Looking to add needed rotation depth, the Cubs could turn to Jeff Samardzija.
Jeff Samardzija hasn’t thrown a pitch for the Chicago Cubs since 2014. Of course, right before the organization turned the corner in a big way, advancing to the NLCS a year ahead of schedule in 2015, Theo Epstein sent the right-hander and fellow hurler Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics in the ill-fated Addison Russell deal.
After he finished the year with the A’s, Oakland sent him back to the Windy City via trade, this time to the Cubs’ crosstown rival, the White Sox. He was downright awful in that lone season with the Sox, leading the league in hits, earned runs and home runs allowed. Somehow, he turned that into a five-year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants.
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At that point, you could count on one thing: Samardzija was a horse. He was good for 200 innings pretty much like clockwork. But over the last few years, that hasn’t been the case. The right-hander spent the better part of the last three years sidelined with a variety of injuries. Heading into his age-36 campaign, potential suitors such as the Cubs will undoubtedly be aware of this fact.
This spring, Samardzija spoke on the rumors surrounding Chicago and its core group of position players – which stands to lose four key guys roughly a year from now when Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber all hit free agency.
"“That would be kind of weird, wouldn’t it?” Samardzija said. “They’ve got to figure a way to keep the core there … “The whole talk beforehand was building a core to compete for a long time. And you have that. You definitely can’t lose that.”"
Hearing a comment like that, you’d think that a reunion with Samardzija might be contingent on the Cubs running it back one more time with its core group of guys. A one-year deal where he shores up the rotation as a depth option at the back end could make sense and give him a chance to do something he’s yet to do: win a championship.
Which Jeff Samardzija will a team land? Is it the guy who took the ball 32 times and worked to a 3.52 ERA in 2019 or is it the guy who landed on the IL this season with a shoulder injury and was dropped by the Giants in late September?
No one knows for sure. But knowing he’s coming off an injury-plagued campaign and is on the wrong side of 35, he won’t have much in terms of bargaining power in talks this winter and a team like the Cubs could be well-positioned to strike and address a major concern on the roster.