After a strong season in 2012, the front office called Jeff Samardija one of their core players. He's the kind of pitcher they like -- he's athletic with a power, low mileage arm. He's in his prime years. He's ultra-competitive.
That competitiveness extends to the negotiating tug-of-war, where it appears the two sides are digging in their heels. Gordon Wittenmeyer is saying the deal is a long shot at this point.
If they cannot come to a deal, the Cubs can always keep Samardzija and he'd be a relatively low cost pitcher for his production the next two years. They can then offer him the qualifying offer. However, considering he's in his prime years and has two years of cost control left, they can also entertain offers for the big right-hander.
It makes the most sense that the Cubs would deal him to a contender because with Samardzija only guaranteed to stick around for 2 years, there may be a short window to win with him. You don't trade for a guy assuming he'll re-sign. When teams trade for Samardzija, they'll be trading for 2 prime years of a healthy #3 type starter at relatively low salary. That has a lot of value. If Samardzija remains a Cub and we conservatively estimate that he will be a 3 WAR pitcher again for the next 2 years. If we calculate each win as $5M, that's about $30M worth of pitcher. Perhaps more if he improves.
What is that worth on the trade market? Considering Samardzija will probably make around $5M next year after arbitration and if he follows a similar pattern to Matt Garza, should make about $9M in his last year of arbitration. That's $14M. So we're talking about a surprlus value of approximately $16. If you project Samardzija to increase his value by about 1/2 win per year, that surplus worth could approach $22-23M.
Finances aren't my expertise, so that is a ballpark figure. The next question is, how does this translate to prospects?
Well, it depends.
Victor Wang did a study in The Hardball Times, but that was back in 2008. Pirates prospects did an update of those values last year and it appears there has been an increase in the worth of prospects over the past few years.
Alone, Samardzija would be worth a top 25 pitching prospect, perhaps top 15 per the more recent model. The could also recoup a top 50 or better hitting prospect. But things never work out quite that cut and dry. There are many variables at stake. There would likely be other players involved on both sides, bidding wars could heat up (or not heat up), other pitchers on the market, a team that decides it needs to shift gears into full-out win now mode, etc.
Contending teams such as the Royals have traded a package that included arguably the top prospect in all of baseball (Wil Meyers) for James Shields, who averaged about 1.3 more wins than Samardzija in terms of WAR in the two years prior to being traded. However, he was also 3 years older.
The Cubs also were able to get a couple of fringe top 100 prospects for 2 months of Garza, so these things can vary. You would expect that the Cubs could get more for Samardzija than they did for Garza.
We hear a few teams could be interested in Samardzija. They include Arizona (who inquired about him last year), Toronto, Pittsburgh, Washington and Kansas City. With that in mind, it's not unreasonable for the Cubs to ask for one of the top pitching prospects, such as Archie Bradley or James Tallion.
Ask yes...but receive? That is a matter of negotiations and likely a pipe dream.
The Cubs reportedly asked for Bradley and Tyler Skaggs last year in return for Samardzija, but that went nowhere fast. Getting one of them would be difficult.
It would likely take a team that is willing to roll the dice and go for it. A team that comes to mind in that instance is the Nationals, who disappointed last year after years of successful rebuilding. Could they make a win-now deal such as the Royals did last year? Would they part with Giolito? Considering he has yet to play full season ball and has had Tommy John surgery, that makes him more likely than someone like Bradley or Skaggs, who are on the brink of becoming rotation mainstays.
Could Kansas City try it again this year? They certainly have a couple of pitches who are a couple of notches down in Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura. The Cubs took an interest in Zimmer before the 2012 draft when they drafted Almora and he may be a buy low candidate because his results did not match his peripherals.
The Pirates have very good pitching prospects beyond Tallion such as Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham. Toronto could dangle Aaron Sanchez, who has top notch stuff but enough questions about size and command to knock him down from elite prospect status.
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