Revisiting Jeff Samardzija’s Trade Value

In July, I wrote about what the Cubs might expect in return for starter Jeff Samardzija. The conclusion was that Samardzija, who had a 3.75 ERA at the time, was likely worth a whole lot in trade. It’s tough to imagine the Cubs returning quite as much value for him after he imploded down the stretch, but it’s important to remember that there is still quite a bit of value remaining for a team that acquires Shark.

Despite finishing the 2013 season with an ERA of 4.34 (112 ERA-), Samardzija nearly matched his 2012 FIP of 3.55 while seeing only slight regressions in his strikeout and walk rates. In total, Shark has produced nearly 6 fWAR over the last two seasons, good for 33rd amongst qualified starters. He has only pitched to a 4.10 ERA in that span, but has a 3.67 FIP and 3.51 SIERA in his time as a starter. With a few more innings under his belt at the same production, you’re looking at a pitcher who provides top-25 value.

This is the dream the Cubs are selling other teams – Samardzija is a strong third starter on a good squad, blessed with a body that should let him throw 220+ innings over each of the next few years with run prevention rates that hopefully catch up to his ERA estimators. If a team buys into that projection, and it only makes sense for the Cubs to trade him if one does, Samardzija still looks like a pretty valuable player for another team.

In estimating Samardzija’s future production, I’m assuming he is roughly a 3.75 FIP, 220 IP starter over the next two seasons, or roughly 3 to 3.5 wins above replacement. I’ve titled this table as an optimistic projection, but I think it is quite reasonable to expect such production out of him.


That figure of nearly $25 million in surplus value is nothing to scoff at. According to Victor Wang’s research, that’s the equivalent of a top 11-25 hitting prospect (think Albert Almora). Since the Cubs are looking for pitching, Samardzija would be worth a top 10 pitching prospect and a back-end top-100 prospect. Given Tyler Skaggs‘ scary decline and Archie Bradley‘s current stock, the package of the two of them that the Cubs are asking for seems like it fits that profile very well. I have to think that, if the Cubs could get such a deal, they absolutely have to take it.

(As an aside – pitching prospects are generally valued less than hitting prospects due to their increased risk of injury and busting outright. Remember this when you read people proposing deals like “Lets just trade one of the Big 4 for Taillon” or something along those lines – each one of the Big 4 is worth so, so much more than just one great pitching prospect)

Trading Samardzija for anything less would be a mistake in my eyes. The Cubs are set to graduate an enormous amount of talent over the next two seasons, and if that group exceeds expectations, a pitcher like Samardzija would be an incredibly important anchor, both in the rotation and in the clubhouse. If the Cubs do not receive impact talent in return, the road to a rebuilt rotation is even longer than it was before.

The other upside of holding onto Samardzija (unless you receive top dollar) is that, given his peripherals, he could easily go on a prolonged stretch of incredible pitching that makes him even more valuable on the market. All it takes is a few lucky months of a 5% HR/FB% to make him look like a must-have pitcher, and if he becomes one, the Cubs could basically choose whoever they wanted out of a contending team’s system. This is more fantasy than well-thought-out numbers, but sometimes strange things happen when a club needs a good starting pitcher to eat innings.
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10 Responses to Revisiting Jeff Samardzija’s Trade Value

  1. John says:

    Skaggs plus Bradley for a good (not great) 29-year-old MOR starter for two years? KT would be fired the very same day if he did that. Bradley is a Top 10 prospect and one who will be his own MOR starter for 6 cost-controlled years plus possible stardom. Dbacks fans aren’t even willing to part with Skaggs straight up for Samardzija.

    • 1cubfan1 says:

      @John… I’m guessing you’re a Dbacks fan, and for some reason, you must think the Cub’s FO and their fans as well, are gullible and stupid or something. The Cub’s FO, (Epstien/Hoyer) would be fired immediately as well, if they were to make a trade like that! A straight-up proven starter in Shark, for a possibility in Skaggs at best! He hasn’t even thrown 100 MLB innings yet and you’re saying he’s a better bet?!?! And let’s not forget, this is a trade that you say Dback’s fans wouldn’t be willing to do. Ha! Well, guess what… it’s a trade that Cub’s fans wouldn’t be willing to do either! Wow! You must be a really funny guy!

      • John says:

        I wasn’t trying to insult your intelligence but that’s always how people take things in forums like these which is why I rarely respond. People always make it personal. Nowhere did I say you should accept Skaggs for Shark, and nowhere did I say he was a better bet. I’m just saying for the Dbacks it doesn’t make sense and their fans would be against such a deal. To send away a potential young cost-controlled front-line pitcher (emphasis on potential) for two years of a 30-year-old MOR guy intent on landing a big FA contract soon doesn’t make sense for them. Skaggs has pitched 50 big league innings at the age of 21 and didn’t do so well. That doesn’t make him scrap. I’m not saying Shark sucks, it just doesn’t make sense for the Dbacks to ship off a Top 10 prospect or even a Top 50 prospect for someone that’s really not much better than what they already have. Shark is not an ace, he’s a low #2 or high #3. To suggest anything else would be pure homerism. Dbacks have 7 of those kind of guys right now, though to be fair Shark would rank near the top of that list of 7, but only by a slim margin. It makes more sense for a big market team to ship off minor league talent like that for Shark but not small market teams like the Dbacks, whose lifeline has to be based on young, cost-controlled pitching. I recognize there is risk with guys like Skaggs, but if you have enough of those guys in the pipeline you only need a couple of them to pay off. It would seem to me considering how the Cubs are in total rebuilding mode that they would want to add some of the same kind of young high risk/high reward kinds of guys. Bradley on the other hand is not a high risk guy, only high reward. His floor is MOR, his ceiling is All Star caliber. He’s a potential monster. He has out-pitched Skaggs (and just about everyone else in the minors) on his way up by a considerable margin. Bradley is not going anywhere, especially not for 2 years of a MOR guy. That was my main point, that your contention that such a deal was possible is not based in reality and that even throwing Skaggs away so callously would not be a popular move. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen though and then we can all have our rants against management, lol.

