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
- Audio from Jeff Samardzija’s Press Conference
- ESPN Chicago: Samardzija Focusing on Boosting His Value
- Bruce Levine: Clock’s Ticking for Cubs, Samardzija
- Jon Paul Morosi: Cubs’ Samardzija Realizes Home Could Be Somewhere Else Soon
- Carrie Muskat: Samardzija Hopes to Avoid Distractions
- Chicago Tribune: Shrinking Bond Between Samardzija, Cubs