The New York Yankees are considered the frontrunners for free agent starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
That is, if our staff here at TBOH is any indication. Half of our staffers made the Bronx Bombers their choice to land the former Notre Dame star athlete: Tyler DiSalle, David Mosemann, and Ethan Witte. I went with the Chicago Cubs, Alexis Girardo with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Ryan Gerstel with the Houston Astros.
In making his choice of the Astros, Ryan made this observation: “The up-and-coming Astros could use a veteran like Samardzija on their staff to compliment Dallas Keuchel. Plus, at age 30, he is young enough to aid this young team for the next few years.”
Ryan also noted his downturn in the 2015 season, one in which Samardzija led the American League in both hits and earned runs, but believes that should not be an impediment to a nice contract. “His history shows that he has the ability to dominate, so contending teams will likely be willing to look past his 2015.”
Ethan went with New York, and states that it should take something akin to a “4-years, $88 million” deal to get him into the classic Yankees pinstripes. Samardzija earned nearly $10 million for the 2015 season, so that kind of contract would more than double his take-home pay.
Samardzija was the Cubs’ 5th round selection in the 2006 Amateur Draft after he starred in both baseball and football at South Bend. He made his big league debut on July 25th, 2008 at Wrigley Field against the Florida Marlins, and pitched the rest of that season and most of the next three out of the Cubs’ bullpen.
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In the 2012 season, he moved permanently into the starting rotation. Samardzija then was part of a big trade with the Oakland Athletics in early July of 2014, going to Oakland along with fellow starting pitcher Jason Hammel in exchange for a three-prospect package that included talented shortstop Addison Russell.
Then at the Winter Meetings that following December, Samardzija was flipped by the A’s back to Chicago, this time to the White Sox, along with prospect pitcher Michael Ynoa in exchange for a four-prospect package that included shortstop Marcus Semien.
Over parts of eight big league seasons, Samardzija has gone 47-61 with career 4.09 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, 3.84 FIP, and average 94 ERA+ marks. In 991.2 innings he has allowed 941 hits, with a 901/326 K:BB ratio. He was a 2014 AL All-Star during his one truly dominating season to this point.
Paul Sullivan with the Chicago Tribune commented on the possibility of bringing him back where he started his career: “The Cubs don’t need a Samardzija type as much as they need a David Price or a Zack Greinke — someone established as one of the best in the business. But Samardzija seemed to be on that track only a year ago, so if the Cubs could convince him to sign a short-term deal, they should go for it — as long as they also add one of the elite free-agent starters.”
The tall righty will turn 31 years of age at the end of January. Any five-year deal is more likely than not to take him past his productive age. As Sullivan noted, if a team like the Cubs can somehow get him to accept a three-year deal, that would be more ideal.
Frankly, I wouldn’t touch him, even though I believe it is possible that he could put together a strong season or two. His likely asking price and length of contract would be too much for my tastes.
But there are billions of dollars floating around MLB these days. One of the teams that we have speculated upon here, and possibly someone such as the Boston Red Sox, are likely to pony up the dollars.