Jeff Samardzija’s competitiveness will spill over into any discussions about a long-term extension with the Cubs.
After an All-American football career at Notre Dame – and years spent shuttling between the North Side and Triple-A Iowa – Samardzija believes he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. He views himself as an Opening Day starter, a 200-innings-a-year machine and a frontline guy for the next contending team at Clark and Addison.
That’s why Samardzija showed little interest in signing a new contract last offseason, when the Cubs tried out the same playbook they have used with core players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. As much as Samardzija loves Chicago, this will be a market-rate deal.
“He is a confident guy, for sure,” general manager Jed Hoyer said after Wednesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. “Part of what makes him good is he’s got a swagger and he’s got a confidence. You take that into negotiations and you probably don’t always separate those two things.”
[More: Samardzija out to prove he's a No. 1 starter for Cubs]
Samardzija isn’t positioned to become a free agent until after the 2015 season, and he wanted to put another year as a big-league starter on his resume before seriously talking about a long-term contract. But there will be a sense of urgency to complete a new deal this winter.
“It’s something we’d like to do, for sure,” Hoyer said. “We love having him on the team. I think he brings the right swagger, the right competitiveness to the club. His stuff is obviously really good and I think it will keep getting better.
“We want to acquire a lot more pitchers like him. That’s our goal. So it’s hard to rank it on a priority list, but it’s very high, and it’s something we’d like to get done.”
That sounds eerily similar to what Hoyer said at the beginning of spring training in February 2012: “We need more Matt Garzas, not less.” Garza spent most of the next 17 months either trying to block out trade rumors or recover from injuries before the Cubs finally traded him to the Texas Rangers last week.
[More: Cubs don't make any deals at the deadline]
As that window of club control slowly closes, the Cubs are going to reassess Samardzija and their timeline. When the Arizona Diamondbacks inquired, they were told it would take at least two elite pitching prospects and the meter would keep running.
“Unless you’re Mike Trout, I feel like every player is going to be asked about in a deal,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes those things get out in the media and sometimes they don’t. Players should probably almost expect this time of year that their name might be mentioned in a rumor.
“When you’re in first place, I don’t think anyone’s going to float Andrew McCutchen’s name in a trade rumor. But I’m sure that if (the Pirates) were in fourth place, his name would get mentioned. That’s just the nature of where you are in the standings.
[RELATED: DeJesus sees Epstein's long-term plan coming into focus]
“I don’t think players should be all that sensitive about it. Because if you are a seller, it’s almost impossible for your name not to get mentioned in some kind of deal. That’s just the nature of it. Obviously, we never came anywhere close to any deal with Samardzija. We’re happy we have him and I hope he’s here for a long time.”
Deep down, both sides want to see Samardzija in a Cubs uniform for years to come. But the front office is always willing to listen. Nothing personal, just business.