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Market for Jeff Samardzija is drying up

Cub owner Tom Ricketts chats with team president Theo Epstebefore Chicago Cubs home opener against Milwaukee Brewers Monday April 8

Cub owner Tom Ricketts chats with team president Theo Epstein before the Chicago Cubs home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday April 8, 2013 at the Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 10, 2013 11:59PM

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Two days into the winter meetings, and the Cubs pulled off an improbable feat.

They are actually in worse shape than when they started.

They also got upstaged again by the White Sox on the day the owner arrived for his first winter meetings appearance.

Chairman Tom Ricketts, who was in town for the annual minor-league affiliates dinner, joked Tuesday with reporters who wondered aloud whether he planned some butt-kicking to jump-start his quiet baseball department.

“Yeah, I want to see something right now!” he said with a laugh, adding, “Who knows? You know those guys. They’re always moving.”

Ricketts, who returns home Wednesday as the full city council votes on stadium-related measures, turned serious when asked if he still has confidence in team president Theo Epstein two years and two managerial hires into a painful-looking rebuilding process.

“Absolutely,” Ricketts said of the bottom-up overhaul that has resulted in the worst two-year stretch in franchise history. “We’re doing the right stuff. Absolutely.”

It didn’t look so right when the efforts to trade Jeff
Samardzija for a strong package of young players took a broadside hit from the three-team deal that netted the Sox young outfielder Adam Eaton and sent the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospect, Tyler Skaggs, to the Angels for outfielder Mark Trumbo.

Skaggs was considered to be part of any package that would be attractive enough for the Cubs to trade their 2013 Opening Day starter. Arizona has actively pursued Samardzija since July.

The potential market for Samardzija already had softened when the Nationals filled their rotation need by trading for the Tigers’ Doug Fister last week. Other suitors remain in play, but given what sources say is a high asking price for the right-hander, the Cubs appear more likely to open the season with him and revisit the trade market next summer.

“I know people look at the ticker and refresh [mlbtrade-] all the time,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Obviously, when you start talking to an agent or start talking to a team you hope it comes to fruition quickly, too. I think it’ll be productive. I’m not sure whether it’ll lead to a move before we leave or not.”

That’s a far cry from the vision Epstein expressed last week when he said the Cubs will be “dictating all those big moves” instead of watching and waiting for prospects to hit.

“I don’t think it’s about [dictating moves],” Ricketts said. “It’s about just making the team better. We’ll have to decide where and when he wants to do that.”

A new local TV deal being negotiated now will have a lot to say about that. Ricketts declined to give an update.

And revenue-enhancing stadium changes will have an impact too, though the start of construction is already years behind and Ricketts said he can’t predict when it will begin as the dispute with rooftops owners is resolved.

“I’m not sure what timelines exactly anyone’s referring to,” he said. “[The renovation] is an important part of our future. But it’s a long process and we’re just going to play through and do what we have to do.”

The buzz

Talks between the Cubs and Nationals about relievers Drew Storen and James Russell are dead, sources say.

◆ The Cubs still hope to land at least one starting pitcher this week, and they’re in on free agent Jason Hammel, who wants the kind of one-year deal the Cubs like as a potential flip chip at the trade deadline.

◆ The Cubs haven’t made an offer to right-hander Scott Baker, who rehabbed his elbow on the Cubs’ $5.5 million dime last year, but they have met with his agent, who expects to field several offers this week.


Twitter: @GDubCub

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