Jeff Samardzija joined Bruce Levine and Ben Finfer during Hot Stove Saturday on The Score. Samardzija has not made it a secret that he wants to stay and win with the Cubs. Samardzija is tired of the ‘R’ word and wants the team to win games.
Jeff Samardzija is in Arizona preparing for the start of Spring Training at the Cubs’ new complex in Mesa. Samardzija did not mix any words during his interview with Levine and Finfer. Samardzija would really like to get something done to keep him with the Cubs long term.
A determined sounding Jeff Samardzija said, “I want to be the ace of this team. And that’s that.”
Bruce Levine: Jeff Samardzija joins us on The Score. Good morning Jeff, how are you?
Jeff Samardzija: Good morning guys, I am doing fine.
BL: You’re usually up at this hour, aren’t you?[laughs]
JS: Yeah. Usually I am. Saturdays are usually hit or miss. I’m up at 9:00. [laughs] Today I am at the complex playing some catch so I figured I could get up and kill two birds with one stone.
BL: When we talked to you at the Cubs Convention last week you were enthused like everybody in the Cubs organization about the possibility of bringing in Masahiro Tanaka and that didn’t transpire. The Cubs gave it their best effort and it just wasn’t good enough. How do you think that impacts you? The rest of the team? And how your situation is impacted by it?
JS: You know I think it could be a blessing in disguise to tell you the truth. I think around the convention I was excited for it obviously because the idea of adding a player like that, you know, that’s a good thing. But I think this could be a positive. Opening up and showing on the table that you have some money to spend allows us to go out and maybe add, instead of one guy, maybe we can add, you know, two, three or four guys that can really help this roster out come Spring Training and come the start of the season. So maybe you can allocate those funds in a different direction and really help improve this team. Maybe instead of one guy, you add maybe a few more guys and maybe even cheaper the cost still.
BL: How about towards you for a better long term deal?
JS: [laughs] Well, that is up to them to call me.[All laughs]
JS: I’m just taking myself out of it. I just feel like there are a lot of great deals out there. You see guys going on two or three year deals that are very, very good players and I think they also kinda fit our mold on what we are looking for. So I think there are other options out there. I don’t think Tanaka was THE only option. Obviously I think he was, understood as probably the best option, but I think there is other things you can do that in the long run might end up helping you out more than one single player.
Ben Finfer: But no disappointment from you at all? Because last week you were saying that one reason why you were hoping the Cubs would sign him was so you wouldn’t have to go through this rebuild. You said the ‘R’ word, you didn’t want to say ‘rebuild’ …[laughs]
BF: … Is it at all disappointing that now this sort of does make that rebuild extend out however long it is going to go?
JS: Well, I mean I was excited just because that would kick it in the right direction. I still don’t think that is off the table. I think obviously we have these prospects coming up and everybody’s talking about them, but there has to be the buffer zone in between that helps those guys learn to play the game the right way and learn to have success and be winners at the next level. So, there are still some guys that you can add that can help those guys out and really cushion that entrance into the big leagues. So, I’m still excited. There are things you can do and once you’ve shown that you have the money to make moves and you’re willing to make moves, usually you see other things follow after that.
BL: That’s the voice of Cubs’ starter Jeff Samardzija on The Score, 670. You can listen to us every Saturday at 8 o’clock. Ben Finfer and myself as we do a Hot Stove Show, soon to be called something else I assume …
BF: Once the regular season starts …
BL: Jeff, how would you sum up your Two Thousand and Thirteen season? There were some great accomplishments, there were some high-highs and then there were some disappointments with the ERA in the second half. How would you take a look at it in retrospect?
JS: I would take a look at the foundation numbers and the workload things as a big positive. I was very happy with the amount of starts I had, the innings I pitched, the average innings I pitched when I went out there, the quality starts. You know, all of those solid, solid stats, are what I am really excited about. I think more of the cosmetic stats really need work. Obviously ERA and this and that. But I really think the walks need to come down. You can’t have in the 70s, even if you are throwing 200-plus innings. Those walks need to come down. You’re just making it a lot harder on yourself. I really felt like with the positive year I had there is still a ton of improvement and the ceiling is still higher which really, really excites me. It is the big reason I am down here early working again and going through that same grind. Because I feel I had a taste in my mouth that there is more out there. So, I think if we get out of a couple of innings quicker and, you know, maybe shave off a run or two, keep it to one or two runs in an inning. Protect a lead a little better, I’ve let a couple get away from me, the end of the season really left a bitter taste in my mouth, I think we are looking at a different year. So, those opportunities do not come along all of the time when you have a three to four run lead, like I did against Philly. To give that back is, that hurts. So, certain games like that that really stick in my mind so it is not necessarily stats. It is certain scenarios in different games that could have went one way or the other that maybe I let slip away or for different reasons. I think those two things, walks and controlling the game, especially with a lead, I really need to improve on and it’s something that is on my books right now.
