Jeff Samardzija’s days in pinstripes are numbered

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I know this is interrupting the daily Kris Bryant homer, but bear with us, this is important.  Let’s start with what we currently know about Cubs (at least for now) ace Jeff Samardzija

 

This is a perfectly reasonable extension amount, and probably more than most of us think he’s worth at the moment.  Jeff is currently in the midst of his age 29 season, is under club control through the 2015 season, and he’s having the best season of his starting career so far.  While the Tampa Bay Rays are also about to dangle David Price on the trade market, Jeff Samardzija is no slouch with his durability and pitchability.  The thing is that Jeff is right to reject the current extension offer because he likely can get more as a free agent (though that does carry some risk as he may become injured or suffer performance setbacks prior to free agency) and the Cubs are right not to overpay as, again, the extension amount that was leaked is more than reasonable given his age and his current body of work.  Neither party is wrong here, and it unfortunately seems that the best course of action for both is through trade.  Behind the Ivy wrote a good summary late last month ranking the possible destinations given that about half the majors are “contending” for a playoff spot thanks to the extra wild card slot. While we were at the game against the Reds Monday night, it was revealed that many scouts were in attendance as usual in a Samardzija start, including from the Toronto Blue Jays.  I feel that I need to point this out…  

Maybe he'll get better offensive support on a contender...it probably won't be the Cubs though (Brian Kersey, Getty Images)

Maybe he’ll get better offensive support on a contender…it probably won’t be the Cubs though (Brian Kersey, Getty Images)

And this is absolutely the case in most of Jeff’s starts this season.  It’s not Jeff Samardzija’s fault that the Cubs offense can barely score more than a blogger stuck in his mom’s basement (hey wait a minute…).  After the opening frame jam, Samardzija shut down a lineup that included powerful hitters Todd Frazier (make the argument that he’s the best third baseman in the NL this year), Devin Mesoraco (1.035 OPS, insane especially for a catcher) and of course, former NL MVP Joey Votto who gets on base with the best of them but went 0-for-3 against Jeff.  Jeff struggled with some bad luck and deep counts against a patient lineup but still held them to that one run, while recording seven strikeouts in six innings for yet another quality start.  This has to get a few people talking, especially those from Behind the Ivy’s trade rankings list.

While I don’t necessarily think the Cubs have a true payroll ceiling despite their debt load and the wacky structure of the purchase from the Tribune, I do agree in principle with Dabynsky that maybe it’s not the best idea to pay out the nose for Jeff Samardzija to remain a Cub.  The five-year/$85MM extension that Jon Morosi referenced above is, again, a reasonable price point and I’m not comfortable with the Cubs going past it especially since we don’t know how truly close they are to contention just yet.  The Cubs will have plenty of payroll flexibility after they get out from Alfonso Soriano‘s expiring contract and only have to deal with a few arbitration raises plus the fixed costs of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Edwin Jackson‘s contracts.  This is a case of the Cubs knowing that they have the money to spend on Samardzija, but they just don’t feel it’s worth going past that $85MM number or the number of years, either.

What this does is it allows the Cubs to double-dip.  They should be able to trade Samardzija for a big haul as all the billion other Cubs and baseball blogs have said.  And the Cubs can actually wait the teams out because even with David Price on the market, Jeff Samardzija will remain an extremely valuable commodity (and arguably cheaper).  Tampa probably knows the Cubs will try to jump the market with Samardzija and teammate Jason Hammel and are probably trying to do some market-jumping themselves.

Price is a bit younger but has a ton more innings on that arm, and if I’m reading the Brooks data right, his velocity has dropped across the board.  When I look at Samardzija’s evolution as a starter, it seems that his velocity has remained steady.  Price still has the “stuff” and command needed to be a capable starter, but if I’m betting the farm, maybe I don’t overlook Samardzija either.  Again, cheaper, less mileage, more oomph on the fastball, and seemingly having figured out how to actually pitch this season.  With the developing arms within their system, the Cubs might be able to afford to let Samardzija go, refill the coffers, then bring those guys up or just use the money they were going to give Samardzija (and that they didn’t use on Masahiro Tanaka) to somebody like Max Scherzer or James Shields.  It doesn’t make sense from a business or baseball standpoint to go overboard on Samardzija’s extension when this option is available and seems much more attractive.  Of course, given what Dabynsky has argued, they might just save the money and hope the in-house guys can hold down the fort, but that’s another story for another day.

We’ll keep tabs on the trade market as it develops, but there are approximately three or four more starts for Samardzija before the All-Star break and perhaps less if they pull the trigger on a quick trade.  Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

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