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


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.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.