So What Should a Jeff Samardzija Extension Cost?

Yesterday, the Cubs reportedly offered Jeff Samardzija a five year, $85 million extension, a deal that would allow him to remain in Chicago rather than get traded at some point in the next five weeks. Samardzija turned it down without even countering, and it’s now basically guaranteed that he’ll end the season in another uniform. Samardzija’s rejection of the Cubs offer does raise an interesting question for interested buyers, though; just how much is he going to cost in order to sign with a team that trades for him?

The Homer Bailey contract is reportedly the benchmark deal that Samardzija’s agents are working off of, which covered $105 million over six seasons. Because Bailey was already in line for a $10 million arbitration payday regardless, the extension was for five free agent years at a total cost of $95 million, but any new deal for Samardzija would buy out his final year of arbitration as well, making the total contract the more relevant figure for comparison. And it would make sense that his agents would use that deal, as it is a very recent deal for a pitcher with a very similar career. Behold.

Name IP BB% K% GB% HR/FB LOB% BABIP ERA- FIP- xFIP-
Jeff Samardzija 655.0 9% 22% 46% 11% 71% 0.298 99 94 97
Homer Bailey 937.2 8% 20% 45% 11% 71% 0.301 107 100 99

Hard to get more similar peripherals than that, though Bailey has pitched a few hundred more innings. If we limit ourselves to recent performance, here is what they’ve done over the last three calendar years.

Name IP BB% K% GB% HR/FB LOB% BABIP ERA- FIP- xFIP- WAR RA9-WAR
Jeff Samardzija 534.1 8% 24% 47% 11% 73% 0.300 92 88 89 8.6 7.3
Homer Bailey 603.2 6% 21% 45% 12% 73% 0.297 102 99 95 7.6 6.9

Again, very similar peripherals, with Samardzija being just a little bit better across the board. Don’t read too much into the somewhat sizable ERA gap, as Samardzija is Example A for why ERA is kind of stupid; he’s already allowed nine “unearned” runs this year, while Bailey hasn’t had any of his runs erased from the record. The earned/unearned distinction is basically useless, and creates the appearance of a separation here where one does not really exist.

Bailey really is a good comparison for Samardzija, and it’s difficult to argue that Samardzija should take less than what Bailey just got a few months ago. However, as we noted at the time, the Bailey deal looks like an overpay, and teams shouldn’t be signing up match that kind of price/performance ratio. While most other +2 to +3 WAR free agent pitchers were signing deals in the range of $50 million, Bailey got twice that, and without being a free agent.

The Bailey deal is an easy one to point to from the player’s perspective, but it’s something of an outlier when it comes to contracts for good-not-great starting pitchers. Samardzija is certainly a cut above the crop of free agents that hit the market last winter, but he’s not Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, and his track record doesn’t even stack up against Matt Cain. Besides Bailey, the pitchers who have signed $100+ million contracts have been better pitchers than Jeff Samardzija.

And again, Samardzija isn’t going to be a free agent until after next season. If he doesn’t sign a long-term deal, he’s looking at something in the $9 or $10 million range for 2015 salary. While $85 million over five years might sound light, it’s $75 million for four free agent years, or nearly $19 million per season. To get to $100 million over the same term, Samardzija would be asking for the equivalent of $22.5 million for each of his free agent seasons.

There’s a lot of money in baseball these days, but is Jeff Samardzija really a $23 million per year pitcher? Keep in mind that he’s already 29, so such an extension would be buying out his age-31 to age-34 seasons. Samardzija projects as about a +3 WAR pitcher going forward; given normal aging, he’d be expected to be a roughly average pitcher by the time the extension actually kicks in. We’re definitely in a period of inflation in MLB salaries, but average pitchers aren’t going to cost $23 million per year in a couple of years.

Even if you think the current estimates of Samardzija’s talent levels are too conservative, you have to be really bullish on Samardzija to think that he’d be worth $90 million over his first four free agent seasons. Let’s assume that the cost of a win in the 2015 free agent market is $8 million apiece, because we think the league is just going to keep raking in money hand-over-fist. At a $90 million cost for four years, that would require Samardzija to produce roughly +11.25 WAR over those years just to be an average market-value deal.

