No one associated with the Chicago Cubs was watching the Masahiro Tanaka derby closer than Jeff Samardzija, outside of maybe the front office. After Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts, Samardzija was paying close attention to whether or not the Cubs would be able to sign Tanaka, because he felt that if the Cubs were successful in their pursuit of the Japanese super star pitcher, that the rebuilding process would either be sped up, or would cease to exist.
Samardzija has made no secret of his not being a fan of being part of a rebuild. Much like many fans he thinks the Cubs should be in contention mode year in and year out, and not making due with less than the best players the team can afford on the field each and every game.
But despite the Cubs being in rebuild mode, for at least the next season, Samardzija wants to be a part of the Cubs organization for the foreseeable future. At the moment, he is still under the Cubs control for the next two seasons. Currently, Samardzija and the Cubs are negotiating over a one year deal that will avoid arbitration for his 2014 season. In addition to the one year deal to avoid arbitration, the Cubs and Samardzija are also negotiating with each other in hopes of reaching common ground on a long term contract. Currently though, the two sides are nowhere near reaching an agreement on that end.
Samardzija was likely also paying close attention to what the Cubs were offering to Tanaka and likely using those figures in future negotiations with the Cubs on his own deal. According to one source, the Cubs made an offer of six years for $120 Million
Cubs made a six-year, $120 million final bid for Tanaka, according to a source close to the negotiations (plus $20 million release fee).
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) January 23, 2014
If that figure is correct, then they might have gotten blown out of the water by the New York Yankees who offered seven years for $155 Million. The Yankees offer also included an opt out clause after the fourth year as well as a full no trade clause, both things the Cubs would never include in a deal.
However, now that Samardzija knows the Cubs have $20 Million a year to spend on a pitcher with no Major League experience, his eyes must have lit up assuming the Cubs might be a little more loose with their pocket book when negotiating with him.
You do not have to be a genius to know that Samardzija likely is not asking for a six year deal with an average salary of $20 Million, nor should he get close to that, but he now knows the Cubs have money to spend on pitching. That is where the problem comes in though.
With the Cubs and Samardzija unable to reach an agreement, he is likely asking for a contract which pays him more than the Cubs believe he is worth. They may not feel as though he is worth the salary a number one pitcher would deserve. They may not think he is the pitcher that can lead a pitching staff on a winning team. You would never know this though if you have been paying any attention to the rumored trade talks the Cubs are having with him, and what they are asking for.
Reports have circulated for months that the Cubs are asking for two or three top prospects back in any deal involving Samardzija, because he has that much talent and that high of a ceiling.
See where the double talk is? When negotiating a contract with the best pitcher on their staff, they do not feel as though he is worthy of the title “Ace” nor being paid like a top of the rotation pitcher. However in trade talks, that is what they are selling him as so they can get back the best possible return on their investment.
With teams balking at the Cubs asking price (at least for now), you can almost guarantee that he will be the Cubs opening day starter for the 2014 season. If the Cubs continue to try and sell him as a number one pitcher to other teams in trade talks, chances are again very good that they will never be able to find a buyer for him. If the Cubs want to trade him, they better start selling him to teams as what they feel he is. Either that, or they need to give him a contract that matches what they feel his trade value is.
Samardzija is not stupid. He likely has been following all the trade chatter that has circulated around him this off season, if not him then his agent has been. He knows full well what the Cubs are trying to sell him as, and is likely seeking a contract that fits the description the Cubs are selling to other teams.
That sales job (along with the offer the Cubs made to Tanaka) might well be driving up the asking price from Samardzija. If that is the case, I cannot really blame him one bit. If the organization is telling teams he is worth a certain amount, then I cannot blame him if he is expecting that much from them in a contract; especially not when they were willing to throw as much money at an unproven pitcher as they were.
Perhaps former Chicago Bears General Manager had something right in his time in town, always take care of your own talent before dipping your toe in free agency.