By Bruce Levine-
CHICAGO (CBS) — As the days get longer and spring evolves into summer, a shorter view of time is in the baseball mirror of Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Making his second start of the season and the week,it appears Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be pushed into trading the 29-year-old power pitcher in the near future.
The two sides are $25 to $30 million apart on a long-term deal. There hasn’t been any substantive negotiations since the winter meetings in December. That there are no real bad guys in this disagreement is factual. Samardzija wants to be paid like the ace of the Cubs staff for now and going forward the next six years. The Cubs want to prorate the pitchers money according to what he has accomplished and what they feel is a reasonable projection of results between now and the pitcher’s 35th birthday.
Samardzija, who is getting a late start to his rotation years, appears to only have one card to play. He can’t wait until his early 30s to get paid. That’s the driving force of this wedge between player and executives.
The Cubs certainly want to sign the pitcher. What they are willing to pay may be in the $14 million-a-year area. That figure sounds pretty good to the laymen who struggles to pay his bills every month. As for Samardzija, he wants a commitment that goes beyond money. That may sound strange, however, knowing the pitcher and the person, he would like more of a personal relationship with management as a part of the future vision of him and his teammates.
Epstein and Hoyer aren’t Jim Hendry. Samardzija and his agent Mark Rogers sat down with Hendry at dinner in 2006 and wrote out a $10.6 million contract on a napkin. All the details were wrapped up in two hours. This time around, the price of poker is 10 times that amount. Epstein has every right to be nervous about a contract that big to a guy that has thrown more 200 innings once in his short big-league starting career.
Toronto has shown the most interest in the pitcher, and the Cubs have scouted the Blue Jays organization up and down for the past three seasons. The Cubs won’t give the pitcher away. However, there’s a risk factor in holding onto the pitcher too long. The team has contract control of Samardzija for this season and next.
After two games of zero run support, the frustration for Samardzjia becoming a winning pitcher on a mediocre offensive team may boil over at some point. He has allowed two runs in two games (14 innings pitched), with nothing but a loss and a no-decision to show for it.
The Cubs are 4-40 with men in scoring position through five games. They have only given the pitchers nine runs total.
“We have a pretty veteran-laden staff,” said the hard-luck losing starting pitcher. “We understand what we can control. It feels good to go out and do your job and do it well. You go out and control what you can control. What happens outside of that — it is what it is.”
As for the contract getting done, it takes two to tango.