(CBS) In a wide-ranging interview with the McNeil and Spiegel Show on Tuesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said the organization has continually had “good dialogue” with ace right-hander Jeff Samardzija in regards to his contract talks and also added that he expects top prospect Kris Bryant to move up to Triple-A later this season.
Responding to a Chicago Sun-Times report on Monday night that the Cubs have renewed extension talks with Samardzija — including upping their offer — Epstein said the contract discussions never ended.
“No talks ever ended, no talks were ever re-opened,” Epstein said. “It was just a nice dialogue where we’re trying to do the best thing for the organization and then for Jeff, whatever for him that may take. We’re huge Jeff Samardzija fans and proud of what he’s accomplished so far and think he’s got great days ahead.”
Samardzija has a 2.77 ERA in what’s been, to date, a career year, but there’s been rampant speculation that he’ll get moved by the July 31 trade deadline if he and the Cubs can’t agree on a long-term contract, which appeared to have stalled this offseason. Still, Epstein loves what he’s seen from Samardzija and wants him in the long-term picture for the right price.
Samardzija is under team control until after the 2015 season.
“He’s been incredibly healthy in his career,” Epstein said. “He’s never even been in the training room. He’s obviously got a fresh arm from getting a later start on his pitching career. He’s got an ideal pitcher’s body. He’s a horse, proven that he can throw well over 200 innings, take the ball every fifth day. He’s as good a bet as anybody to stay healthy.
“With respect to the contract stuff, I just think nothing good comes from talking about that. I respect what Jeff’s trying to do every fifth day — go out and help the club win. I just think certain things have to remain confidential. That said, I will say nothing has changed. We’ve had really good dialogue with Jeff and his agent the entire time he’s been here, from the very first day … up until today in dealing with his future and what his career is going to look like. Obviously, he has a season-and-a-half left of club control, so nothing’s changed.
Epstein also added that he expects top prospect Bryant — who’s tearing up pitching at the Double-A level — to get a promotion to Triple-A this season, though no set time frame is in place.
“Fans should be really excited about Kris Bryant,” Epstein said. “It’s funny how quickly the narrative goes from, ‘That was a hell of a pick — thank God Kris Bryant’s a Cub’ to ‘Where the heck is he? Why isn’t he up here already?’ It’s important sometimes to take a step back and realize … all of us with the Cubs are really fortunate Kris Bryant’s here.
“We are already a better organization because of it. The exact time he makes his major league debut … that’s not as important in the big picture as the fact that he looks like he’s going to be a really, really good player. He’s got tremendous make-up. He’s as low-maintenance of a player as you can find.”
“Personally, I’m taking a minute to be thankful for that before I stress too much about exactly the day he’s going to go to Triple-A, which I’m sure will happen at some point this year if he keeps up this performance.”
Listen to Epstein’s full interview below. He also addresses the team’s baseball operations department’s relationship with the business side, Starlin Castro and whether the Cubs would be willing to devote a $100-million-plus contract to a starting pitcher.