Jeff Samardzija Rumors
The Cubs' rare visit to Yankee Stadium this week led to some introspection about how the Cubs have kept a modest payroll during their rebuild, while the Yankees responded to a non-playoff year by splurging on several major free agents. It was only a few years ago, however, that the Cubs themselves were a big free agent target, and C.C. Sabathia talked to reporters (including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) about his interest in coming to Wrigley Field during the 2008-09 offseason. Wittenmyer reports that Sabathia let Cubs managment know, via his friend Derrek Lee, that he wanted to sign with Chicago that winter. Of course, Sabathia instead signed with the Yankees and the rest is history.
Here's the latest news about both the Cubs and White Sox...
- Jeff Samardzija feels a responsibility to the players' union to strive for a big contract, the Cubs righty tells CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney, and he doesn't seem to be a fan of some of the multiyear deals being signed by pre-arbitration pitchers around the game. "Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years," Samardzija said. "When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you. I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be."
- The Cubs need to accept that paying a high price for an ace pitcher is the cost of doing business and thus sign Samardzija to an extension, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune opines.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer appeared on the Kap & Haugh radio show to express his belief that the Cubs will soon once again become a popular landing spot for players. "Theo [Epstein] and I have no concern guys will want to play here from around baseball when we get this turned. We’ll be a destination for guys," Hoyer said (quote from David Kaplan's Twitter account).
- Hoyer, Epstein and the White Sox scouting director attended a recent start from East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, ESPN's Keith Law tweets. The Sox and Cubs pick third and fourth, respectively, in the June amateur draft and Hoffman is expected to be an early choice off the board --- Baseball America recently ranked Hoffman fifth on their list of draft prospects.
- Chris Sale carried some red flags in the 2010 draft but the White Sox are enjoying the fruits of taking a chance on the southpaw with their 13th overall pick, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan writes. Sale's status as "the player with no comps" made many teams worry that he couldn't handle a starter's workload, let alone become an ace.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said today that he will no longer publicly address the team's plans regarding top starter Jeff Samardzija during the season, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Speculation has spun all offseason between the possibilities of a new deal or a trade of the 29-year-old hurler, who is under team control for two more years.
"We talked about it early in spring training," Epstein said before today's game. "We indulged the questions. Right now we're just focused on the games and just going out and winning." Going on to discuss the team's general approach, Epstein indicated that the club would be cognizant of its place on the win curve in considering its options.
"All contracts collectively form a market and you have to be aware of the market and operate in the market when you're in free agency, and it affects everything you do, to a certain extent. But we have to make smart decisions for our situation, for the situation we're in now and the situation we're going to be in in a few years."
One key point that emerged out of the two sides' discussions to date was that there is an apparent gap between the team's current valuation of Samardzija and his belief in where his market value will lie after the season. Though he has shown impressive strikeout ability, Samardzija failed to convert that into consistent results last year, finishing with a 4.34 ERA in 213 2/3 innings. He is off to a good start in 2014, as he tossed 7 innings of shutout ball, allowing just five hits and striking out three while walking two batters.
An earlier version of this post passed on an incorrect interpretation of Epstein's comments, which had indicated that the Cubs would not discuss a contract extension during the regular season. Gonzales has clarified his report, indicating that Epstein's comments were meant to address his intentions regarding future public comment on the club's plans regarding Samardzija.
While there haven't been any extension talks (and won't be) between the Royals and James Shields, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that it's not completely out of the question for Shields to re-sign their ace this coming offseason. However, in order to do so, the team will need to make the postseason, he adds. Royals executives have said that they might take a loss this year due to the team's record payroll, but they also believe that a postseason run could push them into the black, according to Heyman. That type of turnaround could keep them in the bidding to retain Shields, who will hit free agency entering his age-33 season.
Here's more on baseball's Central divisions...
- Close to 25 scouts were on-hand to watch Jeff Samardzija's start against the Mariners yesterday, writes Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. According to Levine, the Blue Jays had three scouts present to watch the Cubs' Opening Day starter, including director of pro scouting and former Cubs GM Ed Lynch.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington tells Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he is not interested in making a trade for a backup catcher despite the injury to Chris Stewart (Twitter link). That suggests that Tony Sanchez will open the season as Pittsburgh's secondary backstop.
- Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette looks at the Pirates' bullpen surplus, wondering if a trade of Vin Mazzaro or Bryan Morris (neither has minor league options remaining) is on the horizon. Brink writes that right-handers Stolmy Pimentel and Jeanmar Gomez (both also out of options) will open the season in the bullpen, leaving Morris and Mazzaro as logical trade candidates.
- The Twins have named former first-rounder and top prospect Kyle Gibson their fifth starter, reports La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That means that out-of-options starters Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno and Vance Worley are out of luck. Deduno will start the season in the bullpen, while Worley has already been placed on outright waivers (the expiration of those waivers has come and gone, but there's yet to be a report on his status). It's unclear at this time what Diamond's fate will be.
- Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma is trying not to focus on trade rumors surrounding his name, he tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Strauss speculates that with the decision to option Tyler Lyons to Triple-A Memphis, GM John Mozeliak could look to acquire a long reliever via trade.
- Other news from the game's Central divisions today included the Tigers' acquisition of Andrew Romine from the Angels as well as the news that flamethrowing setup man Bruce Rondon will be the latest victim of Tommy John surgery. Also, Indians minor league signee David Aardsma was granted his release.
It seems like every club is getting bad news regarding its pitchers these days, but the Mets can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to lefty Jon Niese. ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin reports that Niese, who was pulled from Sunday's start early due to elbow discomfort, learned that he has some inflammation but no ligament damage in the elbow. He received a cortisone shot and is tentatively set to resume throwing on Wednesday. Niese still figures to open the season on the DL, according to Rubin, but only for a few days, as the Mets won't need a fifth starter until April 6. Niese is likely to be activated at that point.
Here are some more notes specifically pertaining to pitchers...
- The Diamondbacks are likely to again scout Jeff Samardzija in the wake of Patrick Corbin's probable Tommy John surgery, reports Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. However, Levine writes that the Cubs would likely ask for Archie Bradley in return, which would seemingly end conversations before they began.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that free agent closer Joel Hanrahan is up to 90-92 mph in his rehab from Tommy John and flexor tendon surgery and could sign with a team soon. Hanrahan is coming off a season in which he pitched just 7 1/3 innings for the Red Sox before undergoing surgery on May 16. He still has a ways to go on his velocity, as he averages 96-97 mph when he's at his best.
- Free agent left-hander Clayton Richard tells MLB Network Radio's Scott Braun that he underwent thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last month (Twitter link). Richard rejected an outright assignment from the Padres and elected free agency at season's end, but this seems to rule out the possibility that he'd be ready to pitch anytime soon.
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.”
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."
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.”
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."
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.
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."