Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija says he wants a big-money contract to help future players

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The Cubs and starter Jeff Samardzija avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.345 million deal back in February. There have been talks of a long-term contract extension, but they haven’t gone anywhere and the most likely scenario still involves the Cubs trading the right-hander during the season, and Samardzija hitting the free agent market after the season.

Samardzija isn’t going to settle, as Patrick Mooney details for CSN Chicago. His father has been part of a union for over 30 years and he supports Northwestern football players as they battle the NCAA for collective bargaining rights. Samardzija sees himself as part of the bigger picture — his ability to negotiate a big contract sets up the players that come after him in a better position to negotiate more player-friendly contracts.

“Without a doubt,” Samardzija said. “I’ve said it before: Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years.”

Samardzija, of course, is referring to the recent trend in which players have signed away some of their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible years, as well as some free agency years, for up front security. Over the off-season, the Braves signed five players to extensions, including Jason Heyward (two years, $13.3 million), Julio Teheran (six years, $32.4 million), Andrelton Simmons (seven years, $58 million), Craig Kimbrel (four years, $42 million), and Freddie Freeman (eight years, $135 million). It is the most glaring example of what teams are doing to save money while keeping talented players on the roster.

Mike Trout also made headlines with his six-year, $144.5 million deal with the Angels, which many believe significantly underpays him, particularly when compared to Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal signed two months earlier. Many believed that Trout would become baseball’s first $300 million man.

By pushing the boundaries further and further, other similarly-skilled players now and in the future have more leverage when they negotiate a contract. Trout, who may end up retiring as the most unique and unparalleled player of his generation, had the opportunity to push that boundary, but settled on a deal that gives him more financial security. By going through arbitration through 2017, Trout risked being underpaid in the immediate future, and he also risked suffering a potentially career-altering or career-ending injury, which could have cost him hundreds of millions of dollars. No one can fault Trout for taking that contract. Samardzija, however, is willing to take that risk for the betterment of his peers, which is admirable.

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.

J.R. Graham is in The Best Shape of his Life

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher J.R. Graham celebrates after the final out as the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 12-2 in  a baseball game, Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Twins won 12-2. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.

That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.

The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.

In the meantime:

“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”

It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.