jeff samardzija featureHeading into the offseason, the Cubs were expected to make at least one big move for a starting pitcher. With such a robust free agent market, trade market and a glaring need on the team, that was a perfectly fair expectation.

Among the most discussed free agent targets for the Cubs, guys like David Price, Jordan Zimmerman or even Zack Greinke popped up a lot; however, it was not to be. The Cubs went the more affordable route, signing John Lackey to a two-year $32 million deal and then acquired Adam Warren in a trade for Starlin Castro.

Obviously, the Cubs had other plans (signing Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist) and probably didn’t want to add too many giant contracts to the books in one offseason.



But among the lesser discussed, more reasonable starting pitching options for the 2016 Chicago Cubs was former Cub right hander Jeff Samardzija. Over at the Chicago Tribune, Mark Gonzales recently wrote about the reunion that didn’t happen and what it would have meant to Samardzija, Epstein and the Cubs.

In the article, Samardzija expresses his sincere admiration for Epstein and the work he’s done with the Cubs to improve the lineup in short order. There’s certainly a mutual respect between the two of them and even an indication that they’d like to work together in the future.

But how about the past? Was a reunion almost completed?

As you may recall, there were reports of Theo Epstein meeting with Jeff Samardzija back in November. In fact, at least one report at the time called a reunion “more probable than not.” But, while Samardzija admits to meeting and discussing the possibility with the Cubs, no formal offer was made. According to Samardzija, Epstein was looking to extend a short term offer, whereas Samardzija was looking for something a bit longer term.

Luckily for Samardzija, he got just that when he signed a five-year $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. But, because he went from the Cubs to the A’s and the A’s to the White Sox, Samardzija hasn’t had much of a competitive angle against the Chicago Cubs (other than the one game they beat him last August). But now, the Cubs may now have to face Samardzija multiple times throughout the season, potentially even as competitors in the Wild Card race.

So, in the interest of interest, let’s see how he projects for this season.

Given the time of year, we will luckily be able to share and compare three different projections for the Cubs’ former right-hander – turned enemy. First, you can see his PECOTA projections here, and then you can take in Samardzija’s Steamer and ZiPS projections here.



While there is some variance among the projections, the one thing they all seem to agree on is that he will be healthy and finish roughly 200 innings next season. From there, though, the projections are a bit more spread out. In terms of ERA, PECOTA (3.29) is the most optimistic, with ZiPS (3.31) and Steamer (3.46) not too far behind. Overall, though, ZiPS is probably the most optimistic, projecting 8.27 K/9, 2.02 BB/9 and 3.7 WAR in 2016.



If Samardzija does finish the season with a line resembling those projections, the Giants will have done just fine with him and his contract. Everyone is aware of his massive upside – he has the stuff, the velocity and the character to be an ace – it’s just a matter of him realizing that potential. And remember, even though he is already 31 years old, he has relatively little mileage on his arm (committing to baseball late in life and to being a starting pitcher even later). While I don’t hope the Giants win too many games in 2016, I wish Samardzija all the luck.

And besides, he’s gonna need it when he faces this Cubs’ lineup.




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