Jeff Samardzija Rumors

Quick Hits: Samardzija, Santana, Lester, Dodgers

While Jeff Samardzija has been a chief subject of trade rumors this offseason, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio on SiriuxXM (via Bowden's Twitter feed) that his preference would be to sign the right-hander to a long-term extension.  Samardzija said the same during an appearance on the broadcast (audio link here), as "I've always stated this is where I wanna be…this organization stuck by me and has given me the opportunity to be a starter."  Despite the rumors, there has "obviously been a mutual interest between the two parties, for sure…[which] kinda makes everything else just talking, which is what you want it to be."

Here's some more news from around the game…

  • Johan Santana never considered retirement in the wake of his latest shoulder surgery, as the veteran southpaw told reporters (including MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli) that he didn't want to let his health dictate the end of his career.  "I don't want to go out in the game like that. I want to go out of the game on my own terms, knowing this is going to be my last game, knowing this is going to be my last year," Santana said.  The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he has "nothing to lose, [and] a lot to gain" from his incentive-heavy minor league deal with the Orioles.
  • Jon Lester's cancer diagnosis in 2006 played a big part in his acceptance of his original multiyear deal with the Red Sox, WEEI.com's Rob Bradford reports.  That contract will expire this offseason, and while Lester has no new news on the status of extension talks, he is hopeful a new deal will be settled soon.
  • The Dodgers' surplus of pitching could force the team to make a tough cut in the form of right-hander Seth Rosin, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon writes.  Rosin has pitched well thus far in Spring Training but L.A. might not have space for him on the roster, a situation that Saxon says could backfire like the team's cut of Kevin Gregg last spring.  Rosin was selected off the Phillies' roster by the Mets in last December's Rule 5 draft and was then traded to the Dodgers, who now must keep Rosin on their Major League roster all season or else offer him back to Philadelphia for $25K.
  • In a subscription-only piece for Baseball America, Matt Eddy and J.J. Cooper look at some of the offseason's key minor league free agent signings and some of the overall trends of this winter's minor league deals.
  • Jim Leyland is happy in his position as special assistant to Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and has no interest in returning to the Pirates organization, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  “I really don't want to come back to the organization,” Leyland said. “Not because I don't love it, but (because) they've set their tempo now and they have their own people in place. They don't need somebody like me hanging around and, really, I don't need to do that….I'll retire a Tiger.”

NL Central Notes: Morel, Samardzija, Cubs, Lorenzen

The Pirates claimed Brent Morel off waivers because they felt they needed a better "Plan B" in the event of an injury to Pedro Alvarez, manager Clint Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh has been following Morel since 2011 and had interest in him when he was placed on waivers in December, writes Brink. Toronto claimed him then, but Pittsburgh got their second chance this week and claimed him based on his solid defense, hands and power, said Hurdle. Morel told Brink that he's thankful for the opportunity and that, as a Steelers fan, he's excited to play in Pittsburgh.

A few more NL Central links as we await the start of the weekend…

  • Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that trade talks don't bother him, but instead simply put a chip on his shoulder when he pitches. Wittenmyer writes that the Blue Jays and D'Backs have shown interest in Samardzija this winter, and an executive from a third team called the 29-year-old a "monster in the making." Samardzija is used to pitching in front of scouts for numerous other clubs and simply smiled as he told Wittenmyer, "You want to put on a good show for them."
  • ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers took a look at the scenarios to watch in Cubs camp during Spring Training yesterday, most notably wondering if February pickup Emilio Bonifacio can supplant Darwin Barney at second base. He also examined whether or not July 2013 acquisition Mike Olt can recover from his vision issues and take the third base job from Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
  • Michael Lorenzen was a two-way player when the Reds selected him 38th overall in last year's draft, having served as an outfielder and closer for Cal State Fullerton. In a piece for Baseball America, C. Trent Rosencrans reported that the Reds have told Lorenzen he will focus on pitching, and not only that, but they value him as a starting pitcher. Lorenzen sounded pleased with the decision and has already been talking with college-closer-turned-starter Tony Cingrani in Spring Training. "I’m picking his brain," Lorenzen told Rosencrans. "We’ve been in the same situation as a college guy moving quick. He’s been really good with me."

