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Why Jeff Samardzija’s rumored contract is a big problem for MLB

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

Nothing that Jeff Samardzija has done in his career as a starting pitcher would indicate that he’s worth a five year deal worth somewhere between $80-$100 million dollars.

Really, it’s not even close.

This needs to be said because three reports/projections over the last few weeks have suggested that Samardzija will probably get something in that range. Back in November, Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicted that Samardzija would sign for five years at $80 million. Not to be outdone, ESPN’s Jayson Stark came up with this beauty on Wednesday.

Then on Thursday, Bruce Levine from WSCR-670 in Chicago produced slightly less insane, yet still completely illogical information.

Certainly, logic is often thrown out the window during the Hot Stove season but really, unless these three gentlemen are playing an early April Fool’s prank on us, this is a problem, and not just for the team that signs him.

Now, Samardzija’s fans (and likely his agents) would probably point out that he was one of the best pitchers in the game in 2014 (not that long ago), which is undeniable. The best thing to do in situations like this is to look at what else he’s done to see what the outlier is.

Jeff Samardzija

What’s a better indicator, 626.2 innings, or 219.2? Another way to look at that question would be, 98 starts — including the 32 most recent — or 33?

Based on his career path, Samardzija is much closer to a talented yet inconsistent pitcher that had a great year in 2014 than to an ace who had a down season in 2015.

If you’re an executive looking to give Samardzija something in the $80 million-$100 million range, it doesn’t get much scarier. Samardzija is a power arm who will turn 31 in January, and while his velocity hasn’t dropped by a significant amount (per Fangraphs), power pitchers north of 30 generally don’t age that well. If we’re talking about a 5-6 year contract, then it’s only going to get worse towards the end.

Now, why does this matter to the teams that don’t sign him? Quite simply, Samardzija sets the market when he does this.

If this is the kind of contract that one good year as a starter can buy a pitcher in his 30’s, then others are going to follow suit, or at least try. If you think big market teams have an unfair advantage in signing guys like David Price and Zack Greinke, it’s only going to be exacerbated if pitchers like Jeff Samardzija get contracts like that.

Really, fans should be hoping that these reports are just crazy speculation in the case of Dierkes, or fibs pushed by Samardzija’s agents to Stark and Levine. There’s nothing in Samardzija’s past to indicate that he’ll be worth $16-$20 million per year over the next five years.

If that’s the contract he lands, things are only going to get crazier in the coming years.