There isn't much to be excited about in this Chicago Cubs pitching staff. There is depth sure, but there are only two or three true quality arms in the rotation. One of those arms is the breakout pitcher of 2012, Jeff Samardzija.
After the laughter subsided following Samardzija's declaration that he wanted to be in the rotation, he went out and dazzled all of us in spring training. That spring dazzling continued into the summer, as he pieced together the best year of his career.
Shark finished with a 3.81 ERA and over nine strikeouts per nine, while walking under three. That last mark is particularly huge, as Samardzija has had his issues with walks in his brief time in the Major Leagues. His average fastball velocity sat at about 95, which was second best in the league.
In each of his start, as he reached the later innings, Samardzija was still throwing gas and striking guys out. If his breaking stuff continues to come along the way that it has the past two years, he can be downright dominant in the very near future.
That type of performance, along with the arsenal of pitches that he does possess, has already sparked talk of a contract extension for the former Notre Dame standout. He's arbitration eligible, but is still under team control until he becomes a free agent in 2016. Which means that while an extension might be a good idea, it's not an absolute necessity at this point.
And apparently the Cubs are going to wait a year before making that type of commitment to Samardzija. The two sides are reported to be working on a one-year deal to get them through this year before moving onto extension talks next winter. There's nothing wrong with waiting just to make sure that his 2012 campaign wasn't any sort of fluke.
But it's hard to imagine that he was. Samardzija's stuff is for real, and he doesn't have much mileage on his arm, given that he was a reliever for several years before making the jump to the rotation last year. However, another year like this one is going to cost the Cubs some serious coin next winter. Of course, another year like this one would establish Shark as a no. 1 or 2 starter and make that type of investment absolutely worth it.