Free agent Jeff Samardzija not a fit for Chicago Cubs


The Chicago Cubs ended their 2015 season leaps and bounds of where many expected them to be at the start of the season, exiting via a four game sweep of the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series. Yet even with how much the Cubs succeeded in 2015, it became evident that the missing piece to the puzzle in 2015 was lack of depth in the starting rotation.

Beyond the historic year from ace Jake Arrieta, and a solid opening campaign from Jon Lester, the Cubs’ back half of the rotation struggled down the stretch. 33 year old Jason Hammel scuffled down the stretch after posting a solid 2.86 first half ERA. Soft-tossing Kyle Hendricks had a rather inconsistent season, and finished 2015 with a 3.95 ERA. While the Cubs certainly did not have a bad pitching staff, posting the 3rd best team ERA in the MLB in 2015, more depth in the starting rotation gives the Cubs a need to build on.

Moving past the top free agent pitching targets such as David Price and Zack Greinke, cheaper, but still very effective options emerge, one of them being former longtime Cub Jeff Samardzija.

The hard-throwing 30 year old right hander is a free agent this offseason, coming off of a lackluster season on Chicago’s south side, managing an 11-13 record with a 4.96 ERA for the Chicago White Sox. Samardzija’s struggles in 2015 weren’t completely out of the ordinary in retrospect to his career numbers, but were certainly a clear step back from his All-Star 2014 season, where despite posting a 7-13 record, had a 2.99 ERA, 202 strikeouts and a 3.20 FIP, splitting time with the Cubs and the Oakland Athletics.

Samardzija’s career 4.09 ERA and typically high strikeout numbers seem to pose a fit on many contending teams as a No. 3 or 4 starter, yet the Cubs may not be the team to take that path. With David Price’s extended connections to the Cubs via Joe Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez, Chicago seems to be the front-runner to land the ace. Shall Price sign on with the Cubs, he would be cemented into a very formidable 1-2-3 punch, lowering the necessity to add Samardzija, especially considering the money he may demand.

At 31 years old on Opening Day 2016, the right hander isn’t the youngest option on the market either, and other cheaper options may also appeal to the Cubs for help in the rotation, including Jordan Zimmermann and Marco Estrada, the former being perhaps a larger investment, but a more proven and consistent one to aid the Cubs’ rotation.

Even if the North Siders do miss out on Price, rekindling the relationship with Samardzija may not be in the Cubs’ best interest, as his career numbers represent more of a risk than a reward moving forward long term. Samardzija’s tendency to allow home runs, paired with his control problems that have been evident throughout his career, he may prove to be a better fit elsewhere in the National League, as it isn’t inconceivable that teams such as the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins will show interest, as they are all teams still looking for more help on their pitching staff, but perhaps aren’t as in on the larger investments that the Cubs may be intrigued in, namely Price and Greinke.

Samardzija’s talent and whiffability have never come into question, and he may prove to be a great fit on several teams in 2016 and beyond. Yet with the position the Cubs find themselves in heading into 2016, reinvesting in Jeff Samardzija would be a mistake, considering the current state of the rotation and the other free agent pitching targets for the Cubs.