Samardzija focusing on boosting his value

MESA, Ariz. -- Day 1 of Jeff Samardzija watch included a news conference with the Chicago Cubs pitcher -- the only one for a player so far in the opening of spring training.

Samardzija knows there's interest in him, as he is on the trade block until further notice. He and the Cubs can't agree on a long-term price tag for the right-hander, who will be a free agent in the winter of 2015. Unless something changes, he's likely to be dealt before this year's trade deadline, at the end of July.

"We're not really going to talk about that," Samardzija said Friday. "We're getting ready to compete and win some ballgames. So for me, it's a no comment."

He was even the last of the arbitration-eligible players to sign this offseason, right before a scheduled arbitration hearing. The Cubs are paying him $5.345 million for 2014, far less than what Samardzija wants to sign for long-term.

"If there wasn't a gap there I would have already signed," Samardzija said.

The gap exists in how much the Cubs value him as compared to how much he values himself. He's known as a big-game pitcher, but after a poor second half last season, Samardzija's ERA ballooned to 4.34. He says he needs to be more efficient and pitch to contact earlier in counts. It's some of the same things he said a year ago at this time.

"All I can do is increase my value as much as possible," he said. "That helps the organization no matter what."

That helps the Cubs win games -- or helps them get a lot for him in a trade. At this point a trade is more likely and that's part of the equation that Samardzija talks around the edges about. Where the Cubs are in their rebuilding plays a big part of the equation.

"Sometimes it's just a product of the situation," Samardzija said. "I think that's where I'm at ... when you win ballgames ... this dialogue changes. So if we can change that around, the perspective changes and all of a sudden my situation changes."

Does that mean if the Cubs are winning Samardzija's demands change or does that mean the team ups the ante? It's not clear. What is clear is where this could lead, despite the attachment the Valparaiso, Ind., native has for the Cubs.

"The more this process goes along the more I realize this is a business and that attachment only goes so far," he said. "All of it comes down to production."

And that more than anything is what Samardzija is focused on. He knows if he finally reaches his potential, the Cubs will have to pay him or he'll get traded to a contender. In the meantime, it's status quo for the longest-tenured Cub on the roster.

"Both sides are justified," Samardzija said. "It's not like either side is asking for an outlandish concept. I know where they're coming from and they know where I'm coming from."