The Importance of Perspective on a Jeff Samardzija Extension

jeff samardzija gatorade showerThis week will probably feature a heavy dose of Jeff Samardzija trade rumors. Such is the nature of the beast. Before we get there, though …

I’ve long been on the side of preferring to sign Samardzija to a reasonable extension. It’s easier to keep the front end arm you already have than to try and find one out there, and Samardzija feels like a good bet for the next four to five years. Say what you will of the Cubs’ timeline for competitiveness, but I’m quite certain they’d like to be popping out 90+ win seasons at some point before 2018.

But, as you know, there’s a significant problem in getting Samardzija to sign a reasonable extension right now: he’s already made more than $15 million in his career. The incentive to sign a team-friendly, life-changing extension isn’t there for Samardzija, who would prefer to bet on himself for the next two years and then try and score big in free agency. For that reason, some folks argue that the Cubs have to bend upward in their offer(s) to Samardzija, if they want to get him on a long-term team. Indeed, in a piece about the extend/trade Samardzija situation, Jesse Rogers argues, in essence, that Samardzija’s career earning level is a reason to step up the offer to Samardzija, closer to the free agent level dollars he’s looking for.

I do not agree with the folks on that side of the fence. Those big career earnings are a reason for Samardzija to bet on himself. That is not reason for the Cubs to give him more money. His value is his value. A reasonable deal is a reasonable deal.

The Cubs still control Samardzija, cheaply, for the next two years. The fact that he has personal reasons for wanting free agent level dollars in those two years as part of an extension is not a sufficient reason to give them to him. Heck, to my mind, it would be folly to guarantee Samardzija free agent level dollars in years 2016, 2017, and 2018 of the extension, too. Why in the world would the Cubs agree now to guarantee Samardzija the very prices he’ll hope to seek in two years? So very many things could go wrong in those two years, and, even if they don’t, the Cubs will have as much chance as any other team to bid on Samardzija at free agent level prices.

In other words, the fact that Samardzija might want a free agent level contract right now is not a reason to give it to him. It is, sadly, a reason to trade him.

With apologies to Samardzija – and with complete and total respect should he wish to keep betting on himself (good on you, man, go get yours) – the Cubs’ extension offer should top out at five years and about $61 million. It can be spread out however the sides would like, but it is, essentially, $5 million in 2014 (arbitration expectation), $8 million in 2015 (arbitration expectation), $15 million in 2016 (maximum reasonable rate – borderline free agent level), $16 million in 2017, and $17 million in 2018. If Samardzija wants a higher rate for the bought out free agent years, then maybe a three or four-year extension is in order instead. That’s probably less palatable to the Cubs, in terms of asset planning, but it would come with a lesser guarantee.

So, in the end, I come right back to where I’ve always been: a reasonable extension for Samardzija is the best option for the Cubs (and, hopefully, Samardzija). If that’s clearly not possible, the Cubs should do what they’re already doing, and listen to what’s out there in trade. Unless a clear-cut, fantastic offer comes, let Samardzija start 2014 with the Cubs, and re-evaluate in July.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

117 responses to “The Importance of Perspective on a Jeff Samardzija Extension”

  1. CubsFaninAZ

    Oh yeah and I wouldnt mind seeing the Cubs gamble on Roy Holladay . 1 year 10 mil , if he comes back healthy and strong he’ll net a better deal than Feldman.

    1. Norm

      He just retired.

    2. North Side Irish

      Halladay announced his retirement this morning…

      1. CubsFaninAZ

        Bad gamble then, hahaha

  2. The Logos

    Good thoughts, Brett, but I would up the number on buying out the arbitration years. Again, not giving him market value, but you have to give him some incentive to sign. If you pay him, say, 25% above what he would earn in arbitration years plus your value for free agent years, that would give him the incentive to sign. So, we are talking total value of about 5/65.

    In that scenario, the Cubs get value AND give Samardzija a reason to sign early.

  3. Adam

    Send Samardzija to the Dodgers for Zach Lee and Matt Kemp. Cubs need someone for fans to get excited about seeing, and Kemp could do that as well as provide protection in the middle of the lineup for Rizzo.

    1. rockin' dawg

      I would do that deal….not sure the Dodgers would.

      1. Adam

        Depends how much of Kemp’s deal the Cubs agreed to pay.

  4. CubsFaninAZ

    Oh dang I missed it, guess that aint a gamble worth taking. hahaha thanks for the heads up.

  5. cubmig

    The pay plan Brett lays out (as well as the reasoning) sounds good to this lay person and fan. I also like the comment by The Logos regarding assuring the offer is “incentive” packaged. Bottom line for me, is that it would be a shame to lose Samardzija. At some point, we have to stop looking over the fence where we think the grass is greener……..and at a gambler’s cost.

  6. Kyle

    I’m still not crazy about the “If they won’t sign a friendly long-term extensions, *must* trade” mentality. Sometimes it’s good to just use your cost-controlled players to help you win baseball games.

    But in the Cubs’ specific case, unless they have and plan to spend more money than they are letting on, I can see why they probably should go ahead and trade Samardzija.

  7. frank

    Just read that the sox are listening to offers on Sale, Santiago, and Quintana–might have an impact on the market . . .

  8. Justin

    Awesome stuff Brett. But to me the whole problem with the Samardzija extension is the no trade clause. Jeff has seen a lot of talented teammates leave at the deadline. Why would he give the Cubs a “hometown discount” if he could then be moved at this yrs deadline if the right deal comes along for the Cubs. Lets say he gets moved at the deadline this yr or next after giving the cubs a fair 5 yr 60 Mill extension. And lets say he gets moved to the Royals, Jeff essentially gave the royals the hometown discount then. Why in the hell would he want to give the Royals a discount? Just playing devils advocate, I really get both sides on this one.

  9. cubsin

    The Cubs have three windows for trading Shark – this winter, the 2014 trade deadline and next winter. My opinion is that we would probably get the best return at the trade deadline. The downside of waiting is an injury or a poor performance that reduces his value. The upside is that it gives the 2014 Cubs a more competitive team for the first two-thirds of the season, which should increase revenue and fan interest. As a side benefit, it also gives Shark more time to evaluate the likelihood that the Cubs are on their way to becoming a dominant team within the next three to five years,

    1. Edwin

      Two other downsides/risks is the possible lack of a market (not enough teams would be willing to meet the Cubs asking price), and the fact that the player will spend less games with any prospective team, so they’ll get less production out of him.

  10. Matt

    How about:

    A) an incentive-laden contract. That’s betting on yourself, right?
    B) a “free agent” contract, but heavier in the early years when the Cubs are going to suck anyway? I still think Jeff is a valuable player, and while that’d be an overpay, it’d allow more flexibility when the Cubs actually feel they can compete. They did this somewhat with EJax.

  11. walterj

    I agree with everything you said Brett . Very well said .

  12. Brains

    well explained, you’ve convinced me on this one to some extent. holistically this just seems like more of the same problems, in the context of the current team environment. there’s always an explanation for everything, but not everything deserves explanation after explanation.

  13. Ivy Walls

    Samardz is caught in a financial conundrum, he is 29 where is FA value is the highest, and 31 he is downside, and if he gets hurt his bet on himself is puff…unless he saved $5M from before and has a great investment.

    But then again if he hardballs the Cubs he loses nothing, because even if Cubs trade him his financial picture is the same, waiting for 2016…

    so I think he is traded…Cubs can’t afford not too, esp if teams are bidding him.

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