If Samardzija didn’t decline at all between now and then, and entered that market as a +3 WAR pitcher, we’d expect something like a half WAR per season decline, which leads to a total +9 WAR over the following four seasons: +3.0, +2.5, +2.0, +1.5. To get to +11.25 WAR, you’d need him to not decline at all: +3.0, +2.9, +2.8, +2.6 gets you there. But keep in mind that Samardzija projects at about a +3 WAR pitcher in 2014, and we’re dealing with 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. To get that kind of value, you basically need Samardzija to be roughly as good of a pitcher in six years as he is today.

That’s the definition of a terrible bet. If Samardzija thinks his market value is $100 million over five years, then the best thing any team can do is probably let him prove it as a free agent in 18 months. Even the Cubs $85 million offer looks a little bit geneorus, given what Samardzija is, where he is in relation to free agency, and how pitchers age. I think the Cubs may end up pleased that he turned their deal down, as now they’re free to turn him into some good young talent, and they’ll still have that $85 million to go throw at other, almost-as-good free agents if they so choose.

If I’m a team looking to acquire Samardzija, the idea that he’s looking for a Bailey-type deal would cause me to view him as a year-and-a-half rental, not a trade-and-sign guy. The Bailey deal is a good comparison for Samardzija to use because it was a bad deal for the Reds. If he’s set on getting more than the most recent overpay, then there shouldn’t be a lot of teams banging down his door to sign him up long term.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Bobby Ayala
Member
Member
2 years 1 month ago

Good stuff Dave, thanks!

TB31
Guest
TB31
2 years 1 month ago

“But keep in mind that Samardzija projects at about a +3 WAR pitcher in 2014”

No he doesn’t? ZiPS currently has him at about 4 WAR ROS total and about 3.5 WAR per 215 IP projected projections only. 4, 3.5, 3, 2.5 is 13 WAR. It seems to me like you’re bending some small facts to fit an overall narrative that is “terrible bet”. Because a small difference in how you evaluate his 2014 drastically changes whether or not the Cubs get the upper hand in that deal, based on subtracting half a win per year. He’s closer to 4 WAR than 3 WAR.

Juan
Guest
Juan
2 years 1 month ago

Yeah, but can he repeat said effeciency for 2015?
After all,if players want super star dollars,
they should include the super star consistency!
The Cubbies know what they’re doing. They’ll
make him available at each summer, when they
can get the best player package, and if they
don’t, they’ll offer enough salary to get a
compensatory pick when he signs with another
team. He’s a talented pitcher, and probably
would have better stats as an ace for a first
division team, rather than a last place team.

SS90
Member
SS90
2 years 1 month ago

I think it is less about getting more money offered over 4 free agent years, but rather (like Homer) to receive a 5th free agent season.

Theo E.
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Thanks for all the great tips today, guys! Half our analytics team is on vacation this week, your timing couldn’t be better.

jerry60555
Member
jerry60555
2 years 1 month ago

Come on Theo,how much money will you give Jeff?

but
Guest
but
2 years 1 month ago

you didn’t answer the question in the title

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 1 month ago

Not to the nearest dollar, but it’s clear Dave thinks that Samardzija is probably worth less than the 5/$85M he was offered.

but
Guest
but
2 years 1 month ago

i want answers

jerry60555
Member
jerry60555
2 years 1 month ago

Yes,I already knew Dave said JS not worth 85mm,but what’s the answer to the title?

Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
Guest
Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
2 years 1 month ago

Yes, Dave, JS 85 mm, you already know the answer, but what is the name?

jerry60555
Member
jerry60555
2 years 1 month ago

Probably?Dave’s article was very clear. Homer was something overpay,and JS shouldn’t get that money either. No probably,its clear what Dave already said.

The question now is,how much money will Dave give to JS?

Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
Guest
Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
2 years 1 month ago

Maybe? Dave is very clear. Homer did you have anything to pay over and JS should not get paid. There is no doubt that you said is unclear.

The question now is money Dave JS?

jerry60555
Member
jerry60555
2 years 1 month ago

And another question?Dave,so how much salary will JS worth?

