PHOENIX – The meter is running if the Cubs want to lock up Jeff Samardzija as their Opening Day starter for years to come.
Matt Garza didn’t have much interest in the kind of club-friendly extensions signed by core players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. There was bad timing with injuries and a medical history. A win-now pitcher simply didn’t match up with the organization’s business/baseball plans.
[RELATED: Garza Watch finally comes to and end]
Samardzija is supposed to be the face of the rotation, a clubhouse leader who’s not afraid to speak his mind. But after the front office traded his bro to the Texas Rangers, he couldn’t say how this would impact his feelings about staying through the rebuilding project.
“I haven’t really thought about that too much, to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said Monday at Chase Field. “I haven’t really had too many talks with my agent, outside of bill-paying and insurance-paying and taxes, which are always the most fun conversations. So we’ll see what happens in the offseason.
“There’s still a long time to play here and I’m not even nearly close to where I want to be. I’m going to work hard on these last 12, 13, 14 starts, whatever’s left, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But right now we need to grow as a team and jell as quickly as possible with the new guys coming in and try to win as many (games) as we can.”
Samardzija, 28, is a Chicago guy who loves playing on the big stage. The Cubs started preliminary talks with his camp about a long-term deal last offseason, but gained no momentum.
Samardzija had already signed for $10 million after an All-American football career at the University of Notre Dame. He wanted to create even more leverage by establishing himself as a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher.
Samardzija settled for $2.64 million in his first arbitration-eligible season. He’s gone 6-9 with a 3.91 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 131.1 innings. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 season. He doesn’t think the Garza trade revealed much about the timeline for Theo Epstein’s front office.
[MORE: An in-depth look at who the Cubs got in the Garza deal]
“That’s up to them,” Samardzija said. “Garza was going to be a free agent and didn’t have another year of (arbitration or club) control. Obviously, if a deal didn’t get done, I think any team in that situation would do the same thing.
“You got to understand reality. We’re 14 or whatever games back, so trading a guy you don’t have protection over anymore just kind of makes sense. It’s an unfortunate thing, but there’s other things that tell the tale more than trading a guy that’s two months from free agency.”