The Cubs May Be Trying to Extend Jeff Samardzija After All

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The Cubs May Be Trying to Extend Jeff Samardzija After All

Chicago Cubs

It wasn’t a week ago that Cubs GM Jed Hoyer essentially said the Cubs weren’t looking to extend Jeff Samardzija until he shows another year of success.

Well, so much for that. From Gordon Wittenmyer:

According to multiple sources, the Cubs have reached out to Samardzija about the possibility of exploring a multiyear deal with the big right-hander, who’s arbitration-eligible after making an impressive transition from the bullpen to the rotation.

Just as there’s no reason not to listen when teams want to make an offer for your players, and there’s no reason not to inquire about the demands of a wide variety of free agents, there’s no reason not to reach out to Samardzija to see what he’s thinking about an extension. He’s professed a desire to stay in Chicago, and the Cubs clearly view him as a long-term piece of the puzzle, so maybe there can be a fit?

Well. Maybe.

Samardzija is an interesting extension case, one full of conflicting inputs. He’s coming off a good year as a starter … but it’s just one year. He’s a “young” starter … but he’ll turn 28 in January. He’s just entering his first year of arbitration … but he’s already earned about $13 million in his career.

Even Samardzija’s stats from 2012 include a little conflict. His 3.21 K/BB, 3.55 FIP, and 3.3 WAR were all great. But he was susceptible to the long ball (20 homers in just 174.2 innings), and his 3.81 ERA/103 ERA+ don’t scream “great.”

Taking it all together, how do you really approach an extension for Samardzija? With a relatively limited run of success as a starter, you don’t want to go too long with him. But, since he’s already under control for three more years in arbitration – and has already earned some $13 million in his career – the offer would have to be long enough to provide value both to Samardzija and the Cubs.

… or maybe each side just wants to lock in some cost certainty for these three years of arbitration, rather than hashing it out on a year-to-year basis? Given the Cubs’ financial position (by which I mean their theoretically large-market payroll), they are in a good position to be able to go year-to-year without being crippled by year three if Samardzija should prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. So, even if the extension was just about cost certainty, it would seem they would need to get something in return, like, say, an option year or two tacked onto the end of the deal?

Under that kind of a structure, and employing the theory that players tend to get about 40% of their market value in year one of arbitration, 60% in year two, and 80% in year three, a shorter Samardzija extension could look something like this:

2013 (age 28) – $7 million

2014 (age 29) – $10.5 million

2015 (age 30) – $14 million

2016 (age 31) – team option for $14 million

2017 (age 32) – team option for $14 million

Too much? Too little?

One rub in the calculation is the fact that it is based on the presumption that Samardzija will maintain a 3.3 WAR throughout his arbitration years, with the value of a win at $5.5 million (making his annual market value about $18 million). You could argue that each of those numbers is too high or low, or you could argue that in an extension situation, it’s unreasonable to assume Samardzija will equal his value from 2012 in each year (given that he’s done it just once). Perhaps there should be a discount built in to each year (for one thing, just on a gut basis, it’s hard to see Samardzija getting $7 million in his first year of arbitration). Should we shave 10% off of each? 20%? How much of a discount is Samardzija willing to give for a payment up front?

You can see in those numbers why it might be difficult for the two sides to come to an agreeable extension. Those figures represent one reasonable calculation of what Samardzija could expect to get over the next few years, but also demonstrate why the Cubs might be content to go year-to-year in arbitration, if they aren’t going to get a significant discount.

What are your thoughts on the desirability of a Samardzija extension? The length? The price? Your confidence that 2012 Jeff Samardzija (or better) is the real Jeff Samardzija?

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.