Jeff Samardzija was back in the rumor mill Monday, that is if he ever left. The unbelievable amount of pitching injuries throughout the league has contenders scrambling to fill holes in their rotations. And teams that were once interested in trading for Samardzija could reopen those discussions.
Jeff Samardzija has been named the Cubs Opening Day starter and unless one of the contenders that have lost a starter this week is willing to meet the front office’s asking price, Samardzija will be on the hill at PNC Park in a Cubs’ uniform on March 31.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to sign Samardzija to a contract extension and Samardzija would like to remain with the Cubs. But the two sides value Samardzija differently and they have not been able to agree on a long term extension. Plus, Samardzija would like some type of no-trade protection and no-trade clauses are no longer included in contracts players sign with the Cubs.
According to a report from Nick Cafardo, there is “some buzz in the scouting community” that the Braves might be interested in Jeff Samardzija again. The Cubs and Braves briefly discussed a deal involving Samardzija during the off-season. Multiple reports have stated that once the Braves found out the Cubs’ asking price for Samardzija, those discussions quickly ended. But with Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy out for the season, the Braves could reopen those discussions.
Another possibility for Samardzija is the Arizona Diamondbacks, but Kevin Towers is not going to include Archie Bradley in a deal for Samardzija. The D-Backs are looking for a top of the rotation starter to take Patrick Corbin’s place in the rotation. Patrick Corbin is out for the season with a torn ligament in his elbow.
Bruce Levine reported the Diamondbacks will scout Samardzija again and if Arizona asks the Cubs about Samardzija the starting point in the negotiations will be Archie Bradley. Levine added the D-Backs “coveted Samardzija” before they signed Bronson Arroyo. As Levine pointed out, Kevin Towers may decide to just promote Bradley to the majors instead of use him in a deal for another pitcher.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said the daily trade rumors involving Samardzija are more media driven than anything else. And while the front office maintains the Cubs “need more Jeff Samardzijas, not less,” if a team meets the Cubs’ asking price, the front office will likely pull the trigger on the deal.
Mike Olt was in Monday’s lineup in Phoenix but was a late scratch due to shoulder fatigue. Olt has been dealing with his right shoulder since camp began and it has kept him from playing third base. Olt and the Cubs downplayed the late scratch from the lineup on Monday.
Olt told ESPN Chicago, “I’ve been doing a lot the last two weeks just to get the arm going and made a lot of good strides. It’s just a little fatigue from my shoulder.” According to ESPN Chicago, “Olt was quick to state this wasn’t a setback for him and the shoulder issue isn’t a serious problem.”
Mike Olt could be back in the lineup as early as Tuesday and possibly at third base. Olt told Comcast SportsNet he is “starting to feel 100 percent.”
Jake Arrieta told ESPN Chicago that he felt fine Monday following Sunday’s simulated game and is back on track. Arrieta said he is two-three weeks behind where he should be at this point and without any setbacks he should only miss the first couple weeks of the season.
Starlin Castro addressed his progress on Monday as he works his way back from a right hamstring strain he suffered on March 2. Castro said Monday he is running at about 80 percent and is making progress. The Cubs and Castro are not concerned about him not being ready for Opening Day. Castro can always pick-up at bats in minor league games in order to get his timing at the plate.
The Tribune reported Castro did not feel “any soreness one day after running eight sprints at about 80 percent and fielding about 30 ground balls before hitting soft toss and batting practice in the cage.”
Starlin Castro is expected to run the bases on Tuesday, which will be a big test for him according to multiple reports. Castro said Monday he is “very close” to returning to the lineup. Castro said he only needs eight-ten games to get ready for the season. And after improving from 40 percent to 80 percent from Friday to Monday, one would have to think anything is possible at this point.
Javier Baez made his spring debut at second base on Monday in Phoenix and reportedly looked good on the three routine plays he made. Baez was also in the middle of a 6-4-3 double play started by Darwin Barney. Rick Renteria liked what he saw from Baez at second base. According to ESPN Chicago, Renteria said “Baez could have been better served by using a reverse turn pivot and throw to second base, but overall he looked good” at second base.
Javier Baez is expected to be in the starting lineup on Tuesday night in Surprise playing second base against the Rangers.
Bob Nightengale floated a rumor late Monday night that the Cubs “plan to often play prized shortstop prospect Javier Baez at second base at Triple-A Iowa with hopes of reaching big leagues quicker.” The Cubs have maintained Baez will play shortstop at Iowa at the beginning of the season. It is unclear where Nightengale dug up his information.
News, Notes and More Rumors
The Tigers are looking for a shortstop and a left-handed hitting outfielder. The Cubs and Tigers have had discussions about Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney, but the extent of those conversations is unknown at this point. According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi, the Tigers asked the Diamondbacks about shortstop Chris Owings “but those talks did not progress very far.”
According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Casper Wells is “sidelined with back spasms.” A timeframe on his return was not announced. Wells is competing for a back-up outfield job.
Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva appear to be the front runners for the fifth spot in the rotation with the unfortunate injury to James McDonald. Tsuyoshi Wada will make at least one more Cactus League start and is still in the mix for the fifth spot as well.
According to Susan Slusser, the A’s “are not currently looking outside the organization” for pitching. Oakland has lost Jarrod Parker for the season (second Tommy John surgery) and A.J. Griffin was shut down for three weeks due to flexor tendinitis in his elbow, plus Scott Kazmir was a late scratch from Monday’s start against the Cubs.