Jeff Samardzija is a member of the Chicago Cubs — for now. Samardzija and the Cubs recently avoided arbitration when the two sides agreed to a one-year $5.345 million contract. If he is able to make it through Spring Training without injury and without trade, Samardzija figures to be the Cubs’ Opening Day starter for the second straight year.
Time has certainly flown by for the just turned 29-year-old, as he will be entering his seventh year in the league. Catching passes at the University of Notre Dame is approaching the ten year mark for the ace of the Chicago staff. Samardzija has only posted one season with a winning record back in 2011, but that year he made zero starts. While the win-loss record can be attributed to the team, an underlying factor may be a stamina issue.
Following Samardzija for some time now, his second half numbers have been much higher than in the first half of the season. In the final two months of 2013, he allowed five or more runs four times, and in 2012 the Cubs shut him down early for precautionary reasons. While Samardzija can certainly develop into ace role, he is still unproven in some regards.
Samardzija is coming off a year where he did reach career highs in games started (33), innings pitched (213.2), strikeouts (214), and also added two complete games. He finished ninth in all of baseball for strikeouts, and 11th in innings pitched. Samardzija does have work-horse qualities, but just needs to be able to sustain the quality of production for the entire season, and become that ace of a staff.
Chicago does have control over Samardzija for two more seasons, but the organization will need to determine a long-term picture for him soon. They were rumored to be entertaining trade offers this winter, but have not found a deal to their liking just yet. Samardzija will likely be a Cub until at least the trade deadline, and at that time the trade rumors will start back up once again. While Samardzija will certainly take the ball every fifth day for his team with a “bulldog” attitude, his future is to be determined.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.