The Cubs' farm system is loaded with exciting, young position players that could begin to crest the majors this season, but they aren't quite ready to launch into an all-out invasion of the NL Central.
That could lead them to consider trading right hander Jeff Samardzija at some point in the near future, since the 29-year-old is set to become a free agent in 2016 -- which is likely their earliest real chance at competing. However, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has "made it clear" that his preference is to keep Samardzija with the team rather than trade him for young pitching, according to ESPN Radio's Jim Bowden.
For the better part of the winter, the two sides have been going back and forth in extension talks.
Samardzija knows he could be dealt, and that a change of scenery might come this season if an extension isn't agreed upon. He would have much more value as a two-year commodity than if the Cubs were to wait to shop him in 2015, when he will be less than a year away from free agency.
Over the last two seasons, Samardzija has posted a 4.10 ERA in 388⅓ innings, striking out more than a batter per inning over that span. However, he's put up an ERA- of just 103 since 2011 -- meaning he has been three percent worse than the rest of the league -- so his trade value might not be substantial enough for the Cubs to get an impact pitcher on the trade market. It's possible, but Chicago might see him as being more valuable than his ERA suggests.
Samardzija would like to remain with the Cubs, but their extension offer of five years and $55 million wasn't enough to secure him, so the two sides will presumably continue negotiating a deal until they reach an agreement, or until Chicago finds a trade partner willing to part with a considerable pitching prospect to acquire him.