Feb 14, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcherJeff Samardzija
(29) throws out of the bullpen during camp at Chicago Cubs training facility at Mesa . Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles finally made a move earlier this week, reportedly agreeing to terms with right-handed starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez on a four-year, $48 million deal that will address a major void in their pitching staff moving forward.
With Jimenez off the market, the main pitcher available is Ervin Santana, who will likely net a deal somewhere around $10-12 million AAV, just shy of or equal to what Jimenez got from Baltimore.
Now, as far as the Chicago Cubs go, the main question moving forward is whether or not the club will be able to get Jeff Samardzija signed to a long-term deal. His recent comments regarding the ongoing talks between the Cubs and his camp are discouraging, to say the least.
"“The emotional attachment I have to this organization, a lot of times you just give the benefit of the doubt,” Samardzija said. “It’s just the way it works because of the way I feel about being here and how bad I want to be here. The more this process goes along, the more I realize it is a business and that (feeling) only goes so far.”"
So where does this leave things moving forward? Well, to be honest, a lot of how things shake out depend on Samardzija’s performance in the 2014 season. If he steps up and pitches like a top-of-the-rotation starter, he will add much-needed credibility that he deserves top talent money. If he struggles, then it will only add to the Cubs’ argument that he’s not that caliber of a pitcher – at least not yet.
What would a contract look like should Chicago sign their workhorse right-hander to an extension? The two sides avoided an arbitration hearing with a one-year, $5.345 million deal recently, but we’re going to compare the recent Jimenez deal to Samardzija’s numbers and see how they stack up.
The most glaring difference and perhaps the best place to start is the fact that Samardzija has just two full seasons of starting pitching under his belt, compared to the eight years compiled in a rotation by Jimenez. Keep in mind that the two are roughly a year apart in age, with the Cubs’ right-hander coming in at 29 and the soon-to-be Orioles’ arm at 30.
Over his career, which has been split to this point between the Colorado Rockies and the Cleveland Indians, Jimenez has posted an 82-75 record with a 3.92 ERA. The largest critique of his pitching revolves around inconsistent mechanics, which have led to control issues to the tune of 4.0 BB/9 over the course of nearly 1,300 innings of work.
His career averages are solid apart from the high walk totals – 8.3 SO/9 and 2.05 SO/BB – but a far stretch from being top talent-worthy. In fact, Samardzija has better averages across the board: 8.6 SO/9, 3.8 BB/9 and 2.29 SO/BB. But again, four of his six big league seasons have been spent in the bullpen, which is a different animal altogether.
In his two seasons as a starter, Samardzija has averaged roughly 193 2/3 innings pitched and 197 strikeouts, which indicate two things: he has swing-and-miss stuff and he eats a lot of innings. These things alone, coupled with the fact that he doesn’t have the typical wear and tear on his arm due to the fact he didn’t play as much baseball in his younger years make him a logical long-term investment.
It’s hard to imagine him getting anything less than a four-year deal somewhere in the $32-40 million range should the Cubs agree to terms on a long-term deal. Then again, a step back in 2014 would only increase the front office’s reluctance to spend big money on Samardzija moving forward.