jeff samardzija gatorade showerIn the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline this year, the unthinkable happened: Jeff Samardzija’s name popped up in multiple, credible trade rumors. Outside of the front office’s willingness to discuss any player in trade – you always at least listen – there were reports dating back to Spring Training that discussions between the Cubs and Samardzija on an extension were not proceeding well, and the Cubs might be looking to cash in on his value while they could.

Fast-forward to October, and the Cubs did not trade Samardzija, who is now coming off a 4.34 ERA season (but which looks quite a bit better by the advanced metrics). The Cubs have control over Samardzija for the next two seasons via arbitration, but have made no secret that they’d like to lock him up to a longer-term deal. Talks on such a deal are expected to pick back up this offseason, but sources tell Gordon Wittenmyer that an extension is a “long shot” at this point, given the gap in the two sides’ positions. If an extension doesn’t happen this offseason, and if the Cubs struggle out of the gate next year, we’ll once again hear multiple, credible trade rumors involving Samardzija next July.

I recently wrote about the implications of exploding salaries and the recent trend of mega extensions for in-house stars. With more and more money available to had to marginal talent in free agency, I wondered at what point the pendulum would swing sufficiently far that young, star players are more willing to risk injury or ineffectiveness on the way to a huge free agent score.

Might Jeff Samardzija be such a player?

In some ways, Samardzija could be the perfect player to resist extension overtures in the era of exploding salaries. He’s already banked more than $15 million in salary, so there isn’t the same impetus to get that first big score. His baseball card stats look far worse than his advanced stats, and as appreciation for the latter expands, he might be in a better position to cash in two years from now than today.

You can’t blame a guy for betting on himself, and you also can’t blame the Cubs for being unwilling to pay free agent market price for a guy with two more arbitration years left (and a relatively limited track record of success as a starter). For my part, I’ve long seen the five-year, $55 million Matt Harrison extension as a comparable for Samardzija talks. That extension came after two successful years as a starter, and two years prior to Harrison reaching free agency.

Having made $2.64 million in his first year of arbitration in 2013, I’d think Samardzija would be in line for a raise to something in the $5 million range for 2014. Another successful year, and he could be around $8 to $10 million in 2015. From there, it’s hard to project what kind of salary Samardzija would command in free agency, given the steep rise in market rates over the last two years, and given the uncertainty of Samardzija’s performance.

If Samardzija got $55 million for the next five years, he’d be getting, essentially, $40 million or so for those first three years of free agency. Market price? No. But, given those uncertainties, and the fact that the Cubs would be committing that cash years in advance, it’s a perfectly reasonable deal for both sides. If Samardzija is demanding considerably more than that, I could understand the Cubs’ hesitation.

  • Aaron

    In all, Jeff Samardzija is a polarizing sports figure in Chicago. Some fans love him…many hate him. What I’ve learned living in Chicago, if you’re going to on one of our sports teams and have the attitude and chip on your shoulder, you better deliver the goods. Shark hasn’t done that yet.

    He’s a great pitcher, a true number 1, from the 1st inning through the 4th and sometimes the 5th. If he can get into the 6th and 7th innings without giving up the lead from a home run with men on base, he would be guy he thinks he is and the player Cub fans hope will deliver a winner on the north side.

    • YourResidentJag

      Which is why they need to find a market for him this offseason. The more this goes, the more of a distraction it becomes.

  • Aaron

    If Shark has a solid season in 2014 fans will want him to stay, while others will yell to trade him now. Either way…this will be a distraction for him and will more than likely affect his performance on the field. I suggest that the Cubs should seriously listen to offers this off-season for Shark. The team, nor new manager, do not need any more distractions.

  • Voice of Reason

    What type of distractions would you possibly have to worry about when you’re losing 90+ games a year?

    Christ, I’ll bet the team loved it when Shark went off. The media focused on him instead of how terrible the team was.

  • Aaron

    V.O.R. – Playing for the Cubs is like playing in a fish bowl…with both fans and the media. There is so much pressure for players to perform (see Castro and Rizzo) that it gets in their heads and affects their performance on the field. Look at how Shark started the season and ended up with an 8-13 win/loss record. The pressure cooker of an environment got to many players towards the end of the season. Dale took the brunt on this and eventually lost his job.