        • Tommy says:

          Agreed. The point of the piece, and the mention of Bradley and Skaggs, was to acknowledge a rumored package that was asked for, and to show that prospects of that caliber make sense. That doesn’t, however, mean that those specific two prospects make sense from the Diamondbacks’ point of view.

          I will disagree on your point that small markets cannot afford to make moves like this, though. If a small market team were very close to being a contender (say, an 85 win team or so), the addition of a 3 win pitcher to that rotation would mean a ton, in terms of extra ticket sales down the stretch and possibly playoffs, as well as to the team’s chances of competing. From the Cubs’ point of view, they shouldn’t (and don’t) care about where another team is on the win curve. But, if I were exploring this from the D’backs’ point of view, taking things like position on the marginal win curve into consideration would be a must.

          As it stands, the D’backs are not one (or likely 2-4) pieces away from contending. They’re an ok team, probably right around .500 (even if Aaron Hill mashes next season, it’s likely offset by small regressions from Miley, Parra, Corbin, and others. Even outside of that regression, the Dodgers are a freakin monster of a team, towering over every other team in the division. Adding 3 Samardzija wins to even an 84 win roster doesn’t get them close to the division title.

        • jaypeefreely says:

          Statistically, Samardzija is much better than a MOR guy.

 : a reflects his xFIP at 3.45, 22nd amongst qualifiers. K/9: 12th. IP:11th in MLB. Fastball velocity: 6th in MLB behind Strasburg, Fernandez, Harvey (now gone for a year plus). Cutter velocity: 2nd only to Edwin Jackson.

          If that profiles as a “he’s a low #2 or high #3”, then you need to reevaluate how YOU measure pitching. These potential prospects of high value BUST at very high rate. Taking a known commodity in Samardjiza and downgraded to fit your “potential” guys’ domination of 99% of a group that won’t sniff the jockey strap of an MLB player in 2-3 seasons is what is wrong here.

          Samardzija is a high #2. Not an ace yet. He flashes ace-like stuff, but is just outside that rare range (Kershaw, Greinke, Scherzer, Verlander et. al.) . He’s durable without injury history, and does not have the mileage some 29 year olds arms have. For 2 seasons, he’s worth two top pitching prospects, even if they are not named Bradley and Skaggs.

          AZ dude: “Dbacks have 7 of those kind of guys right now…” Well, then, why don’t you try to catch those Dodgers with those arms?

          AZ dude: “though to be fair Shark would rank near the top of that list of 7…” Well then, you’d have the best ROTATION in all MLB. You got more talent in your majors/minors than any MLB rotation has? Are you kidding me? What homerism that is.

          You are implying you have 7 guys that can throw 200+ innings, strikeout over 8.0 guys per 9IP (since they are comparable in some bizarre world you live in), and record a FIP under 3.8 making you odds on, one of the best rotations in all of the MLB. Get serious and get a mental health exam!

          Your GM wouldn’t even check on the Samardzija’s availability (Towers) if your had 7 guys like him, now, would you? (Asinine.)

          If your conversation is about giving up 12 years of control to 2 years (but with potential to sign for extension), then you might have been logical. Don’t make wild comps where you have no data that supports it. 7 Pitchers! God!

          • John says:

            I know a lot of people love the xFIP comparisons, but xFIP doesn’t work for pitchers that historically give up home runs. Shark’s HR rate was not an aberration last year that suggests a regression to the mean is coming. xFIP predicts that a pitcher’s HR/FB rate will come back to the norm. But his past performance does not suggest that will actually happen. That’s when xFIP fails. He has always given up home runs. His ERA+ in two years as a starter is 107 and 91. How does that make him a high #2?

            I’m not saying he sucks. Yes, he strikes out a lot of guys. Yes, he throws hard. Yes, he’s a solid 200 inning guy. And taking age and contact status out of the equation I don’t disagree he’s at (or near) the top of the list of 7 guys we have. His best performances were as a reliever, though. He has been very mediocre since becoming a starter. He walks too many guys and gives up too many homers. Why do you think that will suddenly change in a 30-year old pitcher whose performance has gotten steadily worse over the last three years?

            Even if you count his best years as a reliever he has a lifetime ERA+ of 97. Why do you just want to cherry pick the xFIP stat and his K/rate? The lifetime ERA+ for Miley, Cahill, McCarthy, Corbin and Delgado is 112, 105, 104, 103, and 95 respectively. That puts them in his ballpark at least.

            And why does everyone always take the debate so personally and start throwing around insults? I’ll listen to what you have to say. You don’t have to throw around personal attacks. Or is that just a Chicago thing?

  2. Cookie53 says:

    Unless we are overwhelmed, keep Samardzija. He should be peaking just about the time we are winning. I think he simply ran out of gas last year.

    • rocky quiroga says:

      he has no help around him and how many 1 run loses did he take last year and all the errors the cubs committed last year. I was at a game were they had 5 going in to the 7th. He also had a few rough outings as well….

      • Tommy says:

        Agreed. I also think he’s one of the hyper-competitive types in the league who needs to be on a competitive team to reach his highest playing levels. He’s made many comments to the media about his unhappiness on this team, it has to be wearing on him

  3. Cookie53 says:

    Rocky doesn’t understand what this “competitiveness” thing is. He is just a mild mannered, Clark Kent type of guy.

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