Jeff Samardzija Fields Questions About His Future and the Cubs

Jeff Samardzija held a press conference following Friday’s workout and answered a variety of questions, mostly about his status and future with the team. Samardzija has remained consistent about his desire to stay with the Cubs and reiterated that again Friday.

Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs remain far apart on a long-term contract. Samardzija admitted as much during the press conference. And until the two sides are able to agree to a long-term contract the speculation and rumors will continue throughout the spring and well into the season.

Jeff Samardzija: Yeah, it feels great. You can only sit and workout by yourself with Bussie and a couple of the other guys only so often before you feel like you are banging your head against the wall. You start getting all of this pent up energy at home. Start getting a little testy and you kinda realize it is time to start Spring Training so it is good to be here and it’s good to be doing it for real.

Reporter: Your impressions of the facility.

JS: I’ve been down here since about December 1, so I got to see it from the beginning until now. It was a skeleton a couple of months ago. So to see the hard work they’ve done and put into it. Clearly they’ve listened to the feedback from the players and the staff about what works and the positive things. Outside of the cameras everywhere, I am pretty excited about this place.

[All laughs]

Reporter: Jeff, were you happy that you were able to reach an agreement without going to arbitration? Are you still hopeful that maybe somewhere down the road you can work something out longer term?

JS: Yeah, obviously the last resort is to go to a hearing. It is something you want to avoid. Obviously unless one of the sides feels really wronged with the number that was started at but I felt like from the beginning both sides felt like we were in agreement that we were pretty close. The reason it went so long is for a lot of different reasons but I have people doing their job for me and they have people doing their job for them. I guess you gotta, me and Theo were kinda joking about it, I guess you gotta make those other people feel like they have to do their job. So we let them do their part and then we knocked it out. And I’m excited. I am happy that we are here ready to go for camp and we can prove ourselves out on the field.

Reporter: Are there any conversations going on now about a possible long term contract?

JS: You know, we are not really going to talk about that. We are worried about this season. We are looking to get ready to compete and win some ballgames. We don’t want any distractions. Whether it is with that or with trade talks or with this or that. So, for me it is a no comment. I am out there getting ready to do my thing. Like I said before, put no doubt in anyone’s minds about who I am or what I can be for this team and for this organization.

Reporter: Jeff, feels like the next step for you is to win those 1-0 or 2-1 ballgames, the closer games. How do you feel like you make that next step happen?

JS: Efficiency, I think. The big thing for me this off-season was what I really harped on myself after taking a step back and looking at a whole season, I felt like efficiency is going to be a big thing for me. I threw a lot of pitches last year [pause] … and for the right reasons. I wasn’t out there just wasting pitches but I think we can get a lot more early action in counts. Get the strikeouts when you need them in situations they are called for and those take care of themselves. Cut my walks down. I was in the 70s, I would like to take those down to the 40s and 50s and then like I said get some more early action in counts and let them put the ball in play and let our defense work. Hopefully pitching in those sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings with 60, 70, 80 pitches and ready to go to finish the game strong. So for me it is all about efficiency and being aggressive in the zone.

Reporter: How do you keep your composure and patience? In this off-season there was a lot of speculation about your future that started back at the trading deadline last July. What has this been like for you? How do you isolate yourself from all of that?

JS: You just can’t really take anything into account. I mean, regardless of what the outside distractions are and the outside talks, your numbers and your production on the field is exactly that so when it is all said and done they are not going to say ‘Well, he had this kinda of year, BUT, there was a lot of distractions, a lot of talks going on about trades. So we are going to give him a break.’ It doesn’t happen like that. The bottom line is the bottom line. I think that is what you concentrate on. You concentrate on doing your job. You can make as many excuses for yourself as you want but when it is all said and done that doesn’t fly. Your numbers are your numbers. Your record is your record and so on and so forth. I think by keep that mentality of you still have a job to do and excuses don’t hold any water, I think it is pretty easy to come to terms with the situation and understand what is important and what’s not important.

Reporter (Bruce Levine): How do you deal with the emotional attachment with the Cubs personally? And then professional side where you just have to go about your business?

