The Chicago Cubs have attempted to sign Jeff Samardzija to an extension, but a deal has been unable to be worked out due to a large discrepancy in the Cubs’ offer. The Cubs have tried to sign Samardzija to a team-friendly contract with the allure of financial security; Samardzija, however, has instead decided to bank on himself, and it’s paying off.
The recent extension Homer Bailey signed with the Cincinnati Reds for six years and $105 million with a $25 million mutual option and a $5 million buyout is seen as a decent comp for the framework of a Samardzija extension, and is a deal the Cubs would be wise to offer to Samardzija as soon as possible.
If the Cubs were willing to offer unproven pitcher Masahiro Tanaka a six-year deal worth $120 million, on top of a $20 million posting fee, why should they not pull out the pocketbook for Samardzija? The reason they were willing to offer Tanaka that type of money was because he had age on his side and was a potential top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
Samardzija also has age on his side, and more importantly, a lack of mileage on his arm and a spotless injury history. Anyone who has watched him pitch over the past couple of years knew that he had the potential to develop into an ace, and Samardzija himself knows this to be true, which is why he never signed a team-friendly extension.
Instead, he has gone out and proven exactly what he set out to do. He bet on himself and has become a true ace. Now it’s time for the Cubs to pony up.
Yes, the Cubs can instead opt to cash in on the top pitcher on the trade market by landing a couple of high-upside prospects, but that would be a poor course of action. In the past, the Cubs have dealt away pitchers who they either knew they had no interest in signing long-term (Matt Garza), or pitchers who had value but were nothing more than mid-rotation arms (Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman).
The Cubs have done a great job of dealing away these types of pitchers and getting back valuable returns, and I have no problem with them sticking to the script and continuing to do this if they’re out of contention. Jason Hammel is having an excellent year, and while it would be nice if the Cubs were in contention and able give Hammel an extension at the end of the year, no one is going to lament giving up on him if he is instead traded away for prospects at the deadline.
Samardzija, however, is a player who could really sting for a long time if the Cubs trade him away.
Even if the Cubs get back two excellent prospects and a third with upside, there are simply no guarantees when it comes to prospects. It is entirely possible that the prospects they receive end up having a marginal or less-than-expected impact on the team in the future. Meanwhile, a true ace with no injury history who is just tapping his potential is pitching for another team.
The Cubs need impact starting pitching. They have tried numerous times to acquire it, missing out on Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yu Darvish and Tanaka — all unproven players who had never played a game of American baseball.
The Cubs have now developed one of the best pitchers in baseball who is putting together a season that can give him the stamp of approval as a true No. 1 starting pitcher. Trading him away, no matter what the haul may be, is simply not the right move for a team that not only has the money to sign him long-term, but also hopes to be competing for a World Series in the next five years.