It looks like Travis Wood should be raising the Stanley Cup with that awesome playoff beard. The low-key lefty doesn’t have the same Q rating as Jeff Samardzija or Matt Garza, but the Cubs have to be thinking about the next moves if they’re going to build a championship-caliber rotation.
Hours after the Cubs announced a shiny new contract for Anthony Rizzo, Wood went out and shut down the Colorado Rockies in Monday’s 9-1 victory at Wrigley Field. That makes it eight straight quality starts, leading to the question: Is Wood part of The Core?
“As far as I’m concerned, he’s put himself there,” manager Dale Sveum said.
Samardzija is happy for Rizzo, who at the age of 23 put himself in position to earn some $70 million if he continues on the path toward becoming an elite first baseman. But that doesn’t mean Samardzija’s about to give a hometown discount, especially since he already made millions after turning down the NFL out of Notre Dame.
[More: Cubs building their future around Rizzo]
Samardzija, 28, is betting on himself again, not wanting to rush in after only one-plus season as a big-league starter. Preliminary discussions about a possible extension gained little momentum last offseason. There was also no urgency as he remains under club control through the 2015 season. Talks are dormant.
“It’s nothing, to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said. “I know they got a lot things on their mind and a lot of things they’re dealing with. I think the good thing is we have an understanding that we both want to be here (and) that’s a great place to be. It’s just up to me to do my job on the field.”
The Cubs already locked up Starlin Castro with a seven-year, $60 million contract last August, making Samardzija the next logical target, though general manager Jed Hoyer acknowledged it’s a “different calculus with a pitcher.”
“It’s not really important to me, to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said. “The games that happen out here are the most important things for me personally and I still got a lot of things I need to work on to get better at and we’ll go from there.”
Samardzija’s bargaining position remains the same: He would like to put together a larger body of work (22-27, 4.05 ERA) and show that he really is a No. 1 starter capable of throwing 200 innings a year. He also knows the arbitration process works for the player.
“You get paid what you’re worth and that’s all I’m asking,” Samardzija said. “I want my play to determine how everything else goes down after that. I have high expectations for myself and for this team, so that comes first. And I feel like everything else after that will fall in line.”
The speculation about locking up Garza is irrelevant, as one team official put it, until he’s back on the mound every fifth day and proves he’s healthy. It’s been almost 10 months since he’s pitched in a major-league game while dealing with elbow and lat muscle injuries.
[More: Garza will force Cubs to make tough decision]
Team president Theo Epstein, Hoyer and Sveum were among those watching Garza throw a bullpen session before Monday’s game. The 29-year-old right-hander will make at least one more rehab start, the next one scheduled for Thursday at Triple-A Iowa.
Could Garza still have a future here?
“I don’t see why not,” Sveum said. “He’s still a fairly young guy that’s obviously one of the better power pitchers in the game when he’s right. I just want to see what he can do the last four months of the season.”
The Cubs are 16-22, but see building blocks falling into place. Whether it’s Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray or Stanford’s Mark Appel, the No. 2 pick in the June draft could one day join an interesting rotation.
[More: Cubs searching for their Strasburg/Gonzalez building blocks]
Wood is 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA and only 26 years old. He had never heard of Hippo Vaughn, the only other Cubs lefty to begin the season (1919) with eight consecutive quality starts since the team moved to Wrigley Field in 1916. And about that beard…
“I’m not really sure what I’m doing with it right now,” Wood said. “I didn’t really intend to let it keep going, but it’s kind of hard to cut it right now.”