Epstein: Samardzija Cubs' Opening Day starter
President of baseball ops puts trade rumors to bed, says club done talking about it
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein met Wednesday with Jeff Samardzija's agent at the Winter Meetings, and he said as of now, the pitcher is the team's Opening Day starter. Samardzija also doesn't appear to be any closer to agreeing to a long-term contract.
Samardzija will be a free agent after the 2015 season. His name has been mentioned in trade rumors, but interested teams have not been able to meet the Cubs' demands. Samardzija is coming off his first 200-inning, 200-strikeout season.
"Every time we meet with [agent Mark Rodgers], I feel great about the relationship and the relationship with Jeff, too," Epstein said. "Talks are amicable, open. We're transparent about the situation and our interests, and he's transparent about Jeff's desires and interests.
"We continue to try to move the ball forward as much as we can on one of two or three possible outcomes. There hasn't been any fundamental change in the situation. Communication is good and we continue to view Jeff as a really big part of what we're doing, even as we admit there are several possible outcomes."
And that's that as far as Epstein is concerned. He won't be giving daily briefings on Samardzija's status.
"At some point, I don't think Jeff deserves to read about this every day," Epstein said. "It's a tough thing to read about someone speculating on where you're going to work. We'll put it to bed. The situation now is Jeff's our Opening Day starter and that's how we're moving forward."
Epstein said he and general manager Jed Hoyer will stop answering questions about Samardzija's status.
"I don't want Jeff to have to read the paper every day that there's speculation that he might be traded or not," Epstein said. "We're asked about all of our good players all the time, and it's no surprise we're asked about Jeff Samardzija. There's no trade imminent, and we'll see what happens. We hope he's here for a long time."
Agent Boras says Cubs taking 'small market approach'
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If Cubs fans are upset at how long it's taking the team to complete its rebuilding process, they have a friend in agent Scott Boras.
"The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say that they're going to compete on all fronts to win a division or build a franchise," Boras told reporters at the baseball Winter Meetings on Wednesday when asked about the Cubs.
"Obviously, it's internal and I know the fans and baseball [operations] people have a plan afoot," Boras said. "It's just that normally with major market teams, you see a little bit different approach than you see here [with the Cubs]. This is more of a small market approach, if you will."
The Cubs' plan since Theo Epstein took over as president of baseball operations prior to the 2012 season is to develop their own players in an effort to build a solid foundation of homegrown talent. That includes two of Boras' clients, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant.
"I think everybody knows that we have great respect for their baseball people there," Boras said of the Cubs' front office. "They've done a great job in the Draft. They know what they're doing. The real thing has nothing to do with the baseball people or how the organization is run. It's just the fact that you have a major market team that has dramatically more revenues than most clubs that do take this type of approach.
"The Cubs have the capacity to sign any player they want in baseball. The question is whether they think it fits their plan."
Epstein said he had a great relationship with Boras and seemed more amused by the comments.
"It's not the first time an agent has used the media to try to compel a team into spending huge amounts of money without knowledge of that club's financial situation," Epstein said. "It's not a surprise, and we're not going to get into a war of words with Scott, other than to say the folks who work at the Cubs probably have a better understanding of our situation than he does. We look forward to working with him and to continue to sign his players."
Chicago City Council approves parts of Wrigley plan
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a variety of items that are part of the $500 million renovation plan for Wrigley Field, but the Cubs still have some issues to resolve.
The Cubs will not begin the project until rooftop club owners agree not to sue the team to block outfield advertising signage proposed for left and right field.
When asked at baseball's Winter Meetings about the project and discussions, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein called the matter a "complicated landscape."
"It feels like there's momentum because of the approvals," Epstein said, "but we clearly haven't achieved all the conditions necessary to start, or else we would have. They're working on a lot of different fronts to remove those conditions so we can start. We look forward to it as soon as possible."
The Chicago City Council approved expanding the ballpark's footprint so the exterior outfield walls can go up to 25 feet onto Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. The Cubs will pay $3.75 million over 10 years for neighborhood improvements in return. The change will accommodate the supports for the outfield signage, among other things.
The council approved a "branding arch" over Clark Street in lieu of a pedestrian bridge.
The Cubs also will be able to play 35 night games per season, and add eight more, including three Saturday night games, to accommodate national television. The team will provide added security and free remote parking for up to 1,000 cars.
No work will be done prior to the start of the 2014 season. The proposed renovations are expected to take five years, and will include expanding the home and visitors' clubhouses, adding concessions and restrooms as well as installing a video scoreboard in left field and a see-through sign in right.
The Cubs are not expected to select a player in the Major League portion of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, but they may take a player in the later rounds.
The Cubs lost their pick in the Major League portion after the Phillies filed a grievance regarding Chicago's use of reliever Lendy Castillo. In December 2011, the Cubs selected Castillo from the Phillies' organization, and he spent most of the 2012 season on the disabled list with a groin injury.
Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must stay on a team's active roster for the entire season. To prevent abuse of the Draft, the player selected must be active for at least 90 days. That keeps teams from selecting players and placing them on the DL for the majority of the season.
Last year, the Cubs picked Hector Rondon from the Indians' organization in the Rule 5 Draft.
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.