In an expected procedural move, today the Chicago Cubs declined a $3.25 million 2012 option on reliever Jeff Samardzija, which option was included as a part of the original Major League deal he signed when he was drafted back in 2006. The team, however, is expected to re-sign Samardzija – he has only a hair over two years of service time, so he’s not even yet arbitration-eligible. That means the Cubs can “renew” his contract for an amount they decide (which will likely be a bit over $2 million).

In case you’re wondering why we haven’t discussed Samardzija’s option here – while discussing the Ryan Dempster and Aramis Ramirez options ad nauseum – it’s because Samardzija was always expected to return to the Cubs, but the option was unlikely to be picked up. Because Samardzija remains under team control for 2012 either way, there wasn’t a whole lot of drama (I can only assume the option was built into his deal as a hedge against Samardzija becoming a superstar – that way, the Cubs would have had a way to recoup some of the value they gave up by giving Samardzija a $10 million, Major League contract out of college).

Samardzija became one of the team’s best relievers this year, posting a 2.97 ERA and 1.295 WHIP in 88 innings of work. He struck out 87 batters in those 88 innings, and was dominant in the second half of the season. He’ll go into 2012 either as one of the Cubs’ top setup men, or with a chance to win a rotation spot – as he’s been hoping to do for years.

  • Kyle

    Close, but not quite.

    They can’t renew his contract for less than 80% of what he made last year, or about $2.6 million. This did save them a few hundred thousand, though, and it’s nice to see the organization care about the little efficiencies.

    • TWC

      “They can’t renew his contract for less than 80% of what he made last year…”  … or 70% of his salary from the year before that ($2.1m).

      • hansman1982

        if this is accurate the Cubs could pay him as little as $1.57M which would save $1.68M or Koyie Hill’s 2012 salary.

        • TWC

          The $2.1m that I quoted was the 70% figure.  He earned $3m in 2010.  But in any case his 2012 compensation can’t be less than the $2.64m (80% of his 2011 salary) that Kyle quoted.  So why did I chime in and confuse the situation?  Slow day at work, that’s why.

    • Brett

      Thanks, Kyle.

      It was my understanding that the 80% rule applied only to arbitration awards, but I’ll have to review that provision of the collective bargaining agreement. In the interim, I’ve updated the posted to use the more generic, uninformative language you’d find in the paper.

      Edit: you’re spot-on right. This is a pretty atypical circumstance, and the reduction issue usually comes up in the arbitration context, so I made an erroneous assumption. My bust.

      • TWC

        Huh.  I never considered that 80%/70% rule being for arbitration-only salaries.  If that’s correct then he could be forced to accept the league minimum?  How’s THAT for a slap across the face?!  Wow.

        The problem with editing replies is that follow-up replies look particularly insane.

        • Brett

          All a part of the plan.

  • johnbres2

    How does this work?  They can decline his option, yet they still have exclusive rights to him?

    • Kyle

      When a player comes up the majors, he is under team control until they release him or he accrues enough service time (6 years) to become a free agent.

      After 3 years (sometimes almost 3 is good enough, but that’s complicated) of service time, a player can take the team to arbitration to decide his salary for the upcoming year.

      Before a player is arbitration eligible, the team simply owns their rights. They have two choices: 1) Sign a contract for whatever the club is offering them. 2) Reject the contract.

      If they reject the contract, the club has the right to simply “renew” the player’s contract and fill in whatever number they want (except it can’t be less than 80% of what the player made the year before, and it can’t be below the MLB minimum).

      Samardijza won’t be arbitration eligible until next offseason, so the Cubs can renew him for 80% of what he made last year.

  • die hard

    they should pay him 125% of what he made given reliability as season went on

  • johnbres2

    thanks a lot Kyle.

  • Hawkeye

    Wow, 6 posts already and the days not over yet.   I was worried that the update action would decline in the off season, but you have managed to keep the news coming.   Thanks for the quality reading today Brett.

    • Brett

      I do my best, Hawk. The offseason often comes in fits and spurts like that. I suspect this one will be particularly busy, though.

  • hansman1982

    What the Cubs need to do is sign Dick Tidrow to play 3b next year, resign Koyie Hill for $16 million to be Dempsters personal catcher and make Soriano player/manager so he can earn his salary.

    • Andrew

      I like your thinking. We’ll probably need to start Z at 1st, given his size and power bat. Gotta get that bat in the lineup every day and keep his infectious attitude on the team.

      Also, I’d say that Castro is probably just about washed up as a shortstop, but you can’t deny that he still has a cannon of an arm. He should probably be the closer.

      • Internet Random

        That’s what everybody thinks, but here’s what I think: Mike Quade in center field. It just makes sense.

    • die hard

      youve been in my egg nog?

  • Tony

    This seems a bit strange to me. I understand it probably makes good business sense but they are essentially rewarding one of our top relievers of the 2nd half by giving him a pay cut. Sure he may have been overpaid in the past but he seems to have figured things out this season and is one pitcher I’d want to keep on side going into the next few years.

  • cubsklm

    Baseball is a business. Owners know it. Players know it.
    This was just a good business. It’s how the game is played.

    Let’s see how he does next year, then the real contract talk begin.

    Hendry would’ve signed him to a 5 year 200 million dollar deal with a no trade clause.

  • die hard

    Quade should file suit to challenge decision to fire him even tho with pay cause firing adversely affects future as manager. He should challenge to set precedent like Curt Flood did for ballplayers. Q could do likewise for managers. A 2 year contract means 2 years in the dugout.

    • jstraw

      It’s a pity that this isn’t how a contract works…and that he hasn’t…you know…been fired yet. Have some more egg nog.

  • wax_eagle

    @Brett – I assume this means the NTC Smarjdjiza was reported to have would also be null and void, correct?

    • Brett

      That is an excellent question. While I don’t know for *certain,* here’s why the answer should be yes: the NTC was a part of his original, five-year contract, which has expired. The NTC may have been built into the 2012 option – which is, itself, essentially a new contract – but, since the option was declined, there is no contract, and Samardzija’s deal reverts to the standard player agreement. Because Samardzija isn’t a 10/5 guy, I don’t see a way that he could have retained the rights of a NTC.

    • Fishin Phil

      Great point!  I’m certainly not anxious to see him traded now that he is finally starting to perform, but it is nice to have the flexibility.