JS: Yeah, it is tough. The emotional attachment I have to this organization. A lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt that just how it works because the way I feel about being here and about how bad I want to be here. So, the more this process goes along the more I realize it is a business and that attachment only goes so far. But like I said before all of it comes down to production. It all comes down to what happens on the field. I know if I do my part and do what I expect of myself and the team expects of me then everything else is clear about what the future holds. All I can do is increase my value as much as possible. I think in the end it is going to help the organization no matter what. Either it helps the organization by keeping me here and proving to them I am that guy. Or I increase my value and it helps them get prospects in return. I think Marlon Byrd said something kind of like that when he got traded that if he gets traded and the team gets some guys in return and it makes the organization better then as a professional athlete you did your job. Your job is to increase your worth for that organization then what they decide to do with you is up to them. So, all I can do is my job to the fullest and, um, you know, keep being wanted.

Reporter: Without talking about the specifics, if you don’t want to get into it, have you been given any reasons more that you think you will be here at the end of the season than you’ve been given in the past?

JS: Well, you know what I think that comes down to the team. I think it comes down to where we are at as a team. If me, Woody, Jackson, you know Hammel, Villanueva, Arrieta, so on and so forth down the line do their job and show that we are pretty close to where we need to be, especially as a pitching staff which is what we can control as pitchers, a lot of time that changes the plan. That changes to where this is an important group of core guys, we can’t break this up. Things happen fast, not only in professional sports, but especially in baseball. It is 162-game season, but it goes day-to-day. We come out and we get hot as a team and we start where we want to be I think you are going to hear the dialogue change. But again it’s all speculation and you got to start playing on the field before you get a better answer, better feel for that.

Reporter: Jeff, it does seem from the outside looking it there’s a gap on how you and your agent maybe value yourself and the team. You were the last to sign before arbitration and that seemed a little protracted, this sort of long-term talk is protracted. Is there a gap there?

JS: Well if there wasn’t a gap, we would have already signed, right?

Reporter: Right. So is there a big gap?

JS: Well if there wasn’t a gap [laughs], we would have already signed so. Both sides are justified. It is not like anyone is asking for, you know, for some outlandish, you know, concept. I understand where they are coming from and they understand where I am coming from. That is really all there is to say. I think that sometimes certain situations get spotlighted a little more than others. When really, like I said before, when it comes down to more of a team and organizational basis. Sometimes you’re just a product of the situation and I think that’s where I’m at. But like I said that’s not what this is all about. This is all just talk. This is what’s talked about off the field. But when you win ballgames, you win series, you win by month, you’re in the hunt late in the season, this dialogue changes. A lot of this dialogue is happening now because we’ve had two losing seasons. So if we can change that around then I think that the perspective changes and all of a sudden MY situation changes. So, our goal is to win on the field and once that happens then everything else irons itself out.

Reporter: Jeff, the team record isn’t obviously what you wanted it to be the last couple of years. Are you confident, along with everybody else in there, that you can turn it around this year?

JS: Absolutely. We need to believe that we can turn it around. That comes from every person individually that is A) fed up with the way things have gone and B) fed up with the way they’ve been placed and slotted within this league. Clearly if you are slotted and supposed to lose this many games and do this and that, then obviously people do not have that much respect for you. So, if you do not take that personally and put a chip on your shoulder that hey they are cutting me short then something is wrong with you and you need to change the way you look at yourself. So, there is no doubt in my mind that this team can win and win a lot of games. We just need to believe that as a whole and come into camp with that mentality that we are going to be a team and that we are going to win as a team and lose as a team. So, it doesn’t matter how many home runs Rizzo hits. It doesn’t matter how many doubles Castro hits. It doesn’t matter how many strikeouts I get. It matters within that game what we need to do to win that game individually and that needs to be our focus, and not so much on the outside, but more internally and how we can win each individual game and each individual series.

Reporter: Jeff, you were fairly critical of some of those mid-season trades last year. Did you like what you saw with what when on here in the off-season?

