Where are they now? Checking in on former Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images)
Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Brian D. Kersey/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Turning a stretch of dominance into chips for the future

From there, you have to keep in mind that most of Samardzija’s tenure with Chicago came during the early years of the rebuild under Theo Epstein. Run support was nonexistent – and it took time for the new regime to modernize the organization.

After a strong 2011 showing, Samardzija moved to the rotation full-time in 2012 – and put up strong numbers, with a 3.55 FIP and 1.219 WHIP across a career-high 174 2/3 innings of work. Funnily enough, during his run as a Cubs starter, he never managed a winning record which – again – was largely the result of poor run support.

His final year on the North Side was historic. Through his first 10 starts, Samardzija set a new big league record for lowest ERA by a winless pitcher (1.46 ERA). On the heels of this breakout stretch, Epstein offered the righty a five-year deal that was well below market value – which Samardzija promptly declined. That was the final nail in the coffin when it came to his run with the Cubs.

I remember being at the local Fourth of July fireworks show (that actually took place on July 5) when I got the news: Chicago had traded Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for one of the best prospects in baseball in Addison Russell, along with Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.