Jeff Samardzija is tired of hearing about rebuilding. He wants to know if the Cubs will be able to sign Masahiro Tanaka.
“It changes that timeline,” Samardzija said. “I’ve mentioned my frustration with that ‘R-word’ before. You bring him in – that ‘R-word’ essentially kind of disintegrates.”
Seven years after the Notre Dame All-American made a Cubs Convention splash by signing a $10 million contract, Samardzija showed up at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on Friday ready to answer questions about the trade rumors.
“This is where I want to be,” Samardzija said. “I want to be a part of building that team that everybody envisions taking the field at Wrigley, which is a young, strong, powerful team that comes to play at noon, 1:20, 3:30, whenever. To me, that’s more exciting than just signing because a team’s starting to win. Being a part of that building process is something that’s exciting, too.”
Tanaka would be a huge foundation piece. Winning the bidding war over a star Japanese pitcher would send a strong message to Cubs fans, the Chicago media and the Opening Day starter looking to get paid in his next long-term deal.
Samardzija is two seasons away from free agency at a time when the Cubs are planning for 2016 and beyond. Theo Epstein’s front office wants long-term assets. Sources continue to say that the two sides haven’t made much progress on a contract extension.
Samardzija, who grew up in Northwest Indiana, is in no rush and has been consistent with his position. He believes he can be a No. 1 starter and prefers to put together a larger body of work before signing his next contract. He wants to figure out what a market-rate deal would be – and see what direction the franchise takes next.
“You just prove how much you’re worth on the field,” Samardzija said. “That’s just all there is to it. There’s no strong-arming. There’s no leveraging. You go out, you play and your numbers speak.
“You can’t really apply the Tanaka situation to a domestic situation. He’s coming off a low posting fee, essentially being a 25-year-old free agent with a lot of experience. It’s a little different. You can’t really connect the two.”
Samardzija – who will turn 29 next week and has become the longest-tenured player on the team – wants to pitch in October. Samardzija and Tanaka would be fun to watch at a sold-out Wrigley Field in Games 1 and 2 of a playoff series.
“I’m still with the Cubs,” Samardzija said. “I’m still wearing a Cubs uniform. I approach it just like that. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to give my heart and soul to this organization – like I have since Day 1 – and do everything I can to make us succeed and win like we know we can. The benefits that would come from that would be unbelievable – and everything would be just how we want it.”