Theo Epstein did not have a single arbitration hearing as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, nor has it happened under his watch as the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. However, that nearly all changed with right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Nearly. According to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat on Saturday, the two parties reached an agreement of one-year, $5.345 million, thus making Samardzija the eighth and last arbitration eligible player to sign with the team. The North Siders offered the 29-year-old righty $4.4. million, while he requested $6.2 million.
According to a Sunday article from Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmeyer from the Chicago Sun-Times, Samardzija is expected to be dealt by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. If so, that seems like the only reason why the Cubs would offer him what they did. As Wittenmeyer pointed out, though the right-hander went 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA in 2013, he was one of only 10 hurlers to eclipse both 200 innings and 200 strikeouts and five of those 10 pitchers had won a Cy Young Award. With this, it seems a little bewildering that the Cubs would give Jason Hammel $6 million a one-year contract and Samardzija gets less, especially if one considers Hammel has never had 200 innings or 200 strikeouts in a single season, let alone both. That’s not to say Hammel can’t be a good starter in the back of the rotation for this team, it just seems as though Samardzija should be making more this season.
That said, one needs to take the good with the bad as well. 200 innings and 200 strikeouts is very appealing. Never mind the win-loss record, Cubs lefty Travis Wood and White Sox southpaw Chris Sale both went under .500 in 2013 and both pitched very well. What is concerning is Samardzija walked a career high 78 batters, up from his previous career high in 2012 of 56 walks. He also gave up 25 home runs, again, a career high and up from five the year before. Not to mention he surrendered 210 and threw 11 wild pitches. So, he does have some areas in which he can improve upon heading into 2014.
It’s understandable if the Cubs didn’t think he was worth the $6.2 million, but he seemed to pitch well enough to earn higher than the $4.4 million, and despite his flaws, still seems worthy of a higher contract than what Hammel is making, unless, again, the team intends to ship him off by July 31.