Jeff Samardzija will be paid $9.8 million dollars this season, after an agreement was reached with the Chicago White Sox to avoid arbitration. Fans in Chicago and the organization are excited to add the Shark to their rotation in 2015, however, signing Samardzija to a long-term extension would be a mistake.
We’ve all been there. You meet that special someone; send them a witty text coupled with the perfect emoji. Eventually, you get a first date and pass yourself off as a respectable human being. Before you know it, they’re yours! You are officially coupled. So what do you do at the first sign of a holiday or birthday? You break the bank; Tiffany & Co, Xbox One, she went to Best Buy, he went to Jared, boy oh boy won’t they be impressed?! A year later you look at your bank account and wonder where all the money went, and how does Kraft make powered cheese taste so damn good?
Waiting in the wings
The White Sox are that smitten someone, freshly coupled and ready to commit. It would be unwise to break the bank, though, given the wealth of young pitching talent developing within the organization. Keith Law recently released his Top 100 Prospects Rankings and included two of the starting pitchers on his list that were drafted by the White Sox in 2014. Carlos Rodon checked in at #12 and Spencer Adams appeared at #94. In addition, CSN Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz noted that,
"“Law, in ranking the White Sox farm system 12th best earlier this week, wrote the White Sox had four prospects in the top-120 range. Hard throwing right-hander Frank Montas, who posted a 1.44 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 22 walks last season, could be that guy.”"
Francellis Montas was acquired by the White Sox in the three-team trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston in 2013. He spent most of 2014 in Advanced-A playing for the Winston-Salem Dash, before ending the regular season by starting a game for the Double-A Birmingham Barrons. He went 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA for the Dash, while allowing one unearned run over five innings during his only start for the Barrons.
The Sox seem intent on allowing Rodon and Montas to continue their development as starters in Triple-A Charlotte this season, with the possibility of being called up by the Sox should an injury or lack of performance on big league staff present an opportunity, be it in the starting rotation or the bullpen. Brian Bilek pointed to Rick Hahn’s comments at SoxFest last weekend when he mentioned that, “Montas, like Rodon, could work his way into the major league rotation through the bullpen.” Scott Merkin also tweeted about the Sox intentions to utilize Rodon as a starter during Spring Training.
Montas’ teammate on the Dash, Tyler Danish, must not be overlooked either. The former prep star posted a 2.65 ERA in 18 starts for Winston-Salem last season, striking batters out at a rate of 7.66 K/9. Danish is only 20 years-old, giving him plenty of time to develop while Hahn and Kenny Williams figure out exactly where he fits in.
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The point is, there is no reason for the Sox to get too worked up over trying to keep Samardzija. Hahn did a wonderful job not trading away key prospects in order to obtain the elite right-hander. They should show similar restraint when deciding how much more they are willing to commit to him financially beyond 2015. Sure, we all loved that feeling we had once we read the news that Shark was coming to the Southside. We’re flattered to hear stories about him being a Sox fan growing up and how excited he is to be a part of the organization. Why wouldn’t the White Sox want to hold onto a guy who’s the supposed yin to Chris Sale‘s yang?
I will tell you why. John Lester signed a six-year contract with the Cubs this offseason, at age 31, for $155 million, an average of just under $26 million per year. Samardzija will be the same age when he becomes a free agent in November, with a similar track record. Committing that much money to one player almost never works out. White Sox owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, is not prone to spending a limitless number of dollars year after year, which would limit the front office’s ability to overcome that kind of mistake.
The White Sox have enough talent in their farm system to overcome the departure of Samardzija after this season. Not only that, but they have the 8th pick in this year’s amateur draft if they feel the need to further fortify their stable of young arms. I don’t know about you, but I hope the White Sox are smart enough to realize there’s plenty of younger and cheaper fish in the sea after 2015 before they blindly throw money at the object of their affection.