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Levine: Teammates Marvel At Samardzija’s Focus

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Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

By Bruce Levine-

(CBS) Although Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija may be pitching elsewhere in the next 30 days ,support from teammates and the coaching staff remains strong. All parties understand that the Cubs and Samardzija must do what is right for each side in their stalled contract negotiations.

“What I am going to tell you is the economics of the game are really, really strong right now,” pitcher Carlos Villanueva said. “I want all of the players like Jeff to get the most money they can. The market dictates the value of a player. I commend Jeff for sticking to his plan and staying strong. He and his agent have a game plan. He sees things going on as far as contracts for players who are the same age he is and have the same stuff he has. Why would you not want best value for yourself at the prime of your career?”

The situation can be argued either way. Neither side should be blamed for having a different view of the negotiations. With Samardzija at 29, the arrow continues to point upward for his future. A $100 million contract is the least he feels his skill set is worthy of as he moves into his prime years.

The Cubs are complimentary of the pitcher, but they apparently believe the projection of his skills dooesn’t fit into the $20 million-per-season area. Escalating salaries due to the robust local TV contracts indicate No. 1 and No. 2 rotation pitchers will commonly be making $20 million-plus per year moving two and three seasons down the line.

Samardzija showed how competitive he can be Monday evening as the Cubs fell 6-1 to the Reds. He allowed only one run, in the first inning, in his six innings of work without his best command. Top talent scouts from  Baltimore, Toronto, Boston and Washington were on hand to watch the northwest Indiana native pitch with just 38 days left until the trading deadline. Other teams realize that the Cubs have only scored an average of three runs per game in Samardzija’s starts this season, explaining his 2-6 record. Samardzija’s made 16 starts — with eight no-decisions — and has received one run or less of run support in eight of the starts.

Anthony Rizzo (16th home run) accounted for the only run of support for Samardzija on Monday. Rizzo understands the pitcher’s situation and marvels at his consistency with a possible trade hanging over his head.

“He is being a professional,” Rizzo said. “The last few years, all the guys who have been going through it have been professionals as well. I am sure it is not easy for him, reading when he is going or where he is going. It is just a distraction and not easy, but he is doing well through all of it.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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