Trade Values: Jeff Samardzija

Earlier today we heard that the Pittsburgh Pirates were really interested in Jeff Samardzija. James Santelli broke down the rumors, noting that the Pirates like Samardzija more than other teams. He also provided his thoughts on the deal in that article.

Here is the value of Samardzija, with my analysis and thoughts on him below.

NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players.  The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) – Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects. Also check out our values for the prospects in the Pirates system to get an idea of what a deal would cost for the Pirates.

Jeff Samardzija Trade Value

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus Value
2013 $2,640,000 3.0 $15,200,000 $4,200,000
2014 $5,000,000 3.0 $15,200,000 $10,200,000
2015 $7,500,000 3.0 $15,200,000 $7,700,000
TOTAL $15,100,000 9.0 $45,600,000 $24,600,000
Jeff Samardzija Pirates

Jeff Samardzija would cost a lot, but would also be an anchor for the rotation over the next two years.

Finding the Value: Samardzija was a 3.0 WAR player last year. He has a 2.2 WAR this year, so we can say he’s a 3.0 guy again this year. It was pretty easy putting him at a 3.0 WAR for the final two years. He’s 28-years-old, so I don’t think he’s going to have a big breakout. He should just remain a steady pitcher. His salary is up in the air. He’s making $2.64 M this year, and is eligible for arbitration two more times. I went with $5 M and $7.5 M for the final two years in value. Those might be low, and if they are, it only lowers Samardzija’s overall value. I set the 2013 trade for today. Also, I added $2.5 M on his overall value, since Samardzija will probably land a compensation pick when he leaves as a free agent.

What He’s Worth: You’re definitely talking a top prospect for Samardzija. Jameson Taillon, for example, would cover $18.89 M in value. The question is, do you trade six years of Taillon for two years of Samardzija? Or do you go lower? If you can keep Taillon, the next biggest piece would be Alen Hanson, who would have $18.12 M in value. You’d still need to cover the rest of the money, likely with Grade B hitters and maybe even one more 5-10 prospect.

You could put together a lot of options to get to the $24.6 M in value, but there are two things to consider. First is that the Cubs got huge value from the Rangers for Matt Garza. He landed them a top 50 prospect, plus three Grade B pitchers. That was for two months of production. They want more than that for Samardzija. The value they received was anywhere from $35-40 M in value. So to get to that, you’re talking two top 100 prospects. Plus more.

Samardzija is a really good pitcher, and has 2.5 years of control, plus he probably comes with a draft pick on the back end of the deal. An example of what he could cost would be two of Taillon, Hanson, or Tyler Glasnow, plus a Josh Bell type prospect. Or you might be able to go with one of that first group, in exchange for 2-3 Grade B/C prospects. Either way, the price will be at least one top 50 prospect (and maybe two), plus another possible top 100 prospect, and 1-3 additional prospects.

Analysis: I’m a fan of Jeff Samardzija, to the point where I don’t even have to think about how to spell his name. He’s a talented pitcher who has a strikeout per inning in his career, an average ground ball rate, and great stuff. You know what you’re getting with him, and that’s a #2 starter for two years and two months. This year he would slot in at the top of the rotation with Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett, giving the Pirates a great playoff rotation. Next year he’d join a rotation of Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and if they got Burnett back that would only be better.

The downside is that you’re trading a lot of prospects if you want to get him. You’re also trading them to the Cubs, which could cost you down the line. Dealing Jameson Taillon and then watching him pitch in Chicago next summer might hurt. Prospects aren’t guarantees, but it’s not like every prospect you trade will fail. If that’s the case, the Cubs wouldn’t be interested in dealing a talented pitcher with over two years remaining.

I think the deal would be easier to make if Taillon wasn’t involved (I’m already assuming Gregory Polanco would be off-limits). That means you’d probably have to deal Alen Hanson. You might also have to deal Tyler Glasnow. I like the upsides with both players, but I think the risks are higher for those guys than they are for Taillon and Polanco. I think the best case scenario would be dealing one of those top guys (Hanson), a talented guy you wouldn’t miss due to the system depth (Bell), and maybe 2-3 players who are ranked after Nick Kingham in our system rankings.

The Cubs don’t have to deal Samardzija this year. They could wait until the off-season, and the return wouldn’t change much. I wouldn’t assume a trade is likely today, but his value and the potential cost is something to consider, especially if there is more talk of dealing him in the off-season.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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