JS: I think the most difficult thing with that for me was just the character of guys that we were moving. I understand the situation. When you sign guys to one-year deals or they are a year away from free agency, I understand that. But, for me with the situation we are in and anytime you get a good guy, with a good personality, good work ethic, knows the game, a guy like Feldman was a perfect example. He was that guy. That is just hard as a teammate, as a player to let go. You kind of throw out the logical decisions and the logical answers and you just kinda go from your heart and from your gut and that’s where that came from. Obviously, the front office can’t make those decisions based on their gut and their heart. They have to make them for business decisions and for the future of the organization. That’s the difference. That’s why we are players and they are front office guys and they do their thing. I was critical simply just to lose a strong, competitive guy which you need to win ballgames and from what I’ve seen here with meeting Hammel and meeting McDonald and a couple of the other guys we’ve brought in, they are those guys also. I will say the front office does a great job in recruiting and scouting the personality and the type of player they are and every guy we bring in is usually a high-character guy that wants to compete. And they also understand these guys that we are bringing in are on one-year deals but since they are good character guys, they work hard and they care. Which in turn puts both spots in good situations with the front office and the player which is what you want. Hopefully we can convince a couple of these guys what we have going on here is a great thing and we convince them to stay and go from there. Like I said, all of that is determined later in the season. We have Spring Training and first couple of months of the season to change that approach and that happens within the clubhouse and believing within the clubhouse.

Reporter: Do you kind of feel like this is your team now? I mean, Soriano is gone, Dempster everyone is gone now. You are like the last one left.

JS: Yeah, absolutely. We are talking about feelings and talking about our connection with the organization that definitely has parts to do with it too. I feel like I have been around these guys for a long enough time. Even meeting the new guys that come in, you kind of end up being that liaison to the team and to the ins and outs of the organization and what to do and what not to do. Where to live in the city and where not to live in the city and that is definitely part of it. I enjoy being in that role and as guys grow and as more guys grow up with this organization and have more time the more guys you are going to have doing that and that’s what you want. You definitely want a core group of guys that understand what is going on and can mold the new guys into what’s happening. But, I enjoy having these few guys that have been around the team for a while and look to build from that core. Obviously we have the young guys coming up too, which are also going to need to be molded in and fit into this organization.

Reports from Jeff Samardzija’s Press Conference

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  • SuzyS

    Whatever else you can say about Shark…I like his attitude…it’s a winners attitude…and we need more guys with that type of heart and talent.

    • JasonOfTheBurbs

      ha! I typed my comment right when you did, Suzy…I guess we can agree to disagree on his attitude. Maybe it is a guy thing, but I see this sort of attitude in life, at work, back in school…just seems like forced machismo, and not the real deal. Almost like a guy trying to sell himself and everyone else on how confident he is. It fools some people. Hopefully Shark is not only sincere, but can actually back it up. Either way I hope we trade him and get a good haul this off-season.

  • JasonOfTheBurbs

    I think, when I look back at last year, I ate a lot…for good reason mainly, but I think I will cut down on pizza. Carbs too. Also I averaged about 8 chinups per set…want to get that to 15-20. Basically I need to get to six-pack abs. I have never really had six-pack abs my whole life, but I know I am capable of it, and I think because of that I will probably only look to date hotter women now, and I have been talking with the girl I have been dating a while, and letting her know I expect more from her, and that since I have so much potential that I expect she will pick up all the dinner tabs moving forward. We are pretty far from agreement on that right now…it is what it is…I am just going to be really awesome this year and if she steps up to the plate, cool…cause I want to be with her, but, you know, if it doesn’t work out than I guess it won’t.

    Some people get motivated and follow life plans by Tony Robbins.
    Me? I just mimic the Shark.

    • paulcatanese

      Cleverly put.

    • SuzyS

      Jason, nice creativity to illustrate your point.
      Shark fell apart last year after the Feldman trade.
      He has all the tools, physically…so I suspect his problem is his mental approach…(which is extremely tough on a losing team).

      In any case, THIS is the year for his performance to match his words. Hopefully, it will…and we either get great young pitching back in a trade…or Shark proves he can really be an Ace…and extends.

      We’ll see.

  • Richard Hood

    I like the attitude myself. He bets on himself and expects to be one of the best. That type of attitude is essential to being the best you can be.

