What you need to know: Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija is headed to the Oakland Athletics. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

It is clear the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to upgrade their starting rotation, and many around the baseball industry expect the club to try and add one or two starting pitchers over the winter.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has been asking about a number of free agents, but he recently said he has yet to make an official offer to anyone on the market.

One of the most recent pitchers to be linked to the Blue Jays is Chicago Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija. Shi Davidi wrote this month that the team has expressed interest in Samardzija in the past, and it stands to reason that he could still be on Toronto’s radar.

Samardzija may not be a household name for the average baseball fan so here is the lowdown on the Cubs’ right-handed pitcher.

Jeff Samardzija | Age: 28 (will be 29 in January)

Position: RHP
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 225 pounds
College: Notre Dame
Drafted: 2006- 5th round (149th overall) by the Chicago Cubs

2013 stats: 33 GS, 8-13, 214 K, 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 213.2 IP

In 2013, Samardzija ranked in the top five in the National League in strikeouts per nine (9.0), innings pitched (213.2), games started (33) and complete games (2). He had a home run rate of 1.1 allowed per nine innings, a walk rate of 3.3 allowed per nine innings, 48.2 percent ground-ball rate, and a Wins Above Replacement of 2.8 (according to FanGraphs.com).

The Indiana native earned a salary of $2.64 million last season. He is arbitration-eligible and under team control for two more seasons with a projected salary of $4.9 million in 2014 (via MLB Trade Rumors).

Samardzija originally broke in with the Cubs as a reliever when he was called up briefly in 2008 to help out the bullpen. He caught the eye of then-manager Lou Piniella before becoming a full-time major league pitcher in 2011. He joined the rotation in 2012 where he pitched two seasons of 174-plus innings.

At Notre Dame, Samardzija was a two-sport star in baseball and football. He strongly considered going professional in football where he was an All-American receiver and projected as a first-round pick in the National Football League before settling on a career in baseball.

Samardzija would fit in with the Blue Jays as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. He would give the club another power arm that could pitch 200-plus innings. The Jays could be looking to add another right-hander to replace Josh Johnson, who signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the San Diego Padres last week. He has an array of pitches that includes of two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball, cutter, splitter, and slider.

According to various reports, the Cubs are asking for a young pitcher in exchange for Samardzija. There have been a few teams linked to him in rumors including the Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Washington Nationals.

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