MIAMI – Look for the Jeff Samardzija trade talks to accelerate now that the Cubs have checked in again to see what the asking price would be for a long-term extension.
The countdown toward the July 31 deadline has hung over Samardzija’s head for months, but it should be over soon. For the longest-tenured player on the team, his time here should be measured in days and weeks, not blocked out for years as part of The Core. All that speculation created the backdrop to Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins.
“Numb would be a good word for it,” Samardzija said.
This news cycle was dominated by reports Theo Epstein’s front office had, as anticipated, inquired about Samardzija’s contract expectations, but that didn’t stop the scouts from coming to Marlins Park.
“Honestly, there’s really nothing to talk about,” Samardzija said. “I told my agent early after spring training that I wanted to go out with no distractions and pitch. I don’t know what speculation there is or what’s been said or what’s been done. As far as I’m concerned, nothing’s changed for me. I haven’t heard anything.
“I’m going out and doing my job with no distractions. That’s what it’s all about, and we have to win these ballgames. You have to be ready to prepare for your team, and that’s where it’s at.
[MORE CUBS: Marlins would take Samardzija 'in a heartbeat']
“So report or no report – I don’t know where it came from – but I haven’t heard anything. And I’m just going about my business as I normally do.”
Samardzija, who got a no-decision, went six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, while striking out eight. This wasn’t a highlight-reel performance, committing an error and smacking his forehead while walking back toward the dugout after giving up a two-out, two-run single to Rafael Furcal in the fourth inning.
But Samardzija still would have been in line for the win, if Garrett Jones hadn’t crushed Brian Schlitter’s 91 mph fastball in the seventh inning, the go-ahead, three-run homer landing in the bullpen beyond the right-field wall.
The Cubs (29-40) are in sell mode, wasting a hot start from Samardzija that’s left him with a 2-6 record, a 2.78 ERA and a case for the All-Star Game. Multiple sources laid out the landscape:
The Cubs continue to scout the Toronto Blue Jays for a possible match. One name to file away is Daniel Norris, a 21-year-old left-hander who’s 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 13 starts at advanced Class-A Dunedin. Toronto had representatives at Marlins Park for Samardzija’s start.
The San Francisco Giants also sent a scout to Little Havana, though it’s doubtful they would have a deep enough farm system to swing a deal and there are questions about whether or not top prospect Kyle Crick can stick as a starter.
[MORE CUBS: Samardzija says trade talk won’t become distraction]
The New York Yankees are not believed to be able to put together the package of young arms the Cubs are looking for now. If anything, the Boston Red Sox are maybe on the fringes of the Samardzija sweepstakes, but not viewed as serious contenders at this point.
The Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves have shown interest. The Baltimore Orioles have been linked to Samardzija, and you probably shouldn’t discount mystery teams, given the crowded wild-card picture, the need for pitching and Samardzija’s contract status (under club control through the 2015 season).
“I’m just out doing my job, man,” Samardzija said. “I really feel good with where I’m at, and my routine. My arm feels great. It feels outstanding. I thought I felt better there for the last 30 pitches, from 80 to 110, than I did the rest of the day, so that’s exciting. I’m just going to keep doing my job, like I’ve always said, and I’m not too worried about that stuff. All that stuff will take care of itself.”