At some point in the near future, the Chicago Cubs are going to be a pretty good baseball team. In fact, over the course of the last month and a half, the Cubs have actually represented one of the better clubs in the National League. Of course, acknowledging the better teams in the NL is like pointing out the better teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Nonetheless, with the wave of prospects coming up in the next couple of years and an already announced willingness to spend in the upcoming winter, this will be a team to be taken seriously in the next couple of years. There’s just one roadblock standing in their way before they can officially head into the next phase of this lengthy rebuild: Jeff Samardzija.
Throughout the 2013-14 offseason and the early parts of this halfway-over 2014 campaign, Samardzija has represented the most attractive trade chip in the bigs, in addition to David Price, as far as the arms are concerned. This year, he has taken his game to the next level, and with another year of team control beyond this season, the Cubs are asking the world for him.
Given what they got for Matt Garza last year (a package that included top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards, emerging reliever Neil Ramirez, and power bat Mike Olt), you can understand why they’re asking for a tremendous package for Shark. He’s a better pitcher and has that added year of control. In addition, he’s pitching out of his mind this year, posting the best numbers of his career and perhaps establishing himself as at least a no. 2 starter that many of us didn’t think he was. Not to mention that his arm doesn’t have a ton of mileage on it, as his career as a starter is still extremely young.
As the season has worn on, we’ve heard from Jeff Samardzija multiple times about his frustration and the lack of wins and the toll that takes, and all of the nonsense that goes along with it. He’s essentially talked his way off the North Side. And yet, the Cubs approached him about an extension within the last couple of weeks, reportedly offering him five years and $85 million, which is essentially identical to Homer Bailey‘s deal with the Cincinnati Reds, which has been considered a blueprint for a Shark deal all along. But he wanted either more or a sixth year. Regardless, those talks fell apart.
And here we are. With the calendar just having turned to July, the Cubs are potentially approaching the end of their marriage with the former Notre Dame star. That’s probably the way it should be, as well. Despite the often (and pretty misguided) claim that the Cubs lack arms, the organization can benefit more from trading Samardzija than extending him. Even with the lack of mileage on his arm, he’s going to be 30 in 2015. Given the price it’d take to get him, the Cubs can add a couple of top ten prospects from another organization, while adding a front of the rotation arm this winter, such as Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or Justin Masterson, all three of which they’ll be connected to this offseason.
At this point, it would be a pretty large surprise to see Jeff Samardzija in a Cubs uniform by the time we reach August. While the Cubs would, no doubt, like to extend him, the organization and the player simply seem to be too far apart. And given what the Cubs could potentially take home in a Samardzija deal, there’s not really any sort of reason to be sad about that, from a Chicago perspective.