BF: How do you work on that over the off-season? Are you spending some time with Chris Bosio or do you have your own people that you work with? What are you specifically doing to try to improve in those areas?
JS: Well, I think those individual areas I think I needed to realize the situation a little better. Sometimes you take some things for granted and you’re out and it is August, you get four or five runs and maybe you come off the throttle a little bit. And those are all things you learn as a starter. Being my second full year [chuckle] I learned a lot to tell you the truth and it was a lot of different situations happened. Obviously with the situation we were in with wins and loses … [chuckle] … a lot of different things come up and you have to be ready for anything. I think learning to control myself a little better in game. Like I said I am happy because it is minor adjustments. It is little mental things and things like that and not to mention the experience you put under your belt for throwing 215 innings in a season. I am really looking forward to getting out there and facing those guys again and building on last year.
BL: What can Ben and I and the people here at The Score do to help you get this contract thing figured out?[All laughs]
BL: I mean it is only …
JS: … Depends on how much a percentage you guys are taking …[All laughs]
BL: … Well, Mark takes four percent and we will probably …
BF: … We’ll do it for 3.9 …[All laughs]
BL: … We’ll come down a little bit. But, seriously. You are a Chicagoan. You grew up loving both teams. You want to stay with the Cubs. I know how important it would be to stay there, but you are also a young professional approaching the years in your athletic career where you are going to be at your peak and you have to make sure that they are not wasted. So, from that perspective what do you think the chances are that you can sign a long-term deal with the Cubs maybe before Opening Day? Because if you’re not signed by July you’re probably going to be traded elsewhere.
JS: I mean I think that is really up to them. To you the truth I think they have, know what I am looking for and kind of the ballpark we are talking and I think it just comes down to them. I fall in this really funny grey area with what they are trying to do and my service time and when I am about to become a free agent. So, with all of the personal stuff aside of being from the area, being a Chicago guy, going to Notre Dame and things like that. I think you just have to look at the scenario with me being two years from free agency I think they need to put a value on when they feel like they are ready to compete. And if those things match up, then I think you will see something get done. I’ve made it pretty clear on where I want to be and how I want to do it and I’m sticking to my guns on that. Anything that happens outside of that is out of my control but I would really like to get something done. It is just a process, you know. And like I said it comes down to how they value me as a player and how they value me as a player as comparison to their timeline with turning this thing around. Like I said I am down here getting ready for the season. I am excited. It is cool to see all of these young guys down here. You know, Baez and Soler running around getting ready for the season. It is an exciting thing for me to seeing the young pitchers already throwing off a mound. It is outstanding to see the work that they are putting in getting ready for the season. The exciting thing for me is to see how hungry these guys are to get to the big leagues and prove themselves which can be lost sometimes. I think when you are handed a spot in the big leagues in a year or a year and a half it is easy to be complacent and take your time but I see these guys down here working hard. They have a smile on their face, they are having fun and it really looks like they are working toward something important which is winning games with the Cubs. And anything I can do to help them out so that we are winning a bunch of ballgames that is what I am here for. So, I am preparing like I am going to be here for this team for decades to come and that is the only way I am going to approach it. I am happy to be here and that’s it.
BF: You said they know what you are looking for. Is it purely financial? Or are there other things you are looking for that they haven’t thrown into the deal? What exactly do you want out of this next contract?
JS: I want to be the ace of this team. And that’s that. And that’s how I feel like I am and obviously my numbers need to improve and I might need to be a better pitcher but that’s happening. I am working on that now. I’m becoming better and for me that is the important part. I want to be a leader on this team for a long time to come. And when it is a big game and the game is a must win, I want to be the guy they turn to and that’s that.
BL: Jeff, we appreciate your time. Keep working hard out there in Arizona.