Chicago Cubs: Ranking the greatest players of the decade – #20-11

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: No. 20: Jeff Samardzija

It seems like forever ago that Jeff Samardzija pitched for the Chicago Cubs. He had an up-and-down career with the team – in fact, his entire career has been like that – yet the success that he found in the first half of the decade warrants his appearance on this list.

Samardzija was a star football player at Notre Dame, but when the Cubs drafted the right-handed pitcher in the fifth round of 2006, he signed with the team and committed to baseball. He started out great as a middle reliever in 2008, but he struggled in 2009 and spent the majority of 2010 in AAA. Then, 2011 was his breakthrough year. In 88 innings of relief for the Cubs, Samardzija put up a 2.97 ERA while striking out 87 batters.

Samardzija became a full-time starter in 2012 and was decent in both 2012 and 2013, but he pitched his best baseball in the first half of 2014, posting a 2.83 ERA in 17 starts. The Cubs sold high, sending him along with Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in the middle of the 2014 season in the trade that brought Addison Russell to the Cubs. After that, Samardzija spent one year with the Chicago White Sox before spending the last four with the San Francisco Giants.