Cubs

No Cubs reunion: Jeff Samardzija’s bets pay off with $90 million deal from Giants

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No Cubs reunion: Jeff Samardzija’s bets pay off with $90 million deal from Giants

Jeff Samardzija just kept betting on himself, supremely confident in his own abilities and the escalating price for pitching, and it’s paying off with a five-year, $90 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Samardzija’s final decision came down to the Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, a source close to the negotiations said Saturday, with the two National League West rivals reacting to the stunning news that Zack Greinke had agreed to a reported six-year, $206 million megadeal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Cubs kept up a dialogue with Samardzija’s representatives – president of baseball operations Theo Epstein even met with the pitcher at a Southport Corridor bar before Thanksgiving – but saw where the negotiations would be heading and pivoted toward John Lackey.

The Cubs reached an agreement with Lackey on a two-year, $32 million deal, an industry source confirmed Friday, hours before Greinke stunned the baseball world by turning down the Dodgers and ending his partnership with Clayton Kershaw.

[MORE CUBS: Cubs upgrade playoff-caliber rotation with $32 million deal for John Lackey]

The Giants viewed Samardzija as Plan B after Greinke, clearly looking beyond a disappointing season with the White Sox (11-13, 4.96 ERA) that saw him lead the American League in hits (228) and earned runs allowed (118).

Samardzija didn’t click with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and will probably benefit from a better defense behind him, lineups without the designated hitter, an ideal pitching environment and the pennant-race intensity that comes with a franchise that has won three World Series titles since 2010.

The Cubs thought Samardzija could bounce back while working with pitching coach Chris Bosio and rediscover what made him an All-Star in 2014, a breakthrough performance that allowed them to acquire young shortstop Addison Russell from the Oakland A’s.

Samardzija has been inconsistent throughout his career (47-61, 4.09 ERA), but he’s thrown less than 1,000 innings in the big leagues and perceived to be a good bet to stay healthy, given his size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and NFL-level athleticism.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Shark’s also not afraid of the bright lights or the pressure that comes with a big contract. His 31st birthday is next month and the Giants clearly believe it could all come together in the Bay Area.

This is also the going rate for someone who’s made at least 32 starts and accounted for 200-plus innings in each of the last three seasons.

So maybe it wasn’t such a big gamble for the Notre Dame All-American wide receiver to choose baseball over the NFL, or the up-and-down reliever to lobby Epstein to become a starter, or turn down long-term extension offers from the Cubs and White Sox.

You might think $90 million sounds crazy now, but this is where the industry is at, throwing money around before the winter meetings that begin Monday in Nashville, Tennessee. And don’t let the long hair and laid-back off-the-field attitude fool you. The Shark always understood baseball economics, dude.

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

Cubs not concerned after another back issue for Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs entered play Sunday 1.5 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central with exactly five weeks of action to play. 

So now would be an awful time for the Cubs to lose one of their best players and a key to their offense for an extended period of time.

But the organization wasn't overly concerned about Anthony Rizzo's back prior to Sunday's series finale with the Nationals at Wrigley Field, a game in which he was not in the lineup (Ian Happ started at first base instead).

Rizzo was forced out of Saturday's game in the fifth inning with mid-back tightness and this is far from the first time the All-Star first baseman has dealt with back issues. He missed four games in mid-May with a back problem and needed a trip to the injured list in April of last season for the same reason.

But this instance isn't necessarily related to the others.

"A little bit different spot, he said, so we're not as concerned," Joe Maddon relayed Sunday morning. "It's normally in just a little bit of a different spot. When I talked to him [Saturday], Anthony was pretty optimistic. I'll just wait and see what [trainers] say."

Maddon also said Rizzo was still pretty sore/stiff Sunday morning before receiving treatment from the Cubs medical staff. Barring a "miracle cure," the manager didn't see any way he would insert Rizzo into Sunday's game, even as a pinch-hitter.

The Cubs only had three position players on the bench for the last week as they rolled nine deep in the bullpen. That left them in a bit of a pickle for Saturday's game when Rizzo exited early, but to make up for it Sunday, they called David Bote back up to the big leagues and put reliever Derek Holland on the 10-day IL with a left wrist contusion.

Rizzo and the Cubs have the benefit of an off-day Monday to help aid his recovery. But this inconsistent lineup could really use his bat every day, especially over the next week with three games against the Mets in New York (against Marcus Stroman, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard) before the Brewers come into Wrigley for a four-game set.

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

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USA TODAY

Cubs recall David Bote from Triple-A with Anthony Rizzo's back ailing

David Bote's minor league stint didn't last long.

After demoting the 26-year-old to Triple-A Iowa on Monday, the Cubs recalled Bote on Sunday. In a corresponding move, the team placed Derek Holland (left wrist contusion) on the 10-day injured list.

Bote's return comes on the heels of Anthony Rizzo exiting Saturday's game due to mid-back tightness. Rizzo has dealt with back issues at various points in his career, missing four games in May this season with a similar ailment. 

The Cubs activated Steve Cishek off the injured list Tuesday, with the reliever filling Bote's vacancy on the 25-man roster. Thus, the Cubs had been playing with 14 pitchers and 11 position players for much of this week. Had they not recalled Bote, they Cubs would've had to play Sunday's game with just Victor Caratini and Tony Kemp available off the bench.

A similar situation occurred Saturday, as Rizzo exited the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. To save the Cubs from running out of position players, reliever Kyle Ryan took his at-bat in the sixth inning. Although he drew a walk, Ryan was thrown out attempting to take third base on a pitch that got away from Nationals catcher Yan Gomes.

Holland was hit by a comebacker in Tuesday's game against the Giants. Him landing on the injured list leaves Ryan as the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen. The former holds a 5.74 ERA this season in 43 overall games between the Cubs and Giants, though that number is a more respectable 4.66 in 12 appearances with the Cubs.

Bote is hitting .257/.352/.429 with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 106 games (268 at-bats) this season. 

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