The Jeff Samardzija saga is likely to continue deep into the summer for the Cubs.
One of the hottest topics of the early offseason was whether the Cubs would trade Samardzija or offer him an extension. A couple of recent developments have made it less likely that a resolution will come any time soon.
About a week ago, Samardzija was reportedly offered a five-year, $55 million contract extension, according to Bruce Levine of Chicago's 670 The Score. The fact that the generous offer is still on the table shows that the two sides may be far apart on a potential deal. Clearly, Samardzija is banking on his potential, but a non-free-agent contract worth $11 million annually to a pitcher who's only been a starter for two years is more than fair.
A key reason that Samardzija may not be willing to commit long-term may not be financial, however. According to Joel Sherman, via Twitter, Samardzija is hesitant to sign a long-term deal because he's not sure when the Cubs will be contending. It's not likely that the team's direction will become clear in 2014, so Samardzija could be waiting a while to find out that answer.
Additionally, with the Mark Trumbo trade being completed on Tuesday (per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com), the chances of a Samardzija trade to the Diamondbacks now seem remote. Previously seen as the front-runner to land Samardzija, the Diamondbacks traded away pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs in the deal. Skaggs was seen as a key piece in a potential deal for Samardzija.
With the former front-runner out of the running for Samardzija's services, the Cubs may have to wait on a trade. In fact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, revisiting trade options during the summer seems more and more likely. One positive of that scenario is that Samardzija may be able to boost his trade value with a solid first half of the season.
Whether he remains a Cub or is traded, the Samardzija situation has to be resolved before the 2014 trade deadline. After that point, if Samardzija isn't locked up long-term, he loses tremendous value by only being available to teams for one year instead of a year-and-a-half. Since Samardzija becomes a free agent in 2016, teams that trade for him in July of 2014 would get an additional year of control on him past the 2015 season.
Ideally, the Cubs would love to make Samardzija a Cub for life, but the five-year, $55 million extension that was left on the table is a bad sign for president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. For now, the Samardzija trade talks may go with the seasons; right now they've cooled off, but as summer approaches all they'll do is heat back up.