MESA, Ariz. -- It’s the question that keeps getting asked, but soon enough it’s going to have to have an answer. In some ways we’re already in extra innings, as Jeff Samardzija could have been traded by now considering there’s been no movement in contract extension talks for over a year.
None. No new offers, no new strategies.
Neither side will budge, continuing to leave Samardzija squarely on the trade block. Every day he’s not signed to a multiyear deal is a day closer to free agency for him, which means he’s a day closer to being traded. The Cubs will never let him walk after the 2015 season. Samardzija is currently on a one-year deal.
Things might be different if the Cubs had a chance to win something this year, but the front office believes they can get younger and perhaps better pitching for him if they move Samardzija. It will certainly be cheaper with him wanting No. 1-type money, though the club hasn’t seen him pitch like an ace just yet. Samardzija’s career ERA is 4.19 and he’s coming off a second half in which it was over 5.00. Bad team or not, it’s probably hard for a front office to pull the trigger on a huge contract for a player with those results.
The Samardzija saga, while both old and ongoing, has major implications for the Cubs' rebuilding plans. Moving him means replacing him, both for his skill as well as his leadership. Signing him at his cost means using up a slotted salary for a No. 1 pitcher. It’s money they might want to use elsewhere. Simply put, Samardzija doesn’t want to be paid like Edwin Jackson (four years, $52 million); he wants to be paid more like Homer Bailey (six years, $105 million).
At this point, the notion of who’s right or wrong is becoming moot because it’s not "if" he’ll be traded, rather "when." What’s interesting is that the Cubs don’t necessarily believe he’s an ace but are holding out hope they can get a potential ace in exchange for him. They’ve done an incredible job -– at least on paper -– in acquiring talent for their veteran pitchers, especially during the annual July trading period. Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards, Arodys Vizcaino, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop are just a few of the players that have become Cubs over the last few years. That’s a good collection of arms. So expect the Cubs to do well for Samardzija as teams get desperate in the coming months.
Unless there is a change of heart from either side, of course.
That would probably have to come from the Cubs, because Samardzija has the ultimate confidence in his health and ability to play things out until he becomes a free agent and gets his big payday on the open market. It doesn’t help that the Cubs are only about halfway done with their rebuilding efforts, so there’s no incentive for Samardzija to sign and then wait around in order to pitch in the playoffs.
The timing of a deal just doesn’t seem to be coming together. When asked on Wednesday if he would negotiate once the season starts, Samardzija quickly responded with a “no comment.”
It might not matter if neither side moves off their current position.
It’s bad news for the Cubs since they are already thin in major league pitching and have no guarantees that their young arms are going to develop into top-of-the-rotation guys. It could stall the rebuilding process or even set it back. It’s that critical of a decision, and so it looks like the Valparaiso, Ind. native’s days are numbered with the organization he’s been a part of the past seven years.