To be sure, it’s not as if I don’t think the Cubs can afford a $100 million pitcher. They can. For the right guy, they would.
But, even as we’ve tracked the team’s clear interest in a reunion with free agent Jeff Samardzija, there was always going to be a limit on what the Cubs would spend to make it happen. Not because they couldn’t afford it. Simply because they shouldn’t, given the other available options and their range of needs.
Where is that price going to land, though? Conflicting rumors this week had Samardzija at something between a three-year deal (too low to be realistic) and a $100 million deal (too high to be a good risk). My best guess was that the reality of Samardzija’s market would probably fall somewhere in the middle. And that’s what Bruce Levine is reporting:
$18 million is the going AAV for Jeff Samardzija . How many years ? Source confirms one team has offered $90 million .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 4, 2015
A five-year, $90 million deal for Samardzija isn’t absolutely crazy, but it’s also not something where you’re leaving yourself much room for upside.
Perhaps, then, it’s not a surprise to see this report from Jayson Stark:
Cubs remain interested in a reunion with Jeff Samardzija. But buzz in the industry is that his price is rising beyond their comfort level
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 4, 2015
I’m not backing down from my previous position that Samardzija is among my favorite targets in this free agent class (and you can read more on how good he could still be in Michael’s deep dive here), but I also can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s an enormous class. That’s before you even consider the trade options available to the Cubs.
On a four-year, $70ish million deal? I think the Cubs would need to be very seriously interested. But that’s right near the line where if you start tacking on a little AAV and a year or two, it gets a lot more difficult to pull the trigger.
A reminder: with a class this deep, if the Cubs aren’t going to shop at the top tier anyway, the Cubs could certainly stand to wait things out a bit, and take advantage of some of the mid-tier guys who slip.
And speaking of considering alternatives, Ken Rosenthal slides into the conversation with something that looks mighty attractive to me, as well as the Cubs, apparently:
As FA prices rise, Lackey is becoming increasingly attractive to #Cubs on two-year deal. Friendship with Lester helps, but others also in.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2015
If it’s 5/$90M for Samardzija or something like 2/$30 to 35M for Lackey, I can see myself becoming very happy about the latter, which not only gives the Cubs a guy who projects to still be very good the next two years, and not only avoids a long-term commitment during an era of limited spending for the Cubs, but it also potentially allows them to go after a different long-term commitment … say … for a position player?
Screw it. Just have the ultimate Cardinals-trolling offseason: sign Lackey, sign Jason Heyward, trade for Shelby Miller.
I joke about the Cardinals part, but that would be a pretty excellent offseason, wouldn’t it?
UPDATE 2: Heating up a lot. Because they signed him.