The Jeff Samardzija rumors went into a different direction on Friday. Reports earlier in the week remained consistent that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were listening to offers for Samardzija. A report on Wednesday then indicated the Cubs were shopping Samardzija with at least eight teams in the mix.
Nick Cafardo confirmed the Cubs’ statements that the team is trying to sign Jeff Samardzija to a long term contract amid all of the trade rumors on Thursday. But a report from Peter Gammons on Friday indicated the Cubs could wait and let the market play out before trading Jeff Samardzija.
Peter Gammons reported the Cubs feel that once Masahiro Tanaka is posted and signed and the free agent starting pitching market has cleared out, Jeff Samardzija and David Price “will be the jewels of the market.” Gammons hinted at the fact that could draw out dealing Samardzija until early February and close to when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
The Diamondbacks and Blue Jays are seen as the frontrunners for Samardzija among a list of teams that is believed to also include the Nationals, Orioles, Pirates and Rockies. Gammons confirmed that Kevin Towers will not trade Archie Bradley but would deal lefty Tyler Skaggs. Towers would also include shortstop Didi Gregorius in a deal for Samardzija, which would likely mean a third team would have to be involved. The Cubs see Javier Baez as a big league shortstop and whether Baez or Starlin Castro moves positions to accommodate the other is a decision the Cubs will make when the time comes.
The Cubs’ front office will not give Jeff Samardzija away. The price is thought to be very high at this point and it only figures to increase as other options come off the board. But Epstein and Hoyer should not allow this to carry into Spring Training and have it have over a young team with a first-time manager.
Darwin Barney joined Jody McDonald and Mike Stanton during Power Alley (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Friday. Barney talked about his family, the holidays and what he does to maintain his Gold Glove-caliber defense, all of the turnover in the Cubs’ clubhouse over the last three years, among other topics. Barney was quite candid about his views on trades, arbitration and which teams he would like to play for if he was not able to play with the Cubs.
Here are parts of the interview on MLB Network Radio:
Jody McDonald: Have you had a chance to speak with your new skipper, Mr. Renteria yet?
Darwin Barney: I did. I think he’s a pretty smart guy. He went about it the right way. He shot us all text messages first. You know if you get a random call from a number you don’t know, you’re probably not going to answer, then he’s going to have to leave a message …
Mike Stanton: [laughs] Ah, screening … yes.
DW: He sent us all a text message and said he’d give us all a call a few days after that. He just kinda told us what his philosophy was and what kind of guy we are going to expect. It went pretty well. We are excited. I think there is hopefully good things coming forward for the Cubs.
MS: A couple of your teammates have been involved in trade rumors so far. The first one, let’s talk about Jeff Samardzija. Kind of an up and down season, had a great first half, struggled a little bit. That’s kind of the story of his career. Talk to us a little bit about Samardzija and if he is traded what kind of a guy and pitcher the other team would be receiving.
DW: The Cubs’ fans that follow us day in and day out will know that Jeff Samardzija’s best games are the big games. Opening Day, against the Cardinals, big games that have a lot of extra meaning. The games where guys like him struggle is when we are kind of outta the race and there’s nothing really to drive you. Obviously, there is a lot to drive you every day as a baseball player, but he’s just one of those guys that steps his game up when the moment steps up. I think that is why he has a lot of activity coming his way on the trade side. It’s tough for a guy like me to see that. There is only four or five of us left from 2011 from when I came up and from the groups that came up through the minor leagues. Hopefully, I’m being selfish. I don’t want him to go anywhere. I think it is good for him that there is this activity. I think that shows the competitor that he is.
JM: Another name that has popped up, at least in rumors as far as potential trades go, is your double-play partner, Starlin Castro. Your shortstop. When you see something like that, when you hear something like that, do you get the phone out and either to go text and or call and go, ‘Starlin, what is the deal here brother? I don’t want you going anywhere, we work well together. We are one of the best double-play combos in the game. You don’t want to play into this do you?’ Do you contact a teammate when something like that pops up?
DW: You know, I hadn’t really heard the Castro rumors. But, you do sometimes and you don’t. Actually Samardzija, it’s funny you say that, the other day he (Samardzija) texted me and said, ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’ I said, ‘Have you been traded yet?’ It’s kind of a joke amongst players because you can’t do anything about it. It’s part of the game and it’s just part of our job. So, it’s hard when you think about a guy like Castro begin traded, but at this point it just becomes one of those things that you’ve dealt with for so long that you try not to think too much about it because someday it is going to be you.[Discussion about Barney’s defense]
JM: Darwin your first chance at the arbitration process. You’ve been renewed by the Cubs the last couple of years and now you get a chance to negotiate and know that if you can’t come to an agreement a third party is going to help out both you and the Cubs. How much have you discussed it with your agent? Is there a chance that you guys can forgo the arbitration process and get a deal done ahead of time with the Cubs?