JayT
Guest
JayT
2 years 1 month ago

Well, he said that Samardzija projects to be worth nine wins in the four years from 2016-2019, and he pegs the free agent price to be $8 million/win, so I would say the high-end you would want to pay him for those four years is $72 million. Anything more than that would be an overpay.

Ian
Guest
Ian
2 years 1 month ago

Samardzija’s not going to sign that though. He would get more than $100M in free agency.

You’re rarely going to sign any player if you’re so conservative with their projection and the $/WAR.

JayT
Guest
JayT
2 years 1 month ago

For one thing, the question was “how much is he worth”, but secondly, I think that front offices have gotten smarter in recent years. Just look at Ubaldo, Garza, and Santana last year. Everyone was pegging them at 5/$85, but none of them came close to that, but they did come close to what the projections would predict (other than Santana obviously who went for the pillow contract).

If Samardzija is worth three wins next year and goes to free agency, I don’t think an $18-$20 million AAV is out of the question. I do think that he would probably get five years though.

AK7007
Member
AK7007
2 years 1 month ago

Ian, I believe that’s called a winner’s curse if you end up overpaying for the thing you are getting in a free bidding market. Good reason to avoid being the one to win if you ask me.

jerry60555
Member
jerry60555
2 years 1 month ago

Yep. Thanks for your good answers.
8million is not a true metrics,but if we based on 8 million,
yeah,your answer was right.

Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
Guest
Translated to French, Urdu, Chinese, Khmer, Yoruba, Ukranian then back into English
2 years 1 month ago

Gangan. Deceive fun idahun Re.
8000000 Je kan co otito odiwon, sugbon asthma gbekele 8000000,
B??ni, idahun Re Je output for you.

H.Villanueva
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

It was funny the first time

SickRick
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Yep, if the Cubs really offered $85M, I’d say they went pretty darn far. I wouldn’t offer him more than that. How much money should a bottom feeding team have tied up in one player?

JayT
Guest
JayT
2 years 1 month ago

Well, if the Cubs offered 5/$85, and like Dave says, Samardzija is all but guaranteed around $10 million next year, that means they were willing to go 4/$75 million for the next four years, which is pretty much in line with his projection.

As for how much they should tie up in one player, the Cubs are a high-revenue team, but also a fairly low payroll team that is on their way towards being a good team. If they think that Samardzija will still be a three win player in 2016, there’s no reason they shouldn’t pay him ~$18 million.

RAJ
Guest
RAJ
2 years 1 month ago

Well even 25M won’t really tie you up. You can still add a Marlon Byrd, or an AJ Burnett.

emdash
Guest
emdash
2 years 1 month ago

The Cubs have enough revenue and prospects on the way that they might not be a bottom-feeding team for all that much longer.

SickRick
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

if Arrieta emerges as the real deal, they’ll still have him, Wood and EJax to anchor their rotation with Edwards, Hendricks, maybe Ramirez vying for the other 2 spots next yr. It’s wise not to get tied up in a fat contract given where the Cubs are now and most likely till ’16 at the earliest.

Frank
Guest
Frank
2 years 1 month ago

Using the word anchor a little generously I see.

SickRick
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

they can always add another FA arm next winter w/o tying up 90M. A guy like Masterson might be coming rather cheaply now.

Utah Dave
Guest
Utah Dave
2 years 1 month ago

I think he meant anchor in a bad way – like boat anchor.

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 1 month ago

It’s what he can get from 1 team not what most teams think he is worth. There is probably 1 team out of 30 that will overpay by quite a bit.

Also, maybe he just doesn’t like it there?

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 1 month ago

Just checked, he is projected at 3.6 WAR steamer, and 4 war zips for 2014, not 3.0 war.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 1 month ago

Dave explains this in a reply above.

SKob
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

While I agree with your premise, you are skipping many factors that go into signing a free agent. Then you take a tone with people that they are dumb to disagree. Your articles are still descent, but your comments are getting harder and harder to read! You skip your meds or something?

“Projecting any pitcher for 215 IP per year is silly and useless, and it still wouldn’t even matter. Samardzija might finish the year with +4 WAR because of his good start, but when you’re talking about his true talent level, he’s a +3 WAR pitcher right now.”

