Aug 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcherJeff Samardzija
(29) delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. The Cubs beat the Nationals 11-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Toronto Blue Jays remain interested in Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who has been the topic of trade discussions for much of the offseason.
"The Blue Jays are remaining in contact with Santana, Jimenez, the Cubs (on Samardzija) and Drew, though they may still be hoping for the price to drop a bit more."
Samardzija, who is under team control for two more seasons before his is eligible to hit free agency, remains uncertain in the financial sense of things, as he and the Cubs are yet to agree to terms on his 2014 contract. The right-hander’s camp is seeking $6.2 million while the Cubs are proposing a raise of roughly $1.8 million from his $2.64 million salary in each of the past two seasons, for a total offer of $4.4 million.
On the field, last season was a bit of a step back for the right-hander, who many believed would be poised for a breakout season in 2013. He went just 8-13, although the Cubs’ lackluster offense should certainly be taken into account. However, despite Chicago being an above-average team, defensively, Samardzija’s earned run averaged just by half a run from the season prior – 3.81 to 4.34.
He also made a career-high in starts (33), innings pitched (213.2) and strikeouts (214). Even taking into account unearned runs, his RA9 showed the same half-run increase as noted in his earned run average, jumping from 4.07 to 4.59 over the past two seasons.
Heyman also points out several key aspects of the situation north of the border. The Jays pitching rotation posted a 4.81 ERA last season, the worst in all of baseball apart from the Minnesota Twins, who added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes this winter.
Furthermore, the team’s two first round picks are protected, as noted by Heyman:
"With the Blue Jays’ two No. 1 picks both protected from loss related to free-agent signings, they could potentially pick up one, or even both top free-agent hurlers, without substantially hurting their draft situation. They would lose only a second rounder if they were to sign a protected free agent."
This would, if anything, help boost the odds that it is either Santana or Jimenez end up with Toronto. Losing a second-round pick is far less precious to most organizations than a first-round pick. That being said, not losing any picks is ideal. But in a trade, the team will lose pitching depth already developed in the system.
Heading into 2014, Samardzija and left-hander Travis Wood will lead the Cubs’ starting rotation. There are still several major pitching free agents on the market, and despite Heyman’s report, the most probable time for the righty to be dealt remains at the midseason Trade Deadline in July.