RedEye

Samardzija gives Cubs something, but what?

The Cubs’ 2013 season has been over for months --- since last year, actually --- so it would seem there’s nothing to see here.

Unless you view this as part of the 2015 spring training, long rumored to be the year the Cubs finally stop stinking under the new regime

In that light, the Cubs got a big and necessary performance from starter Jeff Samardzija on Monday night.

Granted it came against a bad Washington offense, but then, Samardzija had been going badly himself, having allowed 13 earned runs in his last 9 1/3 innings over two starts.

But his splitter was terrific against the Nationals, and he proceeded to allow six hits and one earned run while striking out five and walking none in going the distance.

Samardzija needed that. The Cubs needed to see it, too.

Samardzija hadn’t won in a month and had been inconsistent since then. Actually, he had gone consistently downhill if you go solely by ERA. Samardzija followed a great May with a mediocre June, a bad July, and a worse August.

Interestingly, the more extreme inconsistencies seemed to begin when his name popped up in trade rumors. It didn’t get any better when team management later said it would have to look at trading Samardzija if the Cubs can’t get him to agree to a long-term deal.

Samardzija said he doesn’t need the money and loves playing for the Cubs, but yet, he refused a long-term deal previously. Samardzija apparently wants full market value, needing the money or not. So, if the Cubs are looking for a hometown discount, it’s not likely to happen.

Which means a trade might.

The Cubs and Samardzija obviously have different ideas on his market value. Same goes for potential trade partners. That’s what happens when a pitcher is in only his second season as a full-time starter.

Strong and talented, Samardzija gave the Cubs the kind of game Monday they think he can give them regularly instead of once a month. The Cubs desperately need top-of-the-rotation pitchers. They also need the innings Samardzija gives them now.

But if you believe this is part of the 2015 spring training, then you’re looking at a Samardzija who will be 30, smack in the middle of Theo Epstein’s peak window for players. In theory, that’s when Samardzija should be the deluxe pitcher every Cubs fan hopes.

That’s also when Epstein said the Cubs should be ready for sustained success.

Perfect timing, huh?

But have you ever seen a Cubs timetable work out?

Me, neither.

Which doesn’t diminish what Samardzija’s start Monday might mean. It still might mark the beginning of a nice run to end another miserable season, which would further establish his trade value.

That’s really the heart of Epstein’s NewCubsThink. The one thing we’ve learned about Epstein’s scorched Cub policy is that everyone can be traded, and most of them probably should. Scott Feldman and Scott Baker were signed precisely for that reason, for example, while Starlin Castro and even Anthony Rizzo are candidates, depending what’s offered. Samardzija’s no different, especially because he’ll be 30, at least, before the Cubs stop stinking.

It can be argued that everyone on the active roster is more valuable in trade than in the home dugout.

Everyone.

Epstein is playing Wrigley bingo during this extended 2015 spring training. It might be bingo with advanced metrics, but it’s the same concept, believe me. There is no “Free Spot’’ and Epstein doesn’t care how many times he changes game cards before he finds one he can cover completely.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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