Cubs made offer “well above” five years, $30 million to Jeff Samardzija

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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.

Pujols hits 701st career home run, connects for Cardinals

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ST. LOUIS — Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 701st home run, connecting Friday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Pujols launched a slider from former teammate Johan Oviedo over the Big Mac Land sign in left field at Busch Stadium. The solo drive in the fourth inning made it 1-all.

Pujols faced Oviedo for the first time and made the 24-year-old righty the 456th different pitcher he’s homered against.

The St. Louis star hadn’t homered in a week since hitting No. 699 and 700 at Dodger Stadium last Friday. Pujols had gone 10 at-bats without a home run after two starts and one pinch-hit appearance.

The Busch Stadium crowd gave the 42-year-old Pujols a long standing ovation before he came out of the Cardinals dugout to tip his cap for a curtain call.

Pujols hit his 22nd home run this season for the NL Central champion Cardinals.

Pujols is fourth on the career home run list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).