How much is Jeff Samardzija worth?

samardzija-cubsWith news that the Cubs have tried to extend Jeff Samardzija beyond his arbitration eligible seasons not once, but twice, I thought it might be a good idea to look into how much he's worth.

Steamer projects 2.4 WAR and ZiPS projects 3.3. You can see these yourself on Fangraphs. Let's just split the difference and go with 2.9.

Samardzija has 3 years of arbitrtation, including 2013, ahead of him. He settled for $2.64 million this year and we can estimate what he'll earn based on that.

  • 2013: $2.64 million
  • 2014: $5 million
  • 2015: $10 million

I'm being generous here. I don't expect his contract will double each of the next two seasons, but I'm nothing if not generous. Matt Garza was a better pitcher than Samardzija entering arbitration and over his first 3 years he earned $18 million. The $17.6 million total over the next few seasons is close to the most he could make.

Samardzija is already 28 years old so he's at his peak. We'd typically take -0.5 WAR each year after this to get projections several years down the road. Because I'm generous, and optimistic, I'm only going to reduce it by 0.25 each of the next 3 years and then by -0.5 after that.

  • 2013: 2.9 WAR
  • 2014: 2.65
  • 2015: 2.4
  • 2017: 1.9
  • 2018: 1.4
  • Total: 11.25 WAR

A first year arbitration eligible player earns about 40% of his free agent value. The next year it's 60% and then the third year is 80%. Since we already know what he's earning in 2013 there's no reason to estimate his salary this season. I'm using a $5.5 million per win rate in 2013 and increasing by $0.5 million each year.

  • 2013: $2.64 million
  • 2014: $9.54
  • 2015: $12.48
  • 2016: $13.3
  • 2017: $10.5
  • Total: $48.5 million

Teams generally get a 10% discount on contracts 3 years or longer so that makes it a 5-year, $43.65 million contract.

However, there is no chance he's going to see an increase of nearly $7 million between 2013 and 2014. None. There's also no chance he'll finish the third year of arbitration with $12.5 million. 

Over 5 years Samardzija is probably worth between $35 and $40 million. Call it $37.5 million, but that doesn't factor in the additional risk the Cubs would be taking by extending a player already under contract for 3 more years. Teams who have done so have done it with a tremendous bonus in their favor. If they signed a 5/37.5 contract, there would be no bonus for the Cubs. 

So consider a 5-year, $37.5 million contract the upper limits of what Samardzija is worth at this point. Realistically, it's probably much closer to $30 million so good for the Cubs for not offering too much.