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.