    I just hope he realizes it is not the total number of walks that is killing him. It is the total number of pitches. If he continues to get to 100 pitches in 6 innings he will never take that next step. He kind of talked about it but the context was off. He needs to quit looking at each guy as a potential strike out and look as each out as a step towards a team win. I do not know if mentally he is able to take that type of step.

  • cubtex

    Excellent. It was extremely obvious last year when you watched Castillo catch. There was a reason why many pitchers preferred to throw to Navarro.

    Like any catcher, Welington Castillo
    has a huge task in front of him during spring training: He has to learn
    the new pitchers while advancing his own game. He and catching coach
    Mike Borzello — tasked with bringing Castillo, 23, along — picked up
    where they left off last season. On Friday, Borzello was seen showing
    Castillo how he wants him to catch the ball — a little closer to his
    body. Castillo says the practice will help in framing pitches. That
    aspect of the game hasn’t been a strength for Castillo in the past.

    • Richard Hood

      Do you remember the conversation we had a few years ago with Aaron Tex, where we were talking about Castillo and him taking extra long time in AAA because he had to learn to converse better?

      Aaron was griping about Blanco or someone getting the back up spot behind Soto because Castillo needed to learn to handle pitchers at the major league level. I was totally for sending him down to get more experience being that calming influence game in and game out.

      This context of framing pitchers should have been addressed better then but it did not happen. Instead the old development people thought that language classes would help. It was a mechanical issue then and it still is.

      Castillo will only be as good at framing pitches and the slight things that great defensive catchers do as is his ability to listen.

      This is going to sound very bad but he reminds me of Javy Lopez. All the tools are there to be a very good catcher in all aspects but he has to be able to listen and adjust. So far he actually has done better than I thought.

      • cubtex

        It was obvious to me watching him last year at how bad his fundamentals were behind the plate. Terrible at framing pitches and wasn’t great at blocking pitches either. He is athletic and he has a big arm but he needs to get more polished so pitchers can relax and feel comfortable throwing to him.

  • cubtex

    Since Arrieta is in the news…this is a good scouting report on what he is. Smoke and mirrors. He is not much and even if he was healthy he wouldn’t make it the entire season in the rotation.

  • Neil

    According to Jesse Rogers the Cubs have signed Emilio Bonifacio to a minor league contract

    • cubtex

      cool. Play him at 2nd and leadoff and move Castro to the 2 hole.

  • paulcatanese

    Beginning of another year and I have to throw this out again. I hate Free Agency.
    Why? Because I grew up in a time frame that created legacies for the masses. Think about it for a second, when someone mentioned the Red Sox, what came to mind was Ted Williams, Vern Stephens, Mel Parnell, little Dom DiMaggio , Bobby Doer, and the rest that were household names, why? Because they were there.
    The Yankees, ah yes, Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, and that little guy at short that everyone in the park knew was going to bunt, yeah, little Phil, and many more that identified the Yankees.
    And the Dodgers, Robinson, Reese, Snider, Campanela , who would not know them and the team they were on.
    Phillies, Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Emil Verban, with the two toned bat.
    The Cubs with Phil, Andy, Peanuts, the Swish, and all of them.
    The White Sox, Minnie, Billy Pierce, Sherm Lollar, who everyone in the park knew a low outside fastball when he was at bat would produce a groundball to short for an inning ending double play.
    I could go on and on about those years, but one thing is clear to me, I could associate those players with a City, a Team for a number of years.
    I guess the difference is, no Free Agency. the teams had the players by the short straw.
    And now the players have the owners by the same straw.
    But the real difference for me at least is I know who is on the team, the roster, and who will be there next year, and I identified with that.
    Those days are gone, but I preferred them to now, where the important thing is Control, money and more money. The heck with any true love for the game, That disappeared with Curt Flood and the courts.
    Baseball is a game of change, the game, the inning and the pitch, but at least I knew who was there, throwing that pitch, hitting it, and running the bases,
    and no matter what, it was a game then, and not subject to all of the computerized workings that take away the human aspect of it.
    All one has to do today are know how to read the figures and of course try to imagine how long that player will be around. Control and money, what a game.

