Homer Bailey’s $105M deal raises stakes for Samardzija
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter April 28, 2014 10:21PM
CINCINNATI — Homer Bailey thinks the Cubs might be bluffing with Jeff Samardzija by letting him believe they’ll trade him in July rather than make the kind of contract offer it will take to keep him.
Maybe that’s easy to say from the Cincinnati Reds’ clubhouse, where all the star power and big-money players resided Monday, when the Cubs and Reds were rained out.
Maybe it’s especially easy to say for Bailey, who got the contract two months ago that might have cinched Samardzija’s short-term status with the Cubs. Bailey got paid despite a 4.31 career ERA and a losing record for a playoff team last season.
“I think the Cubs will spend money where they feel like it’s needed,” Bailey said, trying to make reason out of the team with the biggest market in the National League Central spending less on its players this year ($75 million) than the Kansas City Royals
($90.4 million), Tampa Bay Rays ($82 million), Pittsburgh Pirates ($77.8 million) and Oakland Athletics ($77.2 million).
“And maybe it will be Samardzija. We don’t know that,” Bailey said. “The Cubs might be playing a bluff card. That’s part of going into a negotiation, too. There’s so many strategies.”
Bailey is one of the biggest reasons that Samardzija and the Cubs have little chance of resurrecting long-dead talks. His six-year,
$105 million extension raised the bar on the pitching market, dwarfing what was believed to be a five-year offer by the budget-conscious Cubs for Samardzija at far less annual value.
Further dividing the sides is a difference of opinion on how closely the two pitchers should be compared. Bailey is younger with more experience as a starter; Samardzija has fewer innings and a better career ERA, and he never has been on the disabled list.
So what does Bailey think about his impact on the Cubs’ payroll decisions and long-term pitching plans?
He won’t go there, except to say, “It’s all just the game. That’s just the way it is. And people can gripe about it and do whatever they want to about it.”
It’s just business, he said.
And if the Cubs are bluffing, Samardzija certainly isn’t.
The former Notre Dame football star with the frontline-starter stuff and the negative sentiment toward rebuilding isn’t giving anybody a team-friendly deal just to spend more time in last place while waiting for prospects.
“Everybody’s here for the present,” he said. “Tomorrow’s not guaranteed to anybody, let alone next year or the year after that. You’ve got to look for today and do everything you can to enjoy today. And the way you enjoy today is you win today.”
There hasn’t been much of that for Samardzija, who will pitch Tuesday after his scheduled start was rained out. He’s winless in five starts despite a 1.53 ERA, and he’s averaging more than seven innings per start.
He’s not holding the Cubs up for break-the-bank money. But he wants to know he has a chance to win, and he’s confident he can be an ace.
“When I said what I said about what I want to be as a pitcher, that’s understanding the consequences of not being that guy,” Samardzija said. “I understand by opening my mouth and saying what I want to be, it puts a little added pressure on myself to be that guy.”
Bailey said he sees that guy now.
“No doubt,” he said.
Even last year, Bailey’s teammate Joey Votto compared Samardzija’s stuff to Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg.
Said Samardzija: “I really feel that there’s still room for me to grow and I can get better, which is exciting.”
Probably at least $105 million exciting.