With the trade deadline quickly approaching, the Chicago Cubs are looking at the players on their roster who they feel will bring back the biggest and best returns; on the very top of their list, is Jeff Samardzija. With 2014 being the best season in Samardzija’s career, with one and a half seasons left of team control, if the Cubs want to trade him, now is the perfect time to do so.
When the discussion turns to whether or not the Cubs should trade Samardzija, the fan base is split. The fans who do not want to trade Samardzija always ask the same questions, why do the Cubs want to trade Samardzija? How is trading their best pitcher going to bring them closer to contending for a playoff run, let alone a World Series title?
While Samardzija claims that he wants to be a member of the Cubs, he is unwilling to give any on his salary demands to sign a team friendly extension to stay in Cubbie blue. Even though he claims that he is not driven by money, he says that he wants to hit free agency so he can get that big money contract. He says that this is his plan and desire so he can help the players who come after him sign player friendly extensions. Seems to me as though he is filled with double talk.
Despite the Cubs numerous attempts to sign Samardzija to an extension, he has turned down all of their offers because they did not meet his desired asking price. Samardzija feels (and the Cubs obviously disagree), that he is worth a big dollar contract that pays him like an ace. In other words, he likely wants to be paid somewhere around $20 Million a year, which would fall in line with some of the other top pitchers around the league. With the two sides unable to reach an agreement, Samardzija is more than willing to bet on himself and test the free agent market.
Unfortunately, that puts the Cubs is a tough situation. If the Cubs do not trade Samardzija, they have a year and a half left to negotiate a contract with him. If the Cubs do not give in to Samardzija and give him the contract he wants, they are taking a huge risk. Once the 2015 season is over, Samardzija will hit free agency and all 30 teams will have the chance to bid on his services. The likelihood of the Cubs being the highest bidder are slim, which means they would get nothing more than draft pick compensation.
Even though many fans do not want the Cubs to trade Samardzija, they have to at least see why they want to. While all prospects are hit or miss (no matter how much they are touted around the league) they are still more valuable than a draft pick. The prospects are a somewhat known quality, where the draft picks are virtually unknown. Plus, the Cubs are likely to get at least two players back in any trade for Samardzija, instead of one in the draft.
I am still holding out hope that Samardzija lowers his salary demands and the Cubs are able to re-sign him. I would love nothing more than to see Samardzija wearing a Cubs uniform for his whole career, but I do not think he is worth the money he is likely seeking. While he is the Cubs best pitcher, and technical their “Ace”, I do not think that he is a true “ace pitcher”. There are very few true “Ace pitchers” around the league who would be the number one pitcher on any staff, and sad to say Samardzija is not one of them. If he is willing to bet on himself, waiting to sign what he hopes to be a big dollar contract, he is taking a huge risk.
Without taking the security the Cubs are offering, he is gambling that he will stay healthy the next year and a half. Pitchers seem to be falling to the injury bug all around baseball, an while that does not mean he will get injured, you cannot count that out. He is also banking that he will continue to pitch as well as he has the past few months for the next year and a half, keeping his value high. If either of those things fail to remain as is, his big dollar free agent dreams are dashed before they even started. Sure, he will still get a good deal in free agency, but an injured pitcher or one who is seen as inconsistent will not get a big deal in free agency. They will get a deal like what the Cubs gave to Edwin Jackson. That is an offer far below what Samardzija is seeking.
Even if he stays healthy and continues to pitch this well, I still am not sure he will get the type of money he is seeking. He certainly will not get his demands met by the Cubs, and maybe not by one of the other teams around baseball. I do not believe he will get much more than $16-18 Million a year for four years on the open market. That may not be what he is looking for, but may be what he has to settle for.
So when the question is why trade Samardzija, I think the reasons why are pretty clear. The risk of keeping him with his salary demands are too high, and the rewards of trading him to an interested team vastly outweigh the compensation of letting him simply walk away.