by Kent Sterling
The Cubs avoided an unpleasant arbitration hearing and virtually assured a trade by signing pitcher Jeff Samardzija to a one-year deal worth $5,345,000.
Eventually, Samardzija will be released from the purgatory a roster spot with the Cubs represents. The Cubs are still in dump mode, and a pitcher like Samardzija has value on the trade marker, despite never winning 10 games in a major league season at the age of 29.
The news isn’t that Samardzija was signed, it’s that the Cubs chose not to sign the reliable if mediocre pitcher to a long-term deal as one of the building blocks for their supposedly bright future.
There is talent in the Cubs minor league system, but the majority of those projected as major league contributors are position players. There is a void in pitching – the area where most rebuilding efforts start.
The former wide receiver at Notre Dame has taken some time to hone his skills on the mound, but has become a solid member of a terrible rotation. Samardzija isn’t spectacular, but he can eat innings and keep his team in the game.
It’s hard to blame Samardzija for mediocre results when it has been very clear over the last three years that ownership and management had no interest in winning. Coming to work every fifth day with great focus to pitch meaningless games can’t have been easy.
Samardzija threw 213 2/3 innings in 2013, struck out 214 batters, and posted a WHIP of 1.348. That is going to prompt interest from teams in need of pitching despite his 8-13 record.
What that means for the Cubs is another haul of 2-3 reasonably talented prospects that will help Daytona, West Tennessee, and Iowa win now, and hopefully bring some success to Wrigley Field at some point before another generation of children learn the futility of being a Cubs fan and the pointlessness of hope as a concept.
The Cubs should be applauded for signing a talented pitcher with upside for less than half the cash expended by Edwin Jackson, who has underachieved through eight stops before turning 30 on his tour as a major league player. Cubs fans are stuck watching Jackson toil for the next three years at $13M per – an amount far too exorbitant to allow the Cubs to deal him.
Samardzija was the final arbitration eligible player to be sign, so the roster is basically set. There might be a couple of additions and subtractions during spring training, but the state of the Cubs in 2014 has been cast.
With or without the mop-haired righty, Cubs fans should expect anywhere from 60-68 wins, and a whole lot of talk about the way Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, C.J. Edwards, and Albert Almora are developing into potential 2017 all-stars.