NL Central Notes: Cardinals, Rolen, Baez, Cubs

It was on this day in 1887 that Grover Cleveland Alexander was born in Elba, Nebraska.  "Old Pete" spent the first eight years of his career with the Phillies and the last 12 with the Cubs and Cardinals, but Alexander was one of baseball's dominant arms no matter where he pitched, amassing 373 wins (the third-most in history) and a 2.56 ERA over his epic career.  Alexander helped the Cards to their first World Series title in 1926 by recording two complete game victories during the Series and also earned a save for his 2 1/3 hitless innings to close out Game 7.

Here's the latest from the NL Central…

  • The Cardinals didn't trade from their surplus of pitching depth over the offseason, a decision that looks wise to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince given the uncertainly over Jaime Garcia's shoulder problems.  Several of the Cards' young arms are still new to the majors and the club doesn't want to make moves until they know what they have.
  • Though Scott Rolen hasn't officially retired and is "simply inactive at the moment," he tells MLB.com's Paul Hagen that he is enjoying his time with his family.  The long-time Reds and Cardinals third baseman recently made an appearance at the Phillies' Spring Training camp, and Cincinnati is interested in hiring Rolen as a guest instructor.
  • Javier Baez could be the top prospect most likely to switch positions, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo opines.  The Cubs shortstop is still a work in progress in the field but his bat could be Major League-ready as soon as this season.  Since the Cubs already have Starlin Castro at short, Mayo suggests that Baez could play third and Kris Bryant (another top Chicago youngster) could shift to the outfield.
  • ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers, meanwhile, thinks Baez could possibly end up at second base.  Rogers discusses Baez, Jeff Samardzija trade rumors and several other Cubs topics as part of a reader chat.
  • Speaking of Samardzija, we can't count him amongst our readership as the Cubs right-hander tells CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney that he's avoiding MLB Trade Rumors and Twitter in order to shut out the trade speculation and focus on the upcoming season.  “You concentrate on doing your job," Samardzija said.  "You can make as many excuses for yourself as you want. But when it’s all said and done, that doesn’t fly. Your numbers are your numbers. Your record is your record.”


Cubs Could Still Deal Samardzija Before Opening Day

With extension talks still at a stalemate, the Cubs could still potentially deal top starter Jeff Samardzija before the start of the season, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Two sources said that was a strong possibility, while another rejected the idea that trade talks were in progress.

It has been nearly a month since the 29-year-old's name has seen the pages of MLBTR in reference to trade chatter. While he avoided arbitration with Chicago in the interim, both player and club have given recent indication that the sides are somewhat entrenched in terms of a longer deal. 

With only one premium starter (Ervin Santana) still on the market, the Rays seemingly likely to open the year with David Price in their rotation, and Homer Bailey now not even a theoretical trade candidate, an opportunity could conceivably arise to get solid value for Samardzija. Surely, the likelihood of a deal would rise if the team does not believe it can get him to sign a new deal at a palatable price, though a mid-season move might still be a preferable strategy. Fueling the sense that a trade could still be in the works, says Wittenmyer, is the fact that manager Rick Renteria has declined to name Samardzija the Opening Day starter, saying that "so many things can happen over the course of the spring that I'm not going to lock myself in[]."


Extension Notes: Bailey, Masterson, Samardzija, Segura, Simmons, Sandoval, Belt

Homer Bailey and the Reds were said earlier today to be close to a new deal, but nothing had materialized as of this evening. In the latest update, MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that details are still being worked out. GM Walt Jocketty echoed his star hurler's comments, saying that progress had been made. "There are still some outstanding issues," said Jocketty. "Hopefully they get resolved in the next 24 hours or else people are going to have to suit it up and go east." Jocketty was referring, of course, to donning not baseball uniforms but rather the business attire necessary for an arbitration hearing. "It's a lot of little things," Jocketty continued. "The structure of the contract, how it's paid and things like that."