So first you bash ZIPS while also bashing TB31 for looking at ZIPS. Then you tell him that no matter what Samardzija has done this year, he’s not that good. Good luck with that!

The less wear and tear on Samardzija’s arm also means its not unrealistic to project an increase in talent level before his dropoff. I’m sure he thinks that anyway! If he comes in at 4 WAR this year and manages 3.5 WAR next year, you still gonna argue his talent level has been a 3? How many teams would rather have him than Price right now? Plenty! Plus if Lester signs with Boston, who is available for higher tier pitching? Young players are getting locked up and free agents rake in above market deals. If he gets ‘lucky’ next year and even approaches 4 WAR, he makes Bailey’s deal look cheap! Of course he won’t earn all of it based on all the fabulous projections and data we have, but who the hell does earn it? What a Samardzija deal should cost based on projections is basically like setting an auction value for him in fantasy baseball. What’s the point unless you make it real?

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 1 month ago

I know you said “would” and not “should,” but Price has been a better pitcher than Samardzija this season. In any case, Jeff’s peripherals look more or less the same as the did the two previous seasons, he’s just giving up about half as many home runs per fly ball. Since that’s largely driven by luck, I don’t think you can use that to argue that Samardzija has legitimately taken a step forward. He’s probably the same guy he was in 2012 and 2013.

Johnny Ringo
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Minor quibble, but how is ERA earned/unearned statistic useless? If a guy hits a ball at a 2nd baseman, and he drops it with 2 outs, and the runs proceed to score, how is that the fault or measurement of a pitcher’s performance?

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 1 month ago

Because it absolves the pitcher of everything that comes afterwards, not just the initial error.

SKob
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Not really. All the hits and walks that come after are still included in the rate stats.

It’s because the metrics are all that the projections are based on. Projections don’t care if a run was unearned or not, they just care how you pitched to the batters. Metrics don’t care about what ballpark you are in or how much your defense sucks.

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 1 month ago

They’re not included in ERA, though, which is the point.

SKob
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

The point is that ERA is not always indicative of how a pitcher is pitching, not because of anything that happens after an error.

AC
Guest
AC
2 years 1 month ago

RA is more stable year-to-year than ERA.
Yes, there are the obvious drops like in your example, but it’s more predictive to “penalize” each pitchers (for allowing the ball in play in the first place) than to “reward” them for having crappy defenders behind them.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 1 month ago

How many times have we seen a pitcher make an error that should have been the 3rd out and then gives up 4 clean runs but is not charged for any of them. I just look at RPG (R/9). At the very least, UER should be capped at 1 per inning

Mr Punch
Guest
Mr Punch
2 years 1 month ago

Still looks like Matt Clement to me. Sure, you can trade for him, but he’s gonna get hit in the head.

Michael
Guest
Michael
2 years 1 month ago

I think the offer the Cubs made is very close to fully priced, and I wonder if his rejection isn’t a pretty big bet for an incremental dollar that he won’t get immediately. He could get injured, he could just have an off year. Big chance to take for someone without a consistent record of high performance.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
2 years 1 month ago

I think it was a decent offer. I know the Cubs have talent coming but I doubt they really are dying to deal Samardzija. They don’t have as much pitching in the minors as hitting, and I’d love to see a rotation of Shark, Hammel, Arrieta, Jackson and Wood with Bryant, Alcantara, Baez, Soler, Castro, Rizzo, Valbuena, etc. I know they’ll flip some pitching though.

Johnston
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

I think that the Cubs offer was generous, and that Bailey was a serious overpay that you really can’t use as a reasonable comp.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 1 month ago

Its not the money its the years. The Cubs only offered him 4 years (2015 is a lock), they needed to go 5-6 years at 18 million AAV plus 10 for 2015. That puts it at 100-118 for 6/7 years (incl 2015), or slightly under 18 million AAV. Cubs have perfected offering just enough to look serious, but not enough to close the deal .

KS
Guest
KS
2 years 1 month ago

I’ve always been mystified by the “Samardzija is an ace” talk. Just because he may be the most talented pitcher on the (last place) Cubs doesn’t make him an ace. Thanks for putting some numbers to my skepticism.

