The Chicago Cubs emphasized their future on Wednesday when they promoted Kris Bryant to Triple A Iowa and Kyle Schwarber to the Kane County Cougars, but their present became a bit more murky when news was revealed that pitcher Jeff Samardzija had turned down the team’s latest overtures in contract negotiations.
The deal, which was reported by various outlets to be in the ballpark of five years and $75 million, represents a bit of an increase for the Cubs, who have previously balked at paying the 29-year-old a big sum of money. According to Chicago Sun-Times scribe Gordon Wittenmeyer, the Cubs had previously offered Samardzija a deal that would have paid him between $12-13 million per season, and this offer was still too high.
There is also talk that Samardzija is seeking a deal in the neighborhood of the six-year, $105 million pact the Cincinnati Reds signed Homer Bailey to. The Cubs certainly will not want to go that high financially, and when one factors in the reluctance to add in a no-trade clause that Samardzija is reportedly seeking, things don’t look very good in terms of the hurler staying in the Windy City for much longer.
Despite the contract impasse, the Cubs still have a bevy of options to explore as they redouble their efforts to trade Samardzija before the July 31 trade deadline.
The Kansas City Royals, whose winning ways of late have vaulted them past the Detroit Tigers and into first place in the AL Central, are rumored to be a team in hot pursuit of Samardzija, as are the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, who are battling for AL East superiority. The San Francisco Giants could also explore a move to acquire the pitcher, as their rotation has suffered from severe inconsistency as they’ve seen their lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers shrink from nine games to just four.
With so many teams still in playoff contention, it isn’t a stretch to see that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are going to get some really good offers for Samardzija. Their haul for Matt Garza from the Texas Rangers as a rental player was something to behold, as CJ Edwards has the potential to be a front-line starter in the big leagues, and Samardzija is a much more valuable asset than Garza was. The Cubs also got a great deal from the Orioles when they shipped Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger east in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Arrieta is developing into a really solid starter, while Strop has been great in the bullpen despite occasional doubts with the injury bug.
At any rate, it is highly unlikely that Samardzija will remain with the team past July 31st. The team still does maintain control of the pitcher through the end of next season, but that ticking clock could start to put a damper on his value if the Cubs wait too long. It’s a far more likely scenario that they will try to trade him before the All-Star break in order to maximize his value for this season, and striking while there are still a slew of teams in need of pitching that are also in playoff contention would be a move that would make a lot of sense for the front office.
As of right now, Samardzija is slated to make his next start for the Cubs on Monday night when they take on the Reds at Wrigley Field.