LOS ANGELES — How much is a Player of the Week award worth in contract negotiations?
Not as much as a 200-inning season or the league lead in strikeouts or an ERA significantly better than the league average.
OK, maybe not much at all.
But the fact that Jeff Samardzija was named co-Player of the Week in the National League on Monday was at least a sign of the level of work he has done since a rough, five-week stretch of starts that began to cast doubt on his value.
He’s the first Cub to win the award since Ryan Dempster in June of last season and only the third Cubs pitcher to win it in the last decade (also Carlos Zambrano in 2008, the week he threw his no-hitter).
Samardzija’s complete-game win over the Nationals on Monday, followed by Saturday’s nail-biter effort over eight innings in a 3-2 victory in San Diego, suggests major-league scouts who said recently he looked fatigued might be wrong.
And if he keeps up the strong work over his final six starts – including Friday’s series opener against Ryne Sandberg’s Phillies – then he should have a strong starting place when negotiations for a long-term contract start up again in the fall.
Samardzija turned down a club-friendly, five-year offer last year because he was confident that he could prove his frontline-caliber value given an opportunity – for the first time this year – to go start to finish in the rotation for the full season.
He’s 8-11 with a 4.03 ERA in a career-high 176 1/3 innings so far, with 175 strikeouts. Friday will be his 28th start, matching his career high.
After weeks of getting badgered with questions about whether his contract status and recent trade rumors were behind some of his struggles, Samardzija was asked by one wise-guy reporter Saturday night about “any distractions” affecting him this past week.
“Not really, man,” he said with a smile. “Not that I can think of.
“It’ll be all right.”