The Chicago Cubs and starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija avoided an arbitration meeting Saturday night by agreeing to a one-year $5.345 million dollar contract, just two days before the arbitration deadline. The Cubs had originally offered Samardzija $4.4 million for next season, while the pitcher filed for a $6.2 million dollar contract.
Samardzija was the last of eight Cubs players this season to avoid arbitration with the team and the deal assures that no player has reached an arbitration hearing during Theo Epstein’s tenure. His signing solidifies the Cubs starting rotation for the 2014 season and he will return to the team as their number one starter. The 29 year old right-hander was 8-13 last season with an ERA of 4.34 and he pitched over 200 innings with 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career.
The Cubs had been in discussion with their starting pitcher regarding a long-term contract, but both sides were finally able to agree to terms for this season.
“Ever since I signed my first contract here with the Cubs, I’ve wanted to be here and a big reason for not playing football was to come here and play in Chicago,” Samardzija said last month. “It obviously means a lot for me to be here.”
Over his six year career on the North Side, Samardzija has compiled a record of 29-35 with a career ERA of 4.19 in over 189 appearances with the team. He is poised to start the season as the Cubs opening day starter for the second year in-a-row. The question that Cubs fans should be asking is Samardzija the right pitcher to lead the team going forward?
In the short term, the deal with Samardzija is good for the Cubs. It assures that they have a top of the rotation pitcher for 2014, who has been with the team during a difficult rebuilding period. Along with Samardzija, the Cubs have Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, and the recently acquired Jason Hammel to lead their pitching staff. One bright spot for the Cubs entering Spring Training is their options at fifth starter with the likes of Jake Arrieta, Carlos Villanueva, and Chris Rusin all biding for the final starting spot.
Additionally, Samardzija’s contract is relatively cheap for the team going into the season with Jackson being owed $11 million this year and Jason Hammel earning around $6 million. At just under five-and-a-half million, Samardzija remains a bargain for a starting pitcher.
Even though Samardzija has not always shown true top of the rotation production, he is signed this season for a reasonable contract based on his proven body of work. His ERA is respectable, but over the past two seasons as a starter he has averaged 193.7 innings pitched, 190 strikeouts, and only 67 walks (according to baseball-reference.com). With Edwin Jackson coming off a disappointing season and the uncertainty of both Travis Wood and Jason Hammel, Samardzija provides stability for the starting rotation.
Another advantage the Cubs have with signing Samardzija for a one-year contract is that they have potential trade asset if they want to move him at the deadline. If he manages to have a good first half of the season, Samardzija would prove to be a good trade acquisition for a team looking for a third or fourth starter in their playoff push. It is unlikely the Cubs will be serious playoff contenders for this upcoming season, so a successful first half of the season could benefit both parties in the long run.
Now that his contract is finished, Samardzija can join the rest of his team on Tuesday as pitchers and catchers report to their brand-new facilities in Mesa, Arizona with spring training set to begin this week.