SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Two just-released data points highlighted why Jeff Samardzija hasn’t signed a long-term deal and the Cubs will almost certainly trade him by the July 31 deadline.
Forbes valued the franchise at $1.2 billion in its annual Major League Baseball survey, good for No. 4 behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.
The Cubs are projected to have a payroll around $89 million, according to an Associated Press analysis, which ranks No. 23. That includes the $13 million they’re paying for Alfonso Soriano to hit bombs at Yankee Stadium.
Samardzija, who’s positioned to become a free agent after the 2015 season, wants to win and sees that business is booming.
The longest-tenured player on the team made it through his final dress rehearsal before Opening Day. Samardzija went three innings, giving up one run during Wednesday’s 14-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
The best quote in the clubhouse went silent when asked about the possibility of setting deadlines or negotiating during the season.
“No comment,” Samardzija said.
There’s not much left to say after 197 losses across the last two seasons and two winters where the two sides couldn’t generate any traction in contract talks. Nothing personal. Samardzija’s gotten an education in the game’s economics and understands what Theo Epstein’s front office is trying to do here.
“I feel really good,” Samardzija said. “You kind of look at all fronts – arm strength, body strength, mechanics, location of pitches and I’m checking off all the boxes. I’m ready to get going.”
Samardzija knows the Cubs have to get off to a fast start and survive a brutal early schedule to avoid another summer sell-off. If that’s somehow going to happen, he’ll have to be more consistent than last season (8-13, 4.34 ERA) and build off that 200-innings/200-strikeouts level.
“We’ve put a great little crew together here,” Samardzija said. “There are still a couple spots that guys are fighting over. The mentality of this camp – the mentality of these new guys – has been outstanding.
“They’ve been hungry, which is exciting. They’ve come to play every day. We really look forward to that bleeding over into the season and a lot of crazy things can happen in this game.”
Whatever happens, Samardzija isn’t going to sweat it or let the outside speculation turn into a distraction. Five more days until the season starts.
“I can’t wait,” Samardzija said. “I’m excited, man. I’m ready to let the bullets fly and do it for real.”