The Chicago Cubs don’t have much to look forward to in the next couple of years, but they are establishing a clearly defined core on players on the North Side. In the field, those players are easy to find. That’s not really the case in regard to the pitching staff. But there’s at least one hurler that the Cubs are looking to lock up long term.
Jeff Samardzija took us all by surprise in 2012. When he declared in spring training that he wanted to become a starter, most of us laughed. Samardzija was coming off his best year, having proven very effective in the bullpen. But could that success carry over to starting?
As it turns out, it could. Samardzija was the Cubs’ best starter in 2012, outside of Ryan Dempster before he was traded. He wasn’t immune from the occasional struggles, but overall, Shark put together a very good year.
He posted a 3.81 ERA in 174-plus innings on the year. He struck out 180 hitters, and those walks that were a concern heading into the year were kept relatively low, with only 56 on the season. When Samardzija mixed his pitches effectively, he was downright dominant for the Cubs.
Shark’s fastball is one of the best in the business, and he showed he can hit the upper-90s even deep into games. His breaking stuff is coming along very nicely as well. Though it took a bit longer for him to progress, no doubt due to the Cubs rushing him, it looks like he has ‘elite’ written all over him.
Now it’s just a matter of money for Samardzija and the Cubs. With three arbitration years ahead of him, it could be difficult for the Cubs to put a number on an extension. After all, he’d stand to make a big time raise in the next few winters.
So just what would a new contract look like? Shark made $2.64 million in 2012 and would stand to see a pretty hefty increase from that. As far as length, it will be interesting to see how long the Cubs are interested in locking him up for. Obviously a goal will be to buy out his arbitration years, and then probably a few years after that. Perhaps a six or seven-year deal?
The money is the bigger question. Do the Cubs try and give Samardzija somewhere in the neighborhood of what they gave Starlin Castro? I’d expect them to start there and work their way up to the $70 or $80 million range. But until the Cubs and Samardzija start actually negotiating, we won’t know.
Regardless, it’s clear that the Cubs want this guy locked up for a long time, and Cubs fans can look forward to seeing him at the top of this rotation for quite a few years.