    • paulcatanese

      Oh, and wouldn’t it be nice to have a player traded to the Cubs that would really help, and that player would have to report or face the restricted list or retire to get out of it, rather than say I don’t like the park or there in last place, or pay me so much extra money that I can go and relax spending all that extra money, or it’s only for a short period and then I can get extra dollars because of tenure, or what the going rate is.
      Never mind that I would have to produce, I’m a player that falls into what the market brings, no matter if I am that good or not.

    • SuzyS

      Along with those sentiments, I hate the dilution of talent that goes with 30 teams instaed of 16.

      • paulcatanese

        Turns out Suzy, I saw the Red Sox and Yankees play quite a few times at Comiskey in those years, night games.

        • SuzyS

          Nothing better than Red Sox/Yankees or Cubs/Cardinals.
          You must have great memories, Paul.

          • paulcatanese

            Absolutely, no comparison with today’s baseball that’s being shoved on the field.
            The Yankees or the Red Sox taking the field for a game against the White Sox or The Cardinals or Dodgers against the Cubs was pure adrenaline
            pumped into the veins.
            No one can say (at least to me) that todays game is better.
            The athletes of today are more advanced, because of many things, no doubt, but it means nothing in comparison to the compassion, natural energy, and individual love for the game, players and fans alike.
            Todays game lacks in every aspect of those things except money and the love for it that
            players and owners display on the Major League level.
            This isn’t a game today, its a revolving cash register once players make the bigs.

      • Tony_Hall

        But do you really think it is that diluted, when we are now signing guys from all over the world.

        • SuzyS

          Yes. Players knew the fundamentals or did not make the show.
          Players (like Barney) that were deficient in one area or the other never would emerge in the major leagues…the talent competition was concentrated
          Society back then was geared to baseball…not computers and TV. Everyone played sandlot ball. Basketball and football did not draw the majority of black athletes like they do today.
          Baseball was king…with only 16 mlb teams for the best of the best.
          Today, the talent base is fragmented into many other pursuits….Baseball HAS to draw it’s talent from around the world…just to stay competitive.

          • Tony_Hall

            I agree with most of what you are saying, but you make it sound like every player was an All-Star caliber player and we all know that is just not true. We can look back at stats to see that their were all kinds of levels of players back with 16 teams.

            I believe the talent level is much higher today (in all sports), but fundamentals have taken a back seat to talent.

          • SuzyS

            One of the differences is with year- round training. In the past, a lot of the players had part time jobs just to get by.
            (Why the Black Sox and the Cubs the year before were involved in gambling scandals).
            I don’t necessarily disagree with you…and certainly, not every player was an all star. But there are many players today making millions that never would have cut it in the past…see Ian Stewart as an example of that.

          • Tony_Hall

            But if you took the pitchers of today back in time, many more hitters would look like Stewart.

            You can’t compare the sheer volume of power arms in today’s game. Hitters use to face the same pitcher 3,4,5 times a game. Now you see a pitcher 2, maybe 3 times before all these power arms with nasty breaking pitches come in.

            Totally different game today if you ask me.

          • SuzyS

            and if you played today’s game with only 16 major league teams in the mix???

          • Tony_Hall

            The talent would be off the charts! There would be a 2nd group like football had with the USFL.

          • SuzyS

            That is all my original point was about.
            In the old days…they had the Negro leagues and barnstorming teams…That’s where the excess talent played.
            Today would be different…but major league baseball would be a better product.

          • Tony_Hall

            Yes and MLB didn’t have all of the best talent. It wasn’t just excess talent that was in the other leagues.

          • SuzyS

            But from Jackie Robinson on…until expansion…it did.

          • Tony_Hall

            When did expansion begin from 16 teams?

          • BillyFinT

            I don’t see that. No historical evidence going to that, no matter what you do. I just responded SuzyS above (below).

          • BillyFinT

            If you only played 16 teams, Major League would die. In fact, there were MORE than 16 teams in the early years of National, Federal, and Players big leagues, 1870s to 1900s! Also in mind…

            1. The population has expanded 3 folds since the 16-team days. Many major American cities in the South and West that are BIGGER and more important economically than St. Louis or Kansas still lack a MLB team.