Here's a look at some other potential extension situations shaping up around baseball …

  • Though the threat of an arbitration hearing has been avoided between Justin Masterson and the Indians, those parties could be operating on something of a deadline of their own. Masterson, a comparable pitcher to Bailey in many ways, is also entering his final season of arb-eligibility before hitting the open market. Though Masterson has said he'd be willing to continue discussions into the season, club GM Chris Antonetti says that he would rather keep talks to the spring, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
  • Another power pitcher, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, currently stands to qualify for free agency after 2015. As ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers reported today, team president Theo Epstein still hopes a deal can be worked out. On the other hand, his comments echoed some of the sentiment recently expressed by Samardzija, who indicated that the sides had reached something of a stalemate in negotiations. "Sometimes there is going to be a natural gap where a player values himself for what he can do and the team has to factor in a little bit more what he has done," Epstein explained. "It doesn't mean we're tremendously far apart, but if you are apart you kind of table it for another day and we'll see what happens."
  • The Brewers previously explored extension talks with young shortstop Jean Segura, but those discussions did not lead anywhere. The club remains interested, but as MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports, nothing has occurred in the interim. "We're always open to [extension talks]," said GM Doug Melvin. "We've locked up some, some we didn't. We didn't get Prince [Fielder]. We offered him a deal earlier on to buy into free agency, but it just depends what players want. Not a lot of them want long-term deals that will take away free agency, and we like to get deals that have at least a year of free agency if we can."
  • Another promising young shortstop, the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, has watched as three youthful teammates inked long-term deals in recent deays. As David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (link behind paywall), Simmons is keeping his eye on the field but would be interested in a new contract. "I'm just focused on playing," said Simmons. "If it happens, great. I love Atlanta. So hopefully something gets done. But you never know." As O'Brien points out, uncertainty remains in Simmons' arbitration value. Not only does it remain unclear whether he will qualify as a Super Two (he has 1.125 years of service time), but his immense defensive value may not translate into commensurate arbitration earnings. Of course, another defense-first shortstop — Elvis Andrus of the Rangers — was able to ink a shorter-term, early-career deal (at three years of service) and then land another, much greater extension just a year later.
  • The Giants have at least two worthy extension candidates. The first and more pressing, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, is entering his final season before hitting the open market at age 28. But the sides are currently not engaged in talks, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Cotillo notes that today's physical could have a bearing on how things play out. Sandoval, who at times has seen his conditioning questioned, has made some waves by slimming down entering camp this year.
  • A different sort of urgency is shaping up with regard to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing bright and early tomorrow. As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports, though discussions are presently focused on Belt's 2014 salary (the sides stand far apart at $3.6MM and $2.05MM), GM Brian Sabean says he remains interested in exploring a longer-term deal. "We like the player," said Sabean. "We think he's one of the up-and-coming players in the National League and we want to hold onto him. But first things first." What Sabean seems to mean is that Belt's future earning capacity through arbitration is very much tied to the divergent filing figures submitted by each side.
  • Indeed, Belt would stand at the same starting point as fellow Super Two first baseman Eric Hosmer (who agreed to a $3.6MM price with the Royals) if he wins his hearing. That would set both players on a potentially higher arbitration trajectory than that of another young first bagger, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman, who just inked a monster extension to avoid arbitration in his first of just three seasons of eligibility. Freeman had filed at $5.75MM, with the Braves countering at $4.5MM; both Belt and Hosmer could easily land in that realm with another big year. As I recently explained in discussing the impact of the Freeman deal, Belt and Hosmer could potentially look to Freeman's eight-year, $135MM contract as a target — though it remains to be seen, of course, whether their employers would go to that level.

Central Notes: Samardzija, Pirates, Harang

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija isn't optimistic that he'll be able to work out a contract extension with the Cubs, and is preparing for the possibility of a trade, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The two sides continue to disagree about Samardzija's worth, and it appears the sticking points are Samardzija's belief that his value will continue to increase, and his concerns about the organization's rebuilding plan. "Both sides are justified; it’s not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept," he says. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Despite a quiet offseason, Pirates GM Neal Huntington believes his team is well-positioned, MLB.com's Mike Bauman writes. The Pirates did not add any impact talent over the offseason, and replaced A.J. Burnett with Edinson Volquez. Nonetheless, Huntington cites owner Bob Nutting's willingness to spend on aspects of the franchise unrelated to Major-League payroll, such as drafting, Latin American bonuses, scouting and player development, as crucial to the Pirates' success. And at the big-league level, Huntington feels the Pirates' offense should improve in 2014.
  • Despite ties to manager Terry Francona, new minor-league signee Aaron Harang doesn't have the inside track on the Indians' fifth-starter job, reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. "Nothing has changed from what we've said about Carlos [Carrasco] or Josh [Tomlin]. We're just trying to have depth," says Francona. "We were very honest with Aaron. He's going to get a chance to show what he can do."

