Jeff Samardzija did his job on Monday and put his team in position to win the ballgame. Samardzija tossed seven innings of shutout ball while his defense made the plays behind him when they needed to. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like for Samardzija to sign a long-term extension. And Samardzija would like to stay with the organization … a consistent theme from both sides all off-season.
Theo Epstein addressed the situation with Samardzija prior to Monday’s game and said the two sides would not be negotiating a contract extension during the season. Samardzija made a similar statement last week.
According to the Tribune, “All of the talking will be done on the field and no longer at the negotiating table, at least for now.”
Multiple reports have suggested the Cubs are asking a lot in return for Samardzija, who remains under team control through the 2015 season. Samardzija views himself as a top of the rotation starter and would like to be compensated as such, along with some no-trade protection to ensure he will remain with the Cubs. The Cubs, on the other hand, would like to pay him as a middle of the rotation starter while they are asking teams for the volume and quality of players it would take to land a top of the rotation starter.
While both sides may be done with discussing the situation in public, the questions will continue and increase as the season progresses and it gets closer to the trade deadline.
Theo Epstein met briefly with the beat writers Monday prior to the opener against the Pirates. Epstein addressed his team and the future of the organization.
“I think most [fans] are [on board] and some aren’t, and the ones who aren’t, I don’t hold it against them. Baseball is best enjoyed that day and watching the team in front of you play, and we haven’t been good enough, judging by that standard. The only standard that matters is wins and losses and we just haen’t been good enough. I’m right there with them. I understand it. It’s my job to take a little broader view and make sure we grow this into a very healthy organization that can go out and have success year in and year out. I think our fans as a whole have been incredibly supportive. I really look forward to doing some things this season to make them proud and hopefully we can go out and surprise some people. In the long haul we want to award them with October baseball.”
Theo Epstein said he would not be walking out on the team and organization he is building. Epstein told Comcast SportsNet, “This is the place to be right now. We all feel really (bleeping) good about where we’re going. When I encounter the prototypical cynic or doubter of the organization, I’m OK with it. Because I do have a vision for how they’re going to react in three or four years when they look around the diamond and they see Almora, Baez, Bryant, Rizzo and Castro and every position is pretty damn good with a prime-age player. We’re doing some special things. That’s a huge dichotomy because I think a lot of people think we’re down, and we’re really on the way up, big time.”
Justin Ruggiano was held out of Monday’s lineup with the sore left ankle that hampered him toward the end of Spring Training. The Cubs downplayed the injury and said he would be able to return to the lineup by Wednesday. The Cubs face righty Charlie Morton on Wednesday night so Ruggiano should get an extra day and be in the starting lineup on Thursday morning when the Cubs square off against Wandy Rodriguez.
Jake Arrieta completed another simulated game on Monday, as scheduled. Arrieta told Jesse Rogers “everything went well.” Arrieta will stay with the team and work with Chris Bosio until it is time for him to begin a minor league rehab assignment.
Theo Epstein confirmed the weather is one of the reasons the Cubs sent Arodys Vizcaino to High-A Dayton to start the season. The Cubs also “have a structured program” set up for Vizcaino for the first month of the season.
News and Notes
The Cubs think Mike Olt can be a big part of their future according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
Emilio Bonifacio switched his number from “43” to “64” prior to Monday’s game. According to Carrie Muskat, that was the number he wore in Winter Ball and it was easier to get than no. 1. Bonifacio wore no. 43 in Spring Training.
Ken Rosenthal pointed out Monday, just before Jeff Samardzija threw his first pitch of the season, that the Cubs received two players on their Opening Day roster for Matt Garza in Mike Olt and Justin Grimm. A third player, Neil Ramirez, almost made the team out of camp and C.J. Edwards is considered the best player in the deal. And the Rangers have nothing to show for acquiring Matt Garza, not even a pick in June’s draft.
The Cubs ended up saving $635,000 last week by letting Donnie Murphy go to the Rangers and releasing George Kottaras. The Rangers picked up all of Donnie Murphy’s contract ($825,000 plus incentives) with the straight waiver claim and the Cubs ended up saving $810,000 on George Kottaras’ salary ($1.075 million, plus incentives). The Cubs paid Kottaras one quarter of his salary ($265,000) as termination pay and he signed a minor league contract with the Indians on Sunday. The two moves, as the Sun-Times pointed out, cut $1.635 million from the Cubs payroll. The additions of John Baker and Ryan Kalish cost the team $1 million ($500,000 per player, league minimum).