Samardzija facing uncertain future
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Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws during the team’s first spring training baseball practice, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
MESA, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija isn’t sure where he’ll be by the end of the season.
He’s a good candidate to be traded by the Cubs given his one-year contract and he’s determined to pitch well whether he stays put or gets dealt.
“I know if I do my part and do what I expect of myself and what the team expects of me, then everything else is clear about what the future holds,” Samardzija said. “All I can do is increase my value as much as possible, and I think in the end, it’s going to help the organization no matter what. Either it helps the organization by keeping me here and proving that I’m that guy, or I increase my value and help them get prospects in return.”
For now a cloud hovers over him. As pitchers and catchers worked out for the first time on Friday, Samardzija stared at an uncertain future.
Failed attempts at a long-term contract led to trade talks and, ultimately, a one-year agreement worth $5,345,000 to avoid arbitration on Saturday — two days before his scheduled hearing. Samardzija wouldn’t reveal how wide the gap is for a longer contract.
“If there wasn’t a gap we would have already signed,” he said. “But both sides are justified. It’s not like anyone’s asking for some outlandish concept. I understand where they’re coming from. They understand where I’m coming from. That’s really all there is to say.”
Are they still discussing a multi-year deal?
“We’re not really going to talk about that,” he said. “We’re about this season. We’re looking to get ready to compete and win some ballgames. We don’t want any distractions whether it’s with that or the trade talks or this or that. To me, it’s a no-comment. I’m out there getting ready to do my thing and, like I said before, put no doubt in anybody’s minds about who I am or what I can be for this team or this organization.”
The 29-year-old Samardzija is coming off an unremarkable season that saw him go 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA, but he was one of only 10 pitchers with at least 200 innings and 200 strikeouts. He’s also not eligible for free agency until 2015, an added plus for potential suitors. And with the Cubs in a rebuilding mode, his days in Chicago could be winding down.
“You address it because it’s going to be talked about,” new manager Rick Renteria said. “What we’re going to try to do is make him understand that the only thing that is significantly important to him is what he does between the lines.”
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