Jeff Samardzija has pitched extremely well over his first nine starts, the Cubs are not winning ballgames and the front office has not been able to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Samardzija. And the general consensus is that Samardzija will be dealt by the July 31 deadline that is if a team will step up and pay the price to add Samardzija to their rotation.
Rumors and reports during the off-season indicated several teams were interested in trading for Samardzija. Of those teams, the Blue Jays and Braves could still use Samardzija. The Cubs have been scouting the Blue Jays system while Toronto has had scouts on hand to watch Samardzija every time he’s pitched this year. Alex Anthopoulos has denied recent conversations with the Cubs about Samardzija.
The Blue Jays ended play Sunday one game behind the Yankees in the AL East and Jon Paul Morosi tweeted Friday that if the Jays could add a good starter they would be legitimate contenders.
Jim Bowden posted why he thinks the Blue Jays should trade for Samardzija late Sunday night. Anthopoulos “should strike early and try to land Samardzija, and without dealing top pitching prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman” according to Bowden and he would like to see the Jays pull off a trade before July. Bowden said that perhaps a deal that included LHP Daniel Norris, RHP Roberto Osuna and 3B Mitch Nay “could get it done.” Baseball America ranked Nay, Dorris and Osuna as the fourth, sixth and seventh best prospects, respectively, in Toronto’s system prior to the season.
The 21-year old Norris has made eight starts for High-A Dunedin and is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP (29 hits, 11 walks and 48 strikeouts in 40 innings). Osuna, 19 years old, is pitching in the Midwest League and is 3-5 in 10 starts with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP (39 hits, 11 walks and 51 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings). And the 20-year old Nay is hitting .280/.343/.376 with seven doubles, one triple and two home runs for Low-A Lansing in the Midwest League.
The Cubs are believed to have asked Anthopoulos for his top two pitching prospects, right handed pitchers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman, plus at least one more prospect. The Cubs will not give Samardzija away and should receive a better package of prospects for Samardzija than the one they received last July for Matt Garza.
There is a lot being made about Jeff Samardzija being 0-4 this season and without a win since last August. Samardzija’s numbers, outside of the win-loss mark, are very, very good and the league knows it. Samardzija has allowed 16 runs, 11 earned, on 49 hits with 19 walks and 51 strikeouts in 61 innings (1.62 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and he’s completed at least seven innings in six of his nine starts.
After Friday’s loss, Samardzija admitted he’s not happy about being winless. Samardzija told ESPN Chicago, “It’s not like it goes unnoticed. I want to win. Being a starting pitcher you have a big say in how a game turns out. If my record isn’t what I want it to be, I need to do a better job.”
Samardzija talked about how difficult it is for him and his teammates to deal with the losing during an interview Saturday morning with Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo on Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score). Samardzija was also asked if he thinks his young teammates might be getting comfortable with losing.
“You definitely can’t let that happen. I think that it is a little bit easier for that to happen here where you are loved and sought after by the fans and this and that regardless of the situation,” Samardzija said. “I think it has to come down to you personally that you want to win and you want to do this and that because you’re always getting hugged and you’re getting coddled here with the Cubs, and rightfully so, the fans are great. There is just so much love. It is pretty outstanding but you need to understand why you are here and what you need to do. You can’t let losing become the norm because it’s kinda like a cancer. It takes over and that’s it. But that’s what this is all about. Finding the guys who want to come here and want to win and know how to win and that’s all they care about. So anything that is not that and you’re not shooting for that, then obviously we need to move along and find someone else that’s importance is winning and that’s all they care about.”
It is unclear right now how many teams are interested in trading for Samardzija. Rumors and reports have suggested the Blue Jays, Braves, Royals, Rockies, Yankees and possibly the Rangers are six of the teams. Bruce Levine said Saturday morning there could be as many as eight teams interested in Samardzija and the number could grow if he keeps pitching the way he has.
Buster Olney took a look at the market for Jeff Samardzija on Saturday. One evaluator told Olney that Samardzija will be expensive to acquire. Olney reported, “The Cubs need high-end pitching to match the strong collection of position players they are developing, and rival officials are already taking deep breaths and preparing for an extremely high asking price whenever they start conversations about Samardzija.”
If the Rays decide to keep David Price, Samardzija could be the best starting pitcher on the market.
The Cubs’ front office will likely use the package of players they received for two months of Matt Garza from Texas last summer as a way to “frame a working model for what the minimum price will be” for Samardzija. The Cubs received C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and a PTBNL that turned out to be Neil Ramirez for Garza, a deal the Rangers’ GM admitted in Spring Training he regretted making.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said on the record they would prefer to sign Samardzija to an extension and that the Cubs need more Jeff Samardzijas, not less. Samardzija said during Spring Training he would like to stay with the Cubs.
Wayne Randazzo asked Samardzija how difficult would it be for him to leave the organization that drafted him and the area he grew up in during Saturday’s interview on Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score).
“You know, it’s just a give and take,” Samardzija said. “Obviously it would be unfortunate, you know. I’d hate to leave my hometown and the place I came up with. Ultimately it is not by decision. I understand the profession I am in, what we do and regardless you go out and do your job. As long as I am with a team that wants me and wants me in their clubhouse and I can feel it that’s what it’ all about. We will cross that bridge when we come to it, when we get there down the road. I’m not really too worried about it. I don’t have a say in where I go for two years, a year and a half now, so I will worry about that when the time comes.”
The Cubs value Samardzija differently than the 29-year old values himself. And while neither side has said the window is closed on a contract extension, it would be highly unlikely at this point, based on Samardzija’s statements, that he signs an extension and foregoes free agency. With that being the case, the front office must maximize his value and the only way to do that is trade him for the best available package of prospects.
Note: The CCO takes a look at Samardzija’s trade value on Tuesday and what teams have received for top of the rotation arms.