            2. Pro sports were never built to be fair to all teams. In time, it becomes fair, as it expands and parity grows. That’s what been happening in soccer worldwide–the club by itself didn’t grow, despite more cities having a chance to compete in the top league. The competitive balance b/w top and bottom of the league is still much more steep than we see in America. Fans would be fine if they embrace the club as a local pride. They’ve been fine in Europe and Asia.

            3. More teams on top means more job opportunities, and aspiration talents from the bottom, kids, international kids as well, coming from all parts of the society.

            You combine the facts 1 and 2, I would say the expansion helped Major League to become competitive and balanced. No more Yanks and Dodgers of the 50s and 60s that dominated the league. You combine 2 and 3, clubs are well, I guess it’s not happening. If it did, I wouldn’t be reading about untrue comments about Major League diluted by expansion or Free Agency killed baseball.

            Baseball needed them. I name them Survival Strategies Or Become Amateur For Good.

    • 07GreyDigger

      I also hate free agency and I’m not sure those days are gone. Free agency isn’t what it used to be because of control. More and more young guys are signing long term deals, look at Freddie Freeman in Atlanta or Joey Votto in Cincinatti. Those teams want those star players to be the face of their franchise for as long as they are valuable. That’s the key. That’s why I dislike free agency. The past couple of years, there hasn’t been one player that I was disappointed the Cubs didn’t sign. Why would you want to throw 100+ million at a guy you’re going to watch waste away?

  • cubtex

    Here is what we have for 3rd base and 2nd currently to battle for sping training/

    Valbuena- taking up a 40 man roster spot
    D Murphy- taking up a 40 man roster spot
    Barney- obviously taking up a 40 man roster spot
    E Bonifacio- just signed minor league contract
    Olt- 40 man roster but should start year in AAA
    Tat-Man- minor league deal
    Chris Valaika- minor league deal
    Logan Watkins- 40 man roster

    What is the main purpose for the season???? Get Castro and Rizzo back on track. Not to win games but to develop those 2. It makes the most sense to let Bonifacio leadoff and play 2nd and let Castro bat 2nd in front of Rizzo. I hope they can try and package Barney in a trade of some kind.

    • SuzyS

      Cubtex, This year is ALL about transition.
      The team at the start of the season will look a lot different from the team at the end of the season…and for the first time in many years…it will look better at the end of it.
      This is the type of team I wanted to see 3 years ago…where we can see young guys from the system begin to come up and strut their stuff.

      I do expect Barney, Valbuena, Murphey etc. begin to be supplanted by the likes of Baez, Alcantra, Olt, Villanueva etc.

      I’d really like to see Vitters make the team as the 4th/5th outfielder…and later see some of the other guys begin to bubble up and emerge.

      We may not win a lot this year…but I do expect to see some of the prospects begin to emerge as players, not prospects…and start to put a more talented face on the mlb team.
      This will be an interesting, if not winning season…just watching some of the young guys trying to establish themselves.

      • cubtex

        Who do you expect to come up this year? Baez and Alcantara are the only 2 guys that I see and hopefully Olt if he does better in AAA this year.

        • SuzyS

          Those guys are the obvious call-ups if they do well.
          You forgot Vitters as possible OF.
          The way Bosio talks about Hendricks…I expect to see him at Wrigley before long.
          Bryant has an outside chance of a September call-up.
          I al;so expect a surprise or 2…and I do mean an unexpected surprise…like BJAX finding a usable stroke or Szczur finding fire somewhere.
          If Olt doesn’t make it Villanueva may get a September call-up.
          Etc. Etc. Etc.
          I do expect it to be a very fluid season…with the Cubs looking at different players throughout the season.
          If one player looks really good at a position…the extra depth player might be packaged in a deal for either pitching or catching.

          The Cubs won’t be able to sign a major international DRAFTEE due their overspending last year….yet they’ll have a lot of excess slot money to package in a trade.

          The trades at the deadline might actually be used to bring in talent that might really help next year…instead of low minors prospects.

          I do believe this is the transition year that will begin to show us players that WILL be on the winning Cubs teams of the future.

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