NL Central Notes: Latos, Bailey, Samardzija, Pirates, Neshek

The Reds announced today that right-hander Mat Latos had minor surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's scheduled to return to his regular throwing program in 10 days (Twitter links). MLB.com's Mark Sheldon writes that Latos injured the knee a couple of days ago when he slipped while playing long-toss. Latos also had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow back in October, Sheldon adds. Though the club does not seem overly concerned, it remains uncertain whether or not Latos will be ready for Opening Day. Here's more from the NL Central…

  • Fellow Reds hurler Homer Bailey says that he is still in extension talks with the club, the Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans reports. Even with an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 20th, Bailey said that the sides "haven't really talked one-year that much, it's been primarily multi-year." It was recently reported that, though talks continued, Bailey and the Reds remain far apart.
  • For another extension candidate, Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs, the reported gap in negotiations may be generating some friction, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. "The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt," said Samardzija. But, he added: "The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that only goes so far."
  • Samardzija painted a picture of a negotiation process in which both parties fully understood the others' position, but are seemingly unwilling to give in. "If there wasn't a gap, we would have signed," said Samardzija. "But both sides are justified. It's not like anyone is asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they're coming from, and they understand where we're coming from. That's really all there is to say."
  • Meanwhile, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says that the team kept some of its off-season powder dry, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports"In the two previous off-seasons, we've spent every dollar available to us," said Epstein, "and this is the first winter where we ended up keeping some in reserve to be used on players [that are] hopefully prime-age, impact-type players down the road. It gives us a bit of a leg up as we look toward next winter or an in-season move that might make the present and the future better." Epstein went on to discuss how those funds could be put to use. "Rather than just spend the money to spend it," said Epstein," if we can book that and have it available to us to sign that international free agent who comes along in the summer or to acquire a player in a trade who carries significant salary but fits for the long term, or to just start out next off-season knowing we can be a little more aggressive on the guys we really want early because the money will be available to us, that made more sense than spending the money now just to spend it." 
  • The Pirates have heard some complaints about their failure to spend significant money this off-season, but the club seems unconcerned, reports MLB.com's Tom Singer. "Payroll does not equal playoff," quipped GM Neal Huntington. Having decided against making any big splashes, the Bucs will look to replicate last year's success by once more getting contributions from homegrown talent. "We are really excited by where we can get to with some of the younger players we'll see in this camp," said Huntington. "The challenge is knowing when they will be ready, because when they get here, they will have to help." Manager Clint Hurdle said that the organization "will always rely heavily on developing our own talent," placing Pittsburgh among half of the league in that respect. "You have to anticipate change and get ready for change," said Hurdle. "We have created a culture of opportunity and manning up."
  • Right-hander Pat Neshek had multiple offers this offseason but chose to sign with the Cardinals because of the chance it presented him to get to a World Series, he told MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Neshek said that he is open to pitching for Triple-A and waiting for a spot to open up: "If I have to go down to Memphis, that's fine. There would be no problems from me. From my past experiences, if you do well, you're going to get an opportunity. It might not be right away."

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.

 


Quick Hits: Bailey, Burnett, Twins, Samardzija

Even though most of Alex Rodriguez's 2014 salary will be wiped out by his season-long PED suspension, the controversial slugger's contract is still ranked as the worst in baseball by Grantland's Jonah Keri.  Of Keri's list of the 15 worst contracts in the sport, the Dodgers have four, the Yankees, Angels and Braves each have two and the Reds, Rangers, Phillies, Blue Jays and White Sox have one each.

