A Jeff Samardzija Extension

Let's talk about a possible Jeff Samardzija extension for a bit. 

mlb_g_samardzija11_600Jeff Samardzija has been mentioned in some trade rumors though I find it unlikely he'll be traded. He's in his first year of arbitration this season and has two more before he can file for free agency after the 2015 season. The Cubs have a few options:

  • Give him a contract extension
  • Go through arbitration each of the next two offseasons
  • Trade him for prospects

Each of these has benefits to the Cubs so it's not an easy decision. Samardzija has become a good starting pitcher and should continue to be valuable. Because he's valuable and cheap, the Cubs could keep him under control for several years at a team friendly rate if they signed him to an extension. Going through arbitration lessens the risk for the Cubs in case he gets injured. The Cubs could use all the prospects they can get so trading him might be good, too. 

I'd add that going through arbitration seems like a better idea now than it did entering the season. Though Samardzija is having a very good season, his ERA is relatively high. His FIP and xFIP are much lower, but in arbitration, ERA is a big part of it. These fancy, new-fangled stats aren't all that important. Due to the high ERA, the Cubs may be able to keep the price down next year compared to what they thought it might be entering the season. Samardzija's bad luck on the mound may help the Cubs out and it might make the decision easier. 

We can estimate a reasonable extension for Samardzija by looking at his rest of season projections (ZiPS and Steamer). When it comes to Samardzija, I think PECOTA is somewhat useless at this point (still underrates him). The average ZiPS and Steamer WAR forecast over 200 innings right now is 3.5 WAR. We could use that as our starting point in 2014 and use a $5.5 million win value. 

Year Age WAR $ Per Win $WAR Contract Value
2014 29 3.5 5.5 $19.25  
2015 30 3.25 5.9 $19.22  
2016 31 2.75 6.4 $17.48  
2017 32 2.25 6.8 $15.37 $71.32
2018 33 1.75 7.3 $12.85 $84.17
2019 34 1.25 7.9 $9.87 $94.04
2020 35 0.75 8.5 $6.37 $100.41

First thing, Samardzija is not a free agent as I said earlier. He has two more years of club control so we know for sure he won't be making over $38 million. Best case for Samardzija would be about $6 million next season and $9 million in 2015. If his ERA remains as high as it is, he'll find it very hard to get more than $4.5 million next year. 

Est. Salary Contract Value
$15.37 $47.85
$12.85 $60.71
$9.87 $70.58
$6.37 $76.94

That's a bit more reasonable, but still doesn't consider the discount the Cubs would require since they'd be taking on all the risk. I'd suggest something like this:

  • 4 years, $45 million
  • 5 years, $51.25 million
  • 6 years, $55.5 million
  • 7 years, $57.75 million

I just used the simple mathematical tool that Tango introduced one time on his old blog. A player worth $10 million per year over, say, 4 years, is worth a million less per year each year longer the contract might be. Or a million more per year if the contract is shorter. That would mean 3 years and $36.75 million in this case. 

I'm not sure Samardzija would agree to such a contract. I have a feeling his demands are going to be excessively high. I'm not really keen on the idea of the Cubs signing a pitcher at Samardzija's age to a 7-year contract either. 

I'd offer him 5-years, $51.25 million. If he accepts, great. If he doesn't, I'd plan to go year to year with him in arbitration with the option open to trade him at any point.