The Cubs and Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija are still far apart on a deal that would cover his remaining two years of arbitration, reports Jon Heyman. The club offered him a contract “well above” Rangers lefty Derek Holland’s five-year, $30 million deal signed on March 20 last year.
Cubs president Theo Epstein isn’t worried, citing a shared interest in a continued partnership:
“He really wants to be here, and we really want to keep him, so I’m not worried about it,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this spring.
Epstein isn’t kidding about Samardzija wanting to remain a Cub. In fact, Samardzija, a native of northwest Indiana (Valparaiso, ostensibly a Chicago exurb) doesn’t hide his love for the Cubs, or for Cubs bosses. Well beyond saying there’s “no bad blood,” he speaks glowingly of his bosses, the folks who gave him a chance to move from the bullpen into the rotation, setting in motion this big-bucks negotiation.
“It’s nice to work for people who want me here. I want to show they are not wrong,” Samardzija said earlier this spring. “A lot of it is up to me and how I perform on the field.”
The two sides avoided arbitration in January, agreeing on a one-year, $2.64 contract.
Samardzija pitched out of the rotation exclusively for the first time his career in 2012 and had great results. He finished with a 3.81 ERA in 174.2 innings and was one of only 19 qualified NL starters to average three strikeouts for every one walk. Of those 19, he was one of three to also average a strikeout per inning of work.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.