Cubs could keep Samardzija, go after Tanaka
Chicago continues to explore options in pitching market at Winter Meetings
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs feel they can fit both Jeff Samardzija and Masahiro Tanaka in their budget if the Japanese pitcher becomes available. It also could depend on what it will take to get Samardzija to stay.
Samardzija, 28, the Cubs' Opening Day starter who racked up 200 innings and 200 strikeouts this season, has been talking to the team about a long-term extension. He made $2.64 million this year.
"I think we've made it really clear that he's a guy we'd like to keep," Chicago general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday at the Winter Meetings. "We love the way he competes, and he's continued to improve as a pitcher. Certainly having him as a Cub is a desirable outcome."
Tanaka's status has yet to be determined as Major League Baseball and Japanese baseball officials try to update the posting system. The Cubs expect to be part of the process regarding Tanaka, 25, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 28 regular-season games with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Neither Samardzija nor Tanaka will be cheap. Samardzija will be a free agent after the 2015 season. All he has to do is look at recent contracts for starting pitchers to know he could cash in. Phil Hughes, 27, recently got a three-year, $24 million deal from the Twins.
"They're not attached at all -- it's not an either/or type thing," Hoyer said about being able to afford the two pitchers. "We obviously like Samardzija a lot, and Tanaka is a talented pitcher. We're not looking at them joined or not joined. There's no influence on each other."
Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spent Monday at the Winter Meetings talking to representatives of free agents in attempts to find more pitching.
There also were reports that the Cubs were talking to the Nationals about acquiring reliever Drew Storen, who saved 43 games in 2011, posting a 2.75 ERA that season. In four years with the Nationals, Storen, 26, has compiled a 3.40 ERA in 232 games. Last season, he appeared in 68 games and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. The right-hander was the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
The Cubs' bullpen ranked 13th in the National League with a 4.04 ERA, while giving up the second-most walks (210) and fourth-highest number of runs (226) in 2013.
"One of the biggest regrets from last year is you felt like we did have a good rotation for the first four months of the season; you look at how close our games were and you look at the run differential," Hoyer said. "I think it's a stretch to say we should've been in contention and should have been competing with the other three teams in our division, but we should've been closer to .500, and we weren't in part because we couldn't win games we were supposed to win."
Hoyer felt some of the pitchers acquired in trades, such as Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm, will help the Cubs' bullpen next year, but the club is looking to add more.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.