, folks’ ears perked up.

And, indeed, it was not without cause. Bruce Levine reports that it was a meeting for the sides to discuss a possible return for Samardzija, and Levine even goes so far as to say that a signing now “seems more probable than not.”

There’s a little bit of play in that phrasing, so I don’t want you to go too far with your assumptions – but, suffice it to say, if you were questioning the legitimacy of the mutual interest at any point in the past, you can stop questioning it. The interest is real. That doesn’t mean a deal will get done that makes sense for both sides, but discussions are happening.

I’ve discussed in various quarters – here, the podcast, on Twitter, in conversations with strangers on the street – why I believe bringing Samardzija back makes a whole lot of sense for both sides on anything from a one-year prove-it deal (the Cubs get the value of a short-term commitment, a potential great season from Samardzija in a competitive year, and a potential draft pick to recoup the one they lose for signing him; Samardzija gets a chance to boost his value before hitting a very weak free agent market in 2017) to a multi-year deal (Samardzija gets paid; the Cubs could get a relative bargain on a mid-rotation arm for several years). Levine specifically mentions the possibility of a three or four-year deal in the $15 to $16 million per season range, with incentives built in from there. If that’s where Samardzija’s deal actually winds up, I think it looks like a great, calculated roll of the dice for the Cubs.

One thing that seems to be lost when I talk about wanting to see the Cubs make something happen with Samardzija, however, is that it isn’t the only thing I’m interested in seeing the Cubs do this offseason. That is to say, some seem to view Samardzija as *the move* in the rotation, precluding other pursuits. For me, that’s not at all the case. Instead, I see landing Samardzija as opening up a range of possibilities for the Cubs – they could more aggressively pursue trades for a controlled, younger starter now knowing that at least they’ve got Samardzija in the fold; they could more aggressively spend on a positional player like Alex Gordon or Ben Zobrist (or, dare I say, Jason Heyward?) knowing that they didn’t have to spend $30 million on a starting pitcher; they could save some of their chips for later in the offseason when the market for other starters may have collapsed.

All that said, I’m not so sure Samardzija – or the Cubs – will necessarily want to ink a deal too quickly this offseason. Interest in Samardzija is rightly wide-ranging from a number of teams, and there are many other options out there for the Cubs, too. Unless one side or the other is absolutely determined to get a deal done quickly, there could still be a feeling out process, again, because both sides have so many other options out there. None of the big-time or even mid-tier starting pitcher free agents has signed yet, but, once the first domino falls, we could start to see some acceleration.

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