By Bruce Levine-
(WSCR) With the start of spring training, this may indeed be the last in a Cubs uniform for starter Jeff Samardzija.
The northwest Indiana native will be the center of trade rumors until he either signs a long-term deal with Chicago or is peddled for a boatload of young pitching talent. The Cubs and Samardzija agreed on a $5.35-million, one-year contract last week to avoid arbitration. That result, however, is the only thing the principals have agreed upon over the last two seasons. Both sides have tried to work out a proper long-term deal that satisfies all parties.
In October 2012, the Cubs made the first offer of three years and $27 million. That offer, as well as the most recent five- and six-year offers of $12 million to $13 million per season, have been discussed by both sides without any meeting of minds.
It’s difficult to choose who is right or wrong in this contract dispute. On the Cubs management side, you have a plan of developing a long-term pitching program. That plan may or may not include a 29-year-old power pitcher who was fourth in the league in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched last season. The Samardzija camp looks for some love and security, which they feel is lacking in the current offer (in regards to the no-trade language and total money average per season of the contract).
Maybe the old Miller Life commercials that went “Stop, you are both right ” should be the motto for this crucial negotiation. Samardzija still has plenty to prove, as his post All-Star game ERA of 5.50 in 2013 would indicate. On the other side of it, the Cubs need leadership qualities from their important players in order to get to the championship caliber of play that they are working toward. Samardzija does have those intangibles that you look for. His demeanor does exude confidence and the proper amount of swagger.
The Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays have been the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Samardzija, who appeared on 670 The Score’s hot stove show on Jan. 24 and said he wants to be a lifetime Cub.
“I feel like i can be the ace of this staff, ” he said ” That is how I want them to look at me.”
Time may be getting short on the two sides coming to terms. Both Samardzija and the Cubs have big plans for the for the future. The reality is that they may be realizing those dreams apart.
Bruce Levine is a baseball reporter/analyst for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.