By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — All the sudden rush of stories on Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija ignore the very essence of what the player really desires.
First and foremost, Samardzija is about winning. That sounds a bit simplistic, as sports in general are about competitive young players wanting to win. In the case of Samardzija, he wants to know he is wanted and needed for now and the long haul.
The Cubs’ offer of present market value, as opposed to a five-year projection that buys out two to three free agent years, has left the 29-year-old pitcher non-plussed.
From the Cubs’ perspective, they are in a no-win situation. Knowing that Samardzija wants full market free agent pay, $20-million-plus per season projected two years from now, the powers that be can’t project how those economics work with a 2016 timeline to compete.
From the Samardzija’s view, he has one-and-a-half years remaining before free agent status occurs. Why should he take a team-friendly deal of something less than what he feels he will be market value in November 2015? That will be the time Samardzija can talk to every team in baseball about a long- or short-term deal.
The fans’ view of the situation is also a major factor in this convoluted mess. The Cubs want them to know that they offered a fair present-day deal to retain the pitcher. What the Cubs can’t say is that they must trade Samardzija to get back optimum young talent a year-and-a-half before he is eligible to leave.
Samardzija and his agents know that he will be portrayed as greedy and uncaring if he turns down a contract of $70 or $75 million, but that view would be shortsighted. Because of his football pursuits and starting as a reliever, the 29-year-old Samardzija has less wear and tear on his arm than most his age, and he will have to max out on this one and only chance at a long-term, highly leveraged deal.
The whole story is based on present-value perception as opposed to long-term projection of talent and money. Both sides have strong cases on their side. Both cases can be presented with logic and common sense. Despite all of that, the final outcome will still be very unpopular with the fan base. The Cubs will look to maximize the sell-off of Samardzija and pitching mate Jason Hammel, much like they did last year when Cub officials obtained six valuable and contract-friendly players for veteran pitchers Matt Garza and Scott Feldman.
The sad part of this whole story is that Samardzija loves his Cubs roots and everything that goes with being a hometown icon. Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be looking for an ace to anchor their pitching staff to begin the 2016 season who is just like the northwest Indiana native they are going to trade by July 31.
One baseball executive chimed in with this possible outcome to this unfortunate case of bad timing.
“Just maybe the Cubs trade the pitcher and then make a bid to sign him when he becomes a free agent in 2015,” the executive said.
That type of fantasy could be a Cubs pipe dream come true while giving this sad story an unexpected happy ending.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.