ORLANDO, Fla. – Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer hadn’t even checked into the hotel and wheeled their suitcases toward the elevators and already the Jeff Samardzija trade rumors had started up again.
The Cubs executives arrived at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes on Monday to begin meeting with agents, laying the groundwork for future deals and rebuilding a team that has lost 197 games across the past two seasons.
By the time the general manager meetings started, Samardzija’s name had already been linked to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals in what figures to be a winter of speculation about his future.
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“Teams will certainly inquire about him,” Hoyer said. “He’s really proved over the last two years that he has great stuff. He’s a tough competitor.”
Samardzija remains under club control for two more seasons and could wind up being a nice consolation prize for any team that loses out on the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes or can’t pry David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays. The Detroit Tigers are also reportedly weighing the idea of trading Max Scherzer.
Samardzija isn’t at that level yet, not after going 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 213.2 innings. But even with that up-and-down season, he fully believes he can be that kind of elite starting pitcher.
That confidence – combined with the financial security that came from leveraging a potential NFL career – has meant Samardzija’s in no rush to sign a long-term extension.
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Samardzija is also a Chicago guy and the longest-tenured player on the team. His first preference is said to be winning with the Cubs.
But if you are Samardzija, you also might wonder when exactly that’s going to happen after four straight fifth-place finishes. By Opening Day 2014, Rick Renteria will also make four different managers in five seasons.
This front office has also aggressively traded away rotation pieces like Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm.
So look for more teams trying to jump in with Shark.
“There could be rumors,” Hoyer said. “Jeff has a perfect mentality for that. He just doesn’t pay attention. I think it’s somewhat the nature of being in a big market. You are going to have your name out there.”