You may be worried that the Cubs are getting a little gimmicky this offseason, but at least they haven’t jumped the shark. Yet. According to 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine, former Cub Jeff Samardzija will work out and throw for his old team “at some point in the next few days.”
The 36-year-old righty has been inconsistent over the past few seasons and was released in September after he only managed to throw 16.2 innings in four starts for the Giants in 2020. That was the end of his five seasons in San Francisco following stints in Oakland and on the South Side. Cubs fans obviously remember him for his time on the North Side, which ended when the disgruntled hurler was traded to the A’s in the deal that brought back Billy McKinney and Dan Straily.
“If I had a fortune teller,’’ Samardzija shared with USA TODAY Sports, “I probably would have stayed. I remember coming up, it was always the talk about prospects. It was the easy thing to do. You can always sell the future, and people always buy it. It’s a great way to rebuild, and I understand that.
“But as a veteran guy, it was becoming a joke.”
In addition to the Cubs’ struggles at the time, part of the reason Samardzija was traded was his desire to be paid on par with the Reds’ Homer Bailey, who had signed a $105 million extension prior to the 2014 season. Though Samardzija didn’t get his wish, he eventually managed to score a $90 million deal with the Giants after a very rough campaign for the White Sox (who acquired him from the A’s in exchange for Marcus Semien and others).
Now that he’s made his money and is on the back side of his career, the Valparaiso, IN native might want to bring things full circle with another go at his old stomping grounds. Or maybe, like three other potential members of the homecoming court, he sees the Cubs as the best way to build his value for one more deal to close things out.
That won’t be easy unless he’s found the fountain of youth because his velocity has dropped off in a big way over the last few seasons. After coming up as a hard thrower who sat around 96 mph, Shark is swimming in Alec Mills waters with a heater that’s clocking in at 91 or less. One way to counter that drop is by leaning more heavily on the excellent slider and cutter that make up over 40% of his repertoire.
Samardzija also starting throwing a changeup for the first time last season with decent results. The sample is incredibly small, but his change and splitter — which he’s scaled back significantly since coming up in 2008) were his only two offerings that generated positive value last season. Maybe the Cubs’ pitch lab can help him craft a new pitch mix and give him a new lease on life as a different kind of pitcher.
At this point, I’m all for anything that at least has novelty value.