Jim
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

They should trade him. Dave says “buyer beware” but Price is the only other viable #1 or #2 SP option that will be on the market. I know teams have been overvaluing prospects the last couple years but with so little sellers and so many desperate bubble playoffs teams I think the Cubs may get a better package for him than we suspect. Remember it only takes one desperate team.

Steven
Guest
Steven
2 years 1 month ago

Oliver projects Samardzlqa for 10.7 WAR over the next 4 years. If you use $4 mil/WAR, he’s due for $44 mil. If you are less optimistic than Oliver, he’s probably a 2 yr $21 mil guy or a 3 yr $28 mil guy.

If you’re REALLY optimistic and project him for 19.8 WAR over the next 4 years, he’s probably worth a 4 yr $140 mil contract. And pitchers at his height or above do tend to age well.

David Price
Guest
David Price
2 years 1 month ago

Why would you use $4 mil/WAR?

Spit Ball
Guest
Spit Ball
2 years 1 month ago

I’m not a Cubs fan or a Theo fan but I don’t think the Cubs are that far of and could contend in that division next year with Kris Bryant and the troops on the way. Say the Blue Jays part with Stroman, Sanchez and a lower level prospect for Samardziga. They could then really put together a strong package for David Price if Price is willing to sign an extension in the Windy City. He could be the Ace they really need going forward and The move from the AL east to NL central should allow him to be pretty darn good for a little bit. They could offer the Rays Baez/Alcantra, Soler/Almora, Stroman/Sanchez, Olt/Vitters for Price. Maye they could even shape the deal to get Zobrist as well. If the Cubs can get someone to “bite on Shark” I think they should make a run at locking up Price long term.

So?
Guest
So?
2 years 1 month ago

Why does the title of this article begin with “so”? What meaning does it contribute? I’ve been seeing this more and more lately.

VanSlawAndCottoCheese
Guest
VanSlawAndCottoCheese
2 years 1 month ago

Rhetorically, the use of “so” implies an ongoing conversation, that the article is a response to (often unstated or implied) questions that are prompted from the news of Samardzija turning down the Cubs’ offer.

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
2 years 1 month ago

I’d like to see the Giants get him, but not for Kyle Crick. The Giants don’t need another rental for thier best prospect.

SickRick
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

that means someone has to go to the pen… who’s that going to be? Lince? Cain? Vogel? I don’t see it.

bpdelia
Guest
bpdelia
2 years 1 month ago

I think the use of the word “rental” has experienced some mission creep in the last few years. We should all just agree that “rental” describes getting a player for less than a full season leading into his free agency. Beltran was a rental. JS is going to belong to a team for a year and a half of his prime. That’s more than a rental. The QO offer system makes this even easier. A rental is when you pay for something that gives only present value. Trading for a player who will be on your team a full year and a half with a long window for extending and at worst a compensation pick is not a rental.

At least not in the sense that word had hysterically been used.

Spit Ball
Member
Spit Ball
2 years 1 month ago

Hey Tuesday you put out The AL all-star team. In the article you said Wednesday the NL team was coming out. During your “baseball chat” Wednesday (30 minutes of which you talked about Japanese cars, Honest Ralphs, and your parents super ethical used car Biz) you said it might be a day late. It’s Friday 1:30 eastern time and nothing except a an article explaining why the Cubbies should not sign him for Bailey money. I’m a Fangraphs plus subscriber. I’ve bought a couple of you T-shirts. I expect you to write about baseball and do what you say. I don’t care about Jap cars or your schedule. You are getting to big for your britches Cameron. Get it done or go hang out with the goons at Fox more.

Miss Manners
Guest
Miss Manners
2 years 1 month ago

Before one hits “post” on a comment (or “send” on an email), it is always best to ask oneself, “Is this racial slur absolutely necessary?”.

Utah Dave
Guest
Utah Dave
2 years 1 month ago

I wonder if the Reds would do it all over again with Homer Bailey if they had the chance. Maybe JS turned down the deal because he just doesn’t want to be a Cub for the next 5 years?

Unsolicited advice for Dave – don’t argue with the customers even if you think they are dead wrong. It makes you look small. Plus it is not possible to win an argument with a customer. There are plenty of readers out there who will defend what you write for you.

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