Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sat down last night with free agent righty Jeff Samardzija, according to a report from Phil Rogers of MLB.com (via Twitter). The former Cubs, Athletics, and White Sox hurler flew in from Arizona for the meeting, per Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com (Twitter links).
Chicago has previously been said to have at least some interest in bringing back Samardzija, who was with the organization from 2006 through the middle of 2014. After tantalizing with his promise for years, the 30-year-old emerged as a force with the Cubs in his last season with the team. Samardzija was traded away that summer after he and the club were unable to work out an extension, but there was never a sense that bridges were burned. (And the decision was eminently understandable: he was the key piece in a swap that returned Addison Russell as well as Billy McKinney.)
As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes wrote yesterday in breaking down Samardzija’s free agent case, the sturdy veteran still holds plenty of appeal after a rough 2015. He has the frame and track record to support an expectation of good health and a lot of innings. And scouts and executives are still enamored of his talent and toughness. Of course, signing Samardzija will require the sacrifice of a draft selection since he turned down the White Sox’ qualifying offer.
It’s not yet clear how serious the Cubs are in a reunion, but the team clearly needs pitching. Epstein and co. have frequently been connected to the very top arms available in free agency, but there are a number of avenues that the organization could take to building out its staff. Adding a durable arm with upside (like Samardzija) could certainly represent a component of the team’s strategy, possibly occurring along with the addition of another pitcher via trade or free agency. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that the club’s top baseball decisionmakers have suggested recently that multiple major free agent investments are somewhat unlikely, suggesting at least that there are some clear limits to the team’s spending plans this winter.