Jeff Samardzija should be toeing the rubber on Opening Day for the Cubs.
Most of the noise coming out of Chicago this winter (other than the strong gusts of wind during the recent winter vortex) has been concerning pitcher Jeff Samardzija's future with the Cubs. The former standout wide receiver from Notre Dame has been the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons this offseason.
It seems that reports have been varying daily on Samardzija's future in Chicago. That's mostly due to the fact that neither the organization nor Samardzija himself is completely sure what the near future of the franchise holds. With so many top prospects waiting in the wings, the future looks bright, but Samardzija seems extremely reluctant to sign an extension at this point.
As this winter comes to an end and makes way for spring, Samardzija should still be taking the ball on Opening Day for the Cubs. It's not necessarily because the pitcher figures to be in the Cubs' long-term plans, but for a number of other reasons. Here are three in particular that contend Shark should be a Cub to start 2014.
Samardzija's days in a Cub uniform may be numbered.
The argument here is that the Cubs shouldn't trade Samardzija this winter, not that they shouldn't trade him at all. Since he still has so much potential, a solid performance in the first half of this season could really help Samardzija's trade stock rise.
Clearly, there was quite a bit of interest in Samardzija at the beginning of this offseason, and if he can pitch even more effectively up until the trade deadline on July 31, then that interest will only grow.
If the team can't come to an agreement on an extension by the trade deadline, it's imperative that it deals Samardzija because it can't afford to lose value on him. The value lost would be the result of Samardzija losing an extra year of team control if he's not traded by the deadline.
The next few months will likely decide whether or not Shark's aquarium remains Wrigley Field in the future.
While it seems like a long shot that the Cubs will be able to get a deal done on an extension with Samardzija, holding off on a trade definitely would give them more time to discuss. As a potentially solid No. 2 starter when the team should be contending, he's clearly worth trying to lock up long term.
Give him a couple of months to consider everything, and if he sees something he likes in the direction that the team is going, he may be able to agree to a deal. Again, it doesn't seem likely at this point, but a negotiating window of five months is a whole lot better than zero months.
Nobody but Samardzija knows what it will take to keep him in Chicago long term other than him. That being said, he needs time to think over his options as this season progresses. Ultimately, his trade value isn't going to drop between now and the trade deadline barring a major injury, so there isn't a huge risk in keeping him on board at least until the trade deadline as they try to iron out a deal.
Aside from the development of prospects, Jeff Samardzija's future as a Cub is this offseason's most compelling storyline in Chicago.
The Samardzija trade rumors seemed so much more real when, you know, other teams were interested in him. At the onset of the offseason there was a plethora of teams interested in the talents of the long-haired right-hander. However, after some recent developments, that interest has died way down.
First of all, Samardzija has said, via Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago, "The odds are very slim that I would (sign a long-term deal if I got traded). For any professional player two years out of free agency, the odds they sign a deal are pretty slim."
Clearly in one statement, Samardzija significantly quieted down trade rumors involving his name. After all, no team is going to want to trade valuable prospects for a player it may only control for a year and a half.
That being said, if Samardzija has a strong start to his 2014 campaign, then that interest will heat back up. Additionally, if that interest heats back up and a team offers him a deal he can't refuse (in a sign-and-trade scenario), then the Cubs could get proper value in return.
Everything in the Samardzija contract situation rides on how he starts this season. Should he start strong, interest will drive back up and he may be able to land in a desirable destination and the Cubs may get fair value in return. On the other hand, if he struggles, then interest will stay the same and the Cubs will be forced to sell low or risk letting him go into the final year of his contract without an extension.
Only time will tell how the most pressing storyline on the north side of Chicago will play out.