Samardzija’s Bonus Won’t Set Record

Jeff Samardzija didn’t receive a record bonus, after all. But as he nears the time when he may have to pick between baseball and football, he might get his big payday just the same.

Baseball America reported last June that Samardzija had agreed to a deal with the Cubs that would pay him a $7.25 million bonus if he made baseball his sole focus. Sources familiar with the agreement now say it includes a $250,000 bonus, with the guarantee of another $250,000 if he reports to spring training. He still could receive a much more lucrative deal, however.

Samardzija has been better known as a standout wide receiver at Notre Dame, but major league teams are enamored of his baseball potential as well. The Cubs picked him in the fifth round last June. He was regarded as a potential first-round talent, but because of signability questions and the uncertainty surrounding his football future, he slid in the draft.

Samardzija, who holds all of the school’s notable receiving records, had more leverage than most baseball draft picks because of his football prowess. His professional value has been debated in the past few months, but he could go in the first or second round of the NFL draft in April.

Sources said the Cubs attempted to sign Samardzija to a series of one-year option contracts, which would have allowed him to make $7.25 million had the team picked up each of the options. But Major League Baseball refused to approve a minor league deal structured in that fashion, and Chicago didn’t want to give him a major league contract.

Samardzija is scheduled to report Sunday to Mobile, Ala., for a week of practice leading up to the Senior Bowl, an annual showcase for some of college football’s best prospects. Sources say that the Cubs would like to sign him to a baseball-only deal in the near future–perhaps before the Senior Bowl–with the total payout exceeding $7.25 million.

Though Samardzija remains raw on the mound, the Cubs believe he’ll have a consistent mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider if he commits to baseball full-time. He made seven starts this summer between short-season Boise and low Class A Peoria, going 1-2, 2.70 with 17 strikeouts in 30 innings.

With the clarification of Samardzija’s bonus, the draft record reverts to Justin Upton, who received $6.1 million from the Diamondbacks as the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.