Will the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija Avoid Arbitration?

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer say they value what Jeff Samardzija brings to the Chicago Cubs and Samardzija says he wants to pitch for the Cubs. So why can’t the two sides come to an agreement on a contract for the upcoming season?

As of last Friday the two sides were reportedly $100,000 apart on a contract to avoid arbitration. If the Cubs and Samardzija cannot come to an agreement before next Monday (Feb. 10) they will have to go before an independent arbitrator and state their cases on why the 29-year old right hander should either be paid $6.2 million or $4.4 million.

Jeff Samardzija said Friday that he and the front office are on good terms and talk all the time. Samardzija was optimistic a deal would get done before the hearing.

Samardzija has top of the rotation stuff with relatively low mileage on his arm. Samardzija is coming off his first full season in a big league rotation and put up solid peripheral numbers while not pitching with the consistency teams would like to see from their number one starter. Samardzija surrendered 210 hits in 213 2/3 innings with 214 strikeouts and 78 walks and at times showed flashes of being a dominant pitcher. Samardzija says he learned a lot last season and knows he must be more consistent from start to start.

Jeff Samardzija told Comcast SportsNet, “As a starter, complacency is a big issue. Especially if you have success and you have three or four good games in a row and you’re feeling really good, sometimes you tend to fall back a little bit. So you gotta stay consistent. I’ve learned that even through the heart of the summer, it’s tough, it’s hot, you don’t see the front end or the back end of the season, you’re kind of stuck in the middle. You really need to kick yourself in the butt to do everything you need to do to stay consistent. It’s also just the mentality of every day is the same. When you come out, a lot of games early in the season are different than they’re going to be in the summer and so on and so forth. I just want to stay more consistent and play week-to-week a lot better rather than looking at the whole season.”

While the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija work to avoid an arbitration hearing, teams are believed to still be checking in with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer on what it would take to add Samardzija to their rotation. The Blue Jays and Diamondbacks remain interested in Samardzija but neither team appears to be willing to pay the price for him.

The Cubs and Blue Jays have discussed a deal that would send Samardzija to Toronto. The talks reportedly started with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, which was too much for Alex Anthropolous. The Jays’ GM does not want to send his top two pitching prospects to the Cubs for two years of Samardzija. Anthropolous is trying to upgrade his starting rotation and could still sign Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. But he has yet to pull the string on either free agent starter. Toronto’s two first round draft picks are protected and it would only cost a second round selection for Anthropolous to sign either starter to try to keep up with the rest of the AL East.

The Diamondbacks on the other hand have tried to pry Samardzija away from the Cubs since last season. And that was after Samardzija’s verbal dust-up with Kirk Gibson. Kevin Towers likes what he’s seen from Samardzija, but like Anthropolous, he does not want to pay the asking price.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been asking a lot in return for Samardzija all winter and many feel the Cubs’ front office will just hold onto him until July. As long as Samardzija remains healthy, the Cubs should receive a nice return for him prior to the deadline … that is if they cannot work out a contract extension before then.

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