The Cubs and starter Jeff Samardzija avoided arbitration with a one-year, $5.345 million deal back in February. There have been talks of a long-term contract extension, but they haven’t gone anywhere and the most likely scenario still involves the Cubs trading the right-hander during the season, and Samardzija hitting the free agent market after the season.
Samardzija isn’t going to settle, as Patrick Mooney details for CSN Chicago. His father has been part of a union for over 30 years and he supports Northwestern football players as they battle the NCAA for collective bargaining rights. Samardzija sees himself as part of the bigger picture — his ability to negotiate a big contract sets up the players that come after him in a better position to negotiate more player-friendly contracts.
“Without a doubt,” Samardzija said. “I’ve said it before: Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years.”
Samardzija, of course, is referring to the recent trend in which players have signed away some of their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible years, as well as some free agency years, for up front security. Over the off-season, the Braves signed five players to extensions, including Jason Heyward (two years, $13.3 million), Julio Teheran (six years, $32.4 million), Andrelton Simmons (seven years, $58 million), Craig Kimbrel (four years, $42 million), and Freddie Freeman (eight years, $135 million). It is the most glaring example of what teams are doing to save money while keeping talented players on the roster.
Mike Trout also made headlines with his six-year, $144.5 million deal with the Angels, which many believe significantly underpays him, particularly when compared to Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal signed two months earlier. Many believed that Trout would become baseball’s first $300 million man.
By pushing the boundaries further and further, other similarly-skilled players now and in the future have more leverage when they negotiate a contract. Trout, who may end up retiring as the most unique and unparalleled player of his generation, had the opportunity to push that boundary, but settled on a deal that gives him more financial security. By going through arbitration through 2017, Trout risked being underpaid in the immediate future, and he also risked suffering a potentially career-altering or career-ending injury, which could have cost him hundreds of millions of dollars. No one can fault Trout for taking that contract. Samardzija, however, is willing to take that risk for the betterment of his peers, which is admirable.