It was reported Wednesday that the Cubs intend to listen to offers on right-hander Jeff Samardzija during next week’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, but they haven’t given up all hope in retaining him for the long-term.
Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago was told by a source that the Cubs have offered Samardzija a deal in the area of five years and $55 million. Meanwhile, another source said that the number is actually higher. While Cubs general manager Theo Epstein maintains that “nothing has changed” in regard to contract talks, Levine hears that the two sides “continue to have an open amicable line of communication.”
Samardzija compiled a 4.34 ERA in 33 starts this past season, but his peripherals remained quite strong. He has averaged 9.13 K/9 over the past two seasons, which is fifth-highest among pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched during the same timespan. Only Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Yu Darvish are higher. Samardzija turns 29 in January and is under team control for two more seasons.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.