    • Voice of Reason

      Pressure to perform? Who are you kidding!

      The Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years and yet they are one of the top draws every year in MLB.

      What type of pressure to perform is that?

      • mjhurdle

        a ton of pressure. Anyone who plays for the Cubs is playing to end the longest championship drought in professional sports. There is a giant fanbase, and a national media that follows them. And when they start winning, the hopes and expectations only rise.
        Add in the fact that we always love to blame some player(s) when the Cubs don’t win, and i would imagine that the pressure to play for the Cubs is at least the same as other large market teams, and probably a notch higher.

  • Aaron

    Here you go:

    – We haven’t won a World Series since 1908
    – We haven’t been to a World Series since 1945
    – Chicago Cubs Billy Goat Curse
    – In 1984…ball through Leon Durham’s legs…lose series in spite of being up 2-0 out of a best of 5 series
    – In 2003….5 outs a way from the World Series…and then Steve Bartman
    – Major market team
    – Fans that are crazy and hungry for a winner
    – Media that covers the team 24/7, 365 days a year

    • Voice of Reason

      Where is there pressure to perform?

      All that crap you posted doesn’t matter.

      The pressure to perform will come when attendance drops substantially and the owners start to shit their pants. THAT’S when there will be pressure to perform.

      Until then, you can talk all you want about a goat, Steve Bartman and a major market team. BIG DEAL! As long as the fans keep showing up, nothing will change!

      • Voice of Reason

        Let me rephrase that last sentence….

        There is no need for anything to change as long as the fans keep showing up!

        I believe we’re heading in the right direction to win a World Series…. but….

        there is no pressure to perform at all at Clark and Addison.

      • mjhurdle

        that over-simplification would only be true if the players based their careers on how many people were in the seats when they play. There are too many other variables to consider when thinking of the pressure for playing for a professional sports team to simply it down to “if people still show up, then the players don’t care about performing well”.

  • Danno

    Didn’t read through all the posts but what about Samardzija and Castro for David Price straight up.

  • J. E. Cathey

    I have enjoyed Samardzija as a Cub. My thought is the front office needs to take a serious look into trading him. Samardzija has earned his pay based on his performance and durability. But as far as signing him to a F.A. market contract I don’t foresee him being worth the risk. As pointed out he has earned over $15M as he was paid well for potential. He’s advanced in age and has not established himself as a #1 or #2 pitcher. The only way I hang onto him is if the Front Office scouts feel that he still has a high ceiling and expects to develop well over the next year. Samardzija can certainly be a dominant pitcher in one game, go deep into a game, but then another game he gets hammered and gives up a lot of runs.

    Another aspect to consider is his willingness or desire to stay in Chicago. When the F.O. was trading away players that were contributing to the team this past season Samardzija was one of the most outspoken Cubs publicly stating his dissatisfaction. A few days later he did make a follow up statement that was a more generic, less passionate, response as to his better understanding for the future. My thoughts on this are he is unhappy and disagrees with the organizations vision. Samardzija is outspoken and confident. I appreciate that about him. I hope he is successful. His current behavior and appearance of frustration with the organization’s vision and talent surrounding him reminds me slightly of Greg Maddux at the end of his first tenure with the Cubs,

    Samardzija wants to win. He’s committed to his teammates and becoming a better player. I just don’t feel or think he’s going to be the ACE that will warrant and command the salary of a dominant SP. I’m worried that at the end of his contract will be too late to determine his true value and what he would be willing to accept.

    Final point I would trade him now as he has two years of team control, proven as a reliable pitcher, still young enough, has potential. The longer the Cubs F.O. waits, the more it will cost to sign him to an extension and the less they’d be able to recoup in prospects. The current trend is take a risk with younger, more affordable talent. Fortunately, Samardzija has stayed healthy but he’s close to wear Garza was two years ago. It’s a tough choice but we need to sell high on Samardzija.