What If Jeff Samardzija Accepts The Qualifying Offer?
The White Sox made their second official move of the offseason on Friday, and unlike the decision to decline Alexei Ramirez's option, this one didn't come as nearly the surprise.
The White Sox have made the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer to Jeff Samardzija.
There was no reason not to make the offer to him, as it rewards the White Sox with a compensatory draft pick if Samardzija signs elsewhere, and just about everybody in the world believes that Samardzija is going to turn down the offer and explore free agency.
But what if he doesn't?
Don't get me wrong, I'm with the 99.9% of people who believe he's going to test the market, but I'm just trying to imagine the possibilities here. Specifically, would it be such a horrible thing if he did?
I don't think so.
Samardzija did not work out how most White Sox fans anticipated he would. When the White Sox made the trade for him last winter, it not only caught me completely off guard, but it made me excited in a way I didn't think I was going to be.
I didn't think Samardzija was an ace, but when I pictured him as the second or third starter in a rotation that already included Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, I started feeling all tingly inside. That teenage boy who was just touched by the girl he has a crush on kind of tingly.
Do you remember those days? The days when you were convinced that the Royals had been a fluke, the Tigers were getting old, and anything was possible in the AL Central? Well, you were half-right. The Tigers did get old.
As for the Royals being a fluke...the results are cloudy at best I guess.
Anyway, the combination of Sale-Quintana-Samardzija, which would eventually be joined by Carlos Rodon, was going to make the White Sox a legit division contender. But then Samardzija actually took the mound, and even if Hawk Harrelson christened him the Captain Of Attitude that was the missing link between the White Sox and the postseason, things just didn't go the way you thought.
Samardzija went out and had the worst season of his career since becoming a full-time starter. Sure, you wanted to write off his 4.96 ERA as a byproduct of a shitty defense behind him -- and it really was craptastic early in the year when Micah Johnson was still a thing -- the fact his FIP finished at 4.23 said that wasn't actually the case.
As did a career low in his strikeout rate. In his first three seasons as a starter, Samardzija struck out 23.7% of the batters he faced, and had a groundball-to-flyball ratio of 0.95. Which helped keep his home run allowed ratio to 2.6%.
Last year with the Sox, El Capitan de Actitud had a strikeout rate of only 17.9%, a groundball-to-flyball ratio of only 0.67, and a home run ratio of 3.2%. All of which were the worst numbers of his career as a starter.
To further drive this point home, because it doesn't hurt enough just yet, opposing batters slashed .273/.319/.446 against Jeff. In his previous three seasons, they hit .244/.302/.391. And we can't pin it on something fluky like BABIP, either. Batters had a BABIP of .305 last year against him, but the previous three years it was an even .300.
So, the simple truth is, Samardzija just wasn't as good of a pitcher as he had been last year. Maybe it was the pressure of being in a contract year while pitching for the team he claimed to grow up rooting for. Maybe it was just friction between him and Don Cooper.
I don't know. I just know it was bad.
But I also don't think it'd be that bad again. A part of me thinks that 2015 was still something of a fluke, and if the White Sox could get Samardzija back on a one-year deal for $15.8 million next year, it might allow them some flexibility to make other roster moves to improve the rest of the team.
We'd all head into next season with lowered expectations for Samardzija. The kind he could actually live up to, or maybe even exceed.
He certainly wouldn't be the first White Sox acquisition to improve drastically in his second season with the team. That's basically the rule rather than the exception around here.
For all his faults last year, this is still somebody who went out and threw 214 innings for you. I'm not sure you can find that guy on the free agent market this winter for only $15.8 million, and those innings certainly have value.
It won't happen, but I honestly think that if Samardzija were to accept the offer and bet on himself one more time, it would work out for both sides.
Of course, getting $80 million or whatever Samardzija's likely to get isn't exactly a bad result for him, either. Which is why we all know it's not going to happen.