Judgment Day for Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samarzdja Today is November 6th, which is Qualifying Offer Day in Major League Baseball. All teams have until 4:00pm EST to propose a qualifying offer to their eligible free agents. The White Sox have one player who is eligble to receive a qualifying offer, and that is starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

The qualifying offer is set at $15.8 million dollars this year; and with that price, a plethora of questions and rumors begin to stir about what the Sox should do with Samardzija.

The Northwest Indiana native, who will be 31 years old by Opening Day next season, is coming off the worst season of his career. He went 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA for the Sox last year as he “led” all Major League pitchers in base hits allowed, and earned runs allowed.

Still, there is a significant amount of optimism around Major League Baseball that Samardzija can still be a quality starting pitcher. Although he is now on the wrong side of 30, he did not become a starting pitcher until his age-27 season in 2012. Therefore, most scounts tend to believe that his arm still has plenty of miles on it, as he is expected to land a massive contract in free agency should his name hit the open market.

Like any significant signing, there will be many pros and cons to either bringing Samardzija back to the South Side for another season, or deciding to let him walk.

On the positive side, Samardzija is still, by far, the best right-handed starter in the Sox organization (for now), and they will need a right-handed arm to balance out a rotation that is expected to be stacked with lefties in 2016. Sure, the Sox do possess a number of promising young right-handed arms; but if they were anywhere close to being Major League ready, the Sox likely would have told The Shark to pack his bags at the trade deadline in July. Samardzija had a horrific season in 2015, there’s no doubting that. But physically, he still appears to be in the prime of his career, so the chances of him having a bounce-back season in 2016 are probably more likely than the chances of him repeating his 2015 performance. The Sox just cleared $10 million from their payroll by declining Alexei Ramirez’s contract option for next year. Could that be the writing on the wall that they will try and re-sign Samardzija?

On the negative side, $15.8 million dollars is an awful lot of money to pay for a player who just had an abysmal season. The Sox are already committed to doing that with John Danks next year, so why would they want to do it for Samardzija too? If they give Samardzija $15.8 million, then they will have $15.8 million less to patch up some some of the gaping holes that they have on their roster, including 3rd base, catcher, and now shortstop.

The bottom line is that the Sox, at some point this offseason, will need to secure a quality right-handed pitcher for next season if they want to make a run at the playoffs. All indications from the past year or so is that the organization is in “win now” mode. They made a big splash during last year’s offseason, and then they refused to give up on their expensive yet underachieving veterans at the trade deadline.

Either way, the Sox are going to make a huge gamble today, whether they like it or not. If they present the qualifying offer to Samardzija and he accepts it, they will have made a huge investment. If they don’t present the offer, their best right-handed starter will hit the open waters of free agency.

It will be very interesting to see how the next few hours unfold.



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