DW: You know you talk about that with your agent. I think both parties kind of know where the numbers are going to be. I’ve spoken with Jed last year, a little bit, light heartedly, about it. The process is obviously exciting to get to. It means you have established yourself enough. You’ve played three solid years in the big leagues. I mean it is not easy to arbitration. The average baseball career, I believe, is under three years. It’s nice. It’s exciting for your family. But, there is going to be no arbitration process there. We are going to decide on a number and we are in good relationships with the Cubs. So, there is not going to be a third party coming in there that is for sure.[The interview continued with Barney discussing Anthony Rizzo and the fact he thinks Rizzo will be just fine after somewhat struggling in his first full season in the majors. Barney spoke highly of his teammate and brought up his Gold Glove caliber defense at first base.]
JM: Alright Darwin, the last couple for me. All things being equal, Darwin Barney is going to make $1.3-$1.5 million next year, whatever it is. That number is etched in stone. If you could play for any Major League team in any Major League town, what team would it be?
DW: [Long pause] Um … [long pause] And if it couldn’t be the Cubs …
MS: We’ll talk the Cubs out of it …
JM: The Cubs are out of it …
DW: Alright then, that makes it easier. I would probably play for the Red Sox or the Mariners. You know …
MS: Oh gosh, both coasts?
DW: Well, I grew up in Oregon and the only team we had was the Mariners. They were always on TV. The Griffeys, the Buhners, the Edgars, the Tinos. I was always a Mariners’ fan. I think that once the Kingdome got taken down and playing at Safeco last year was pretty fun. I grew up a Red Sox fan, fully, so, I think that it would be fun to play at Fenway every day. I think the energy there is unbelievable, so I would definitely love to play for the Red Sox.
JM: From Wrigley to Fenway, that sort of makes some sense.
With Monday the deadline to tender contracts to players for the 2014 season, the Cubs have a decision to make with RHP Daniel Bard. Bard has a big arm and a ton of upside but he has struggled with injuries and not throwing strikes since the Red Sox decided to move him from the bullpen to the rotation after the 2011 season. Bard is arbitration eligible for 2014, and many have thought the Cubs would not tender Bard a contract to free up a roster spot.
Daniel Bard left his winter league team and returned home on Thanksgiving after pitching in only three games. Bard was charged with eight runs, seven runs, on no hits with nine walks, four wild pitches and no strikeouts. Bard recorded just one out in his three appearances.
According to a report from Peter Gammons, a Cubs official told Gammons that Bard has come back from this issue before and the team “is not giving up on him.”
Phil Hughes is garnering a lot of attention, and jut not from the Chicago Cubs. Reports last week indicated the Marlins were interested in signing him to a deal, then a report from Jerry Crasnick on Thanksgiving indicated the Twins would likely turn their attention to signing Hughes after agreeing to terms on a four-year contract with Ricky Nolasco.
Most thought Hughes would sign a one-year contract in order to build value then test the market again next winter. The New York Post reported Hughes is likely to get a two-year contract, just not with the Mets. The other New York team was thought to be a possibility for Hughes on a one-year contract when the off-season began.
Due to the shortage of arms on the market, a two-year, $15 million contract for Hughes would not be out of the question according to the Post.
The Angels, Mariners and Royals are also interested in signing Phil Hughes this winter.
Many think that Hughes would be able to thrive in a National League rotation and out of a Yankees’ uniform. Plus, Phil Hughes is a young free-agent and has late-inning relief experience.
Former Cubs’ starter, Ted Lilly confirmed a report from a Venezuelan newspaper on Wednesday that he is retiring from baseball. Lilly does not feel like he can physically play the game any longer. Lilly explained he is retiring, but stressed he is not ready to do so, but due to injuries he feels he is making a realistic decision.
Lilly has been dealing with chronic neck pain and recently had a procedure in Venezuela to cauterize the nerve endings on the right side of his neck. But the procedure did not relieve the pain and he decided to retire.
Ted Lilly had an excellent run with the Cubs after signing a four-year, $40 million contract with the team in December of 2006.
Over the course of four seasons with the Cubs, Lilly posted a 47-34 record in 113 starts with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Lilly struck out 598 batters with only 184 walks in 705 2/3 innings. The one image most will think of from Lilly’s time with the Cubs was him slamming his glove down on the mound in the 2007 NLDS in Arizona. Unfortunately, that was Lilly’s only appearance for the Cubs in a post-season game.
The argument could be made that Ted Lilly was the best free agent signing by Jim Hendry, especially considering the circumstances in which Lilly agreed to the terms of his contract.
Cuban Baseball Players
According to a report from NPR, Cuba has lifted a 50-year old ban on players’ signing professional contracts abroad. Without the restriction, more Cuban players could defect and end up signing with MLB teams.
The report explained that Cuba “is betting its biggest starts will return home if allowed to spend part of the year earning real money in places like Mexico or Japan.” But Cuban players that defect for the United States would not legally be able to return to Cuba due to the U.S trade embargo.
News and Notes
MLB released its annual report from the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program on Friday. Of the 5,391 total drug tests, eight tested positive, all for stimulants. Seven of the eight positive tests were for Adderall, the other was for Methylhexaneamine. MLB issued 122 therapeutic exemptions with 119 of the exemptions being for ADD.