It’s clear the Cubs didn’t get their moneys worth from the 5-yr, $10M contract Jim Hendry gave Jeff Samardzija in 2007, which is why the Cubs new brass has declined his $3M option for 2012.
That doesn’t spell the end of Samardzija’s tenure with Chicago. Instead, it’s likely they’ll cut his salary by around 20-percent to a more manageable, and fair, $2.24M.
What you can’t do is blame Samardzija for signing the lucrative deal, one which gave him an easy decision to choose Cubs baseball over a career in pro football. He would’ve been foolish not to.
Despite the potential 20-percent pay cut next season, that’s still above market value for a guy sporting a career (12-9) record and 4.40 ERA, although he did show steady improvement in 2011–(8-4), 2.97 ERA in 75 appearances–which makes him worth keeping around, at the right price.
I say this because what a significant pay cut could actually do in relieving the stress felt by Samardzija from his rookie contract.
There’s no doubt the mega deal added additional pressure on the Cubs, and Samardzija, to rush him to the majors, and keep him there, prematurely in 2008.
Worse, the indecision of the Cubs to make Jeff a full time starter or reliever did him no favors the following two seasons.
Mired between the minor’s starting rotation and the Cubs bullpen wasted several years of his development, which, of course, is again on the Cubs, not Samardzija.
This, however, can be amended with a fair deal, one positive for both parties.
Cutting Samardizija’s salary gives the Cubs more financial flexibility to build a winning roster. In return, Samardzija is given a fresh opportunity to show he’s of major league caliber without pitching under the burdens of unfair expectations that came from his rookie contract.
There’s no undoing the $10M lost on on Samardzija the past five seasons. But paying Jeff closer to what he’s worth currently, instead of what he could be, will go a long way in developing and retaining the service of a young power-arm on the cusp of a breakthrough.
With both sides fairly accountable, it’s a ‘win-win’ for Samardzija and the Cubs.