Here are some items from around the baseball world…

  • The Reds and Homer Bailey are "still talking" about a multiyear contract, GM Walt Jocketty tells MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.  "There has not been a lot of progress, but good conversations anyhow," Jocketty said.  Bailey's arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 20 and there is a $2.9MM gap ($11.6MM to $8.7MM) between his demands and the Reds' offer for a 2014 contract.  This is Bailey's last season under contract with Cincinnati and the two sides are reportedly far apart on a long-term deal.  Sheldon suggests that the Reds will be watching the Indians' case with Justin Masterson, as he and Bailey have posted comparable numbers over the last three years and Masterson is also scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.
  • The Pirates offered A.J. Burnett a $12MM contract for 2014, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  This obviously fell short of the $16MM Burnett received from the Phillies earlier today.
  • The Twins aren't one of the teams interested in Emilio Bonifacio, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).  Bonifacio cleared release waivers and became a free agent earlier today.  The Orioles are known to be one of at least nine teams interested in the speedy utilityman.
  • Also from Wolfson, a Twins official said that the club "had extensive talks" about Erisbel Arruebarruena but he was judged to be too expensive.  The Cuban shortstop agreed to a deal with the Dodgers today that could be worth as much as $25MM.
  • The Cubs can afford to be patient in trading Jeff Samardzija, Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan argues, as teams may be more willing to meet Chicago's large asking price once the free agent pitching market thins out and teams get more desperate once the season begins.
  • Right-hander Josh Roenicke is drawing interest from a "handful of teams" and could be signed soon, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link).  Roenicke posted a 4.35 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.25 K/BB rate in 62 relief innings with the Twins in 2013 before being outrighted off Minnesota's roster in November.
  • Also from Cotillo, right-hander Blake Hawksworth has retired.  Hawksworth posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.85 K/BB over 124 games (eight as a starter) with the Cardinals and Dodgers from 2009-11 before elbow and shoulder injuries derailed his career.  Hawksworth has taken a job with the Boras Corporation, his former agency.
  • Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill discussed the club's recent signing of Carlos Marmol with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
  • Luis Ayala chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals since they (as the Expos) were the franchise that originally signed him and he still has many friends in the organization, the veteran reliever tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Several teams were linked to Ayala this offseason but the bidding came down to the Nats, Tigers and Phillies.

Jeff Samardzija, Cubs Avoid Arbitration

The Cubs have avoided arbitration with pitcher Jeff Samardzija, signing him for one year and $5.345MM, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets. Samardzija had filed for $6.2MM and the Cubs had proposed $4.4MM, so the final figure comes in just above the $5.3MM midpoint. The two parties were to have their arbitration hearing on Monday. Samardzija is represented by Frontline.

This contract simply avoids arbitration for this season, and does not resolve the possibility of a long-term deal for Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency after 2015. There have also been recurring rumors that the rebuilding Cubs could trade Samardzija, although the most recent word is that, given the continued presence of solid starting pitching options (like A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana) on the free-agent market, the Cubs could wait until July to make a deal. Samardzija posted a 4.34 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 213 2/3 innings for the Cubs last season.


Cubs Notes: Samardzija, Hammel

Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs still haven't come to terms on a contract to avoid arbitration for 2014, with the pitcher filing for $6.2MM and the team countering with $4.4MM. That gap is indicative of broader differences between the two parties about how to structure a long-term deal, Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago writes. Rogers notes that it wouldn't be surprising if Samardzija and the Cubs actually did go to arbitration, and suggests that they could be more than $10MM apart on a potential long-term contract. Here are more notes on the Cubs.

  • One factor in the market for Jason Hammel was that teams were worried about the possibility that his elbow wouldn't hold up, ESPN's Buster Olney tweets. Hammel recently agreed to a one-year, $6MM deal with the Cubs. He missed time due to elbow issues last season.
  • The Cubs' recent pact with Hammel parallels their signing of Scott Feldman last offseason, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The best-case scenario for the Cubs is that Hammel pitches well and they trade him to a contender this summer, just as they did last year with Feldman. In order for the Cubs to do so, Hammel will have to stay healthy, but even if he doesn't, the Cubs aren't risking much.