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Cubs talking again to Jeff Samardzija about multiyear extension

Updated: July 18, 2014 6:29AM



MIAMI — With the Cubs’ top two trading chips of the summer pitching the first two games of this series against the Miami Marlins, scouts from contenders and hopefuls started to gather like tropical storm clouds at Marlins Park on Monday.

But even as the Cubs continue early trade talks with some teams about Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija, they also have quietly reached out to Samardzija with a new offer on a contract that would keep him in Chicago as long as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, according to multiple sources.

The sides have been miles apart for more nearly two years since having initial conversations about a multiyear extension, with differences on issues ranging from dollars to the club’s competitive timeline to management style and stability.

But the longer Samardzija has pitched into what is fast becoming his best season, the more he’s looking like the frontline pitcher many expected him to be, and the more outcry that has risen from an already grumbling fan base waiting for this rebuilding process to take traction.

Cubs officials wouldn’t comment on the subject Monday.

But the offer is believed to be for the same five years previously discussed by the parties, but at a higher number than the $60-million to $65-million range last on the table.

It was not immediately clear how high the Cubs have gone, or what their walkaway figure is. One source suggested it would take something close to the $17.5 million annual value of Cincinnati pitcher Homer Bailey’s six-year contract signed during the spring to persuade Samardzija to commit to an extension, especially without a no-trade clause.

Samardzija, who had the best ERA in the majors through May, takes a 2.77 ERA into his 15th start of the season Tuesday in Miami.

It has made him one of the most valuable pitchers potentially available on the market — with teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays sending two scouts to Miami to watch both him and Hammel.

At least two teams, including the Jays, already have had preliminary trade talks involving potential players who would come back in a deal, according to sources.

But that same rising trade value has caused the Cubs to rethink his replacement value as they look at the cost of acquiring a similar pitcher — and whether somebody as good would even be available.

“We’d take him here in a heartbeat,” said Marlins outfielder Reed Johnson, the former Cub, who has watched Samardzija’s evolution since his 2008 rookie year. “He’s not only a good pitcher, but he’s got what it takes mentally to succeed. He believes in himself.

“That’s the thing with me: If you’ve got a guy that’s not afraid to go after people, that’s the guy that you want in your organization. That’s the guy that I would want to build a team around, and it sets a precedent for the rest of the ­pitchers.”

Samarzija will be 30 next year, putting him past the ideal age for a long-term investment. But he has a prototype workhorse pitcher’s body, and over the last two years has demonstrated it with his workload and performance.

Contenders still believe Samardzija is firmly on the market as the baseball calendar heats up toward the July trading season.

And getting a deal done with the Cubs is anything but certain for Samardzija, whose confidence in himself has been a major reason he hasn’t settled for a team-friendly deal to this point.

Assuming continued health, his payday from another team as a free agent in a year will almost certainly be bigger.

Johnson already knows what he’ll say if the Marlins brass — which many expect to be in the market for a pitcher next month – ask.

“I’ve told a bunch of people in [the clubhouse] already,” he said. I felt like he’s the one guy that’s on the market right now that if was any of those teams [I’d want].”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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