With long-term, team-friendly contract extensions handed out to shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo over the past year, the next player up for an extension of the same magnitude would appear to be starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
Over the course of the past two seasons, Samardzija certainly has built an argument for an extension while becoming a top of the rotation pitcher for the Cubs.
In 2012, Samardzija started 28 games for the Cubs while posting a record of 9-13 with an ERA of 3.81 and 180 strikeouts.
2o13 is seeing similar success from Samardzija. In 9 starts this season with the Cubs, Samardzija is 2-5 with an ERA of 3.49 and 64 strikeouts. Samardzija is projected to finish the season with 259 strikeouts, though, the starting pitcher likely will not remain on the pace he is on.
Despite his success and his desire to remain with the Cubs, Samardzija is not ready to talk about a long-term contract with the Cubs.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Nope. This is a great team, really coming around right now, playing great baseball. I’m just really looking to keep this going. It’s fun to play with these guys.” -Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Sun Times
The Cubs have tried to sign Samardzija to a long-term contract. In the off-season, Samardzija turned down a long-term offer from the Cubs’ front office.
For Samardzija, the reason he is not willing to sign an extension is rather interesting. The starting pitcher wants to prove that he is the top-of-the rotation starting rotation pitcher that both he and the organization believe he is. Meaning Samardzija wants to build a body of work that is enough in his eyes to earn a long-term contract extension.
That would go against the extensions that the Cubs gave to Castro and Rizzo. In both cases, the Cubs were paying for future performance while saving money by voiding the players’ arbitration and firs free agency seasons.
That option to save money with a long-term deal for Samardzija may not be available to the Cubs. Samardzija is arbitration-eligible for both the 2014 and 2015 seasons before his first year of being eligible for free agency in 2016. For the Cubs, they need to hope that Samardzija is willing to sign a long-term extension in the off-season. If not, then their successive plan that worked for both Castro and Rizzo will take a hit with Samardzija.