There’s been a lot of talk this off-season about several different players involving the Chicago Cubs. Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Prince Fielder, Alfonso Soriano and Anthony Rizzo have all received a ton of media attention surrounding the Cubs. All of them deserved that attention as well. However, one Cub I have read or heard little about this winter is RHP Jeff Samardzija. So, here’s my tribute to the “Shark”.
He’s just turned 27 just a few days ago, so belated “Happy Birthday”! I felt the Cubs organization really messed up the progression of his development early in his career. In 2008, he was a late season call up and had decent success posting 2.28 ERA in 27.2 innings pitched as a reliever. That was after making 21 starts between AA & AAA. In 2009, Samardzija made 17 starts for AAA Iowa and pitched 34.2 innings with the Cubs primarily as a reliever with the big league team posting a 7.53 ERA. He did manage to to make 2 starts for the Cubs in 2009 as well. In 2010, the Cubs had him both start and pitch from the bullpen in Iowa and with the Cubs. If you haven’t noticed, the Cubs couldn’t decide whether to make him a starter or reliever. I believe this hurt his progression. Plus, he did bounce back and forth from Iowa to Chicago. Last year, 2011, the Cubs defined his role as a full time reliever and he had his most successful season yet. He pitched 88 innings with 87 strikeouts and a 2.97 ERA. I think he will only get better and will build off this season. While there is a part of me that still thinks he could convert back to the starting rotation, I believe he is best suited for the bullpen and could eventually become a closer making Carlos Marmol available to trade. The reason I even bring up Marmol is the fact he has control issues with the strike zone and his delivery makes me think that Tommy John surgery is a part of his future.
In 2012, I look for Samardzija to work as a setup man and middle reliever. If he can put together another strong season I would be extremely pleased. Remember, he’s still young and valuable.