Jeff Samardzija content to let pitching dictate contract value
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 27, 2013 11:42PM
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:49AM
SAN FRANCISCO — Another media report Saturday that the Cubs are listening to offers on Jeff Samardzija is nothing new.
Teams have asked about the Cubs’ Opening Day starter for weeks, and of course the team is listening — just in case somebody meets the kind of exorbitant price that quickly ended a recent conversation about him with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But even as they shop almost every player in the clubhouse not nailed down to a multiyear contract with four days left before the trading deadline, the Cubs don’t expect to trade the potential building block piece who could be the key to a chance to compete anytime in the next two years.
“Somebody just had to throw something out there and was bored,” manager Dale Sveum said, “and threw some silly rumor out there.”
How silly such talk becomes by this time next year comes down to whether Samardzija and the club can make progress on a contract extension this winter — the team’s priority with him.
The Cubs have control over Samardzija ($2.64 million this year) for two more winters of arbitration eligibility, but could be facing Matt Garza-like trade decision by next July if he gets another season closer to free agency without a multiyear deal.
“I just hope it’s just teams asking about you, and that’s it,” Samardzija said of the latest rumor. “I don’t have a no-trade clause or anything like that. But I know I’m still protected, still under control for a couple more years.
“I’m in a little bit of a different case than some of the other guys. That’s comforting for me to know.”
Front office officials won’t comment on conversations they’ve had with other teams, but nobody’s denying the Cubs’ strongest desire is to keep Samardzija as a key to the competitive core they’re trying to build.
But Samardzija faces an offseason at a similar career point to Garza in the winter of 2011-12, when the Cubs failed to reach an agreement with their best pitcher — a few months before dangling Garza in serious trade talks until an injury ended that effort.
By the time talks with Garza were revisited this year, they want nowhere fast because he sought a free-agent level price in a market that had yet to be set.
Samardzija, a Northwest Indiana native who has personal as well as professional motivation for staying around, has made it clear he plans to let his pitching dictate his value and not take a club-friendly offer until getting closer to proving what his ceiling might be.
Indications from both sides suggest neither the Cubs nor Samardzija will seek anything other than a fair-market price on an extension.
“My numbers and what I do on the field will, I guess, implicate myself in a way,” he said. “And that’s all I want. Just to win.”
And to finish a full season in the rotation, reach 200 innings and to put together a strong enough two-month finish to give him and the club a better data point for extension talks.
“That’s essentially what I’ve been saying,” he said. “I don’t have a tape-to-tape season under my belt as a starter. For me to sit and talk different deals and things like that, I don’t really know.
“I’m really excited to finish this season strong and go from there.”