Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune Sunday in camp that right-hander Jeff Samardzija is a “near lock” for a spot in the team’s regular-season starting rotation.
Samardzija finally found major league success last year in the Chicago bullpen, posting a 2.97 ERA and tallying 87 strikeouts in 88 innings of work. He was especially sharp after the All-Star break, and the Cubs’ decision-makers will hope that he can ride that momentum into positive results in his new gig.
Samardzija was drafted as a starter out of Notre Dame and served mostly as a starter in the minor leagues, so the transition isn’t going to be a complete adventure. But the 27-year-old former wide receiver has walked 100 batters in 169 2/3 career major-league innings, and it’s safe to wonder whether those control issues will haunt him.
For what it’s worth, Samardzija hasn’t walked a single batter this spring in three Cactus League starts.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon is reportedly open to a contract extension with the Nationals, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post said Sunday. Rendon told reporters that he didn’t know if agent Scott Boras would discuss an extension with the club, contrary to previous reports confirming the two had already started that conversation.
Rendon, 27, is coming off of his best career year to date. He finished the 2017 season batting .301/.403/.533 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI through 605 plate appearances, good enough to earn him sixth place in NL MVP voting. He made his third postseason appearance after helping Nationals through the National League Division Series, and contributed a pair of extra-base hits before the team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 5.
Rendon is still arbitration-eligible through 2019, but stands to receive a hefty payday once he enters free agency in 2020. While it stands to reason that the Nats would want to lock up a player who contributed a whopping 6.9 fWAR last year, making him the most valuable player on their roster, an extension appeals to Rendon as well. “Why not stay with one organization?” he said Sunday. The 2018 season will be his sixth with the team.