After I heard that the Giants had signed Jeff Samardzija to a 6 year $90 million dollar deal, I was perplexed.
Right now, according to FanGraphs, teams are spending about $6 million per WAR on a player. Although that calculation is a few years old and some say it is closer to $8 million per WAR nowadays, it's a reasonable number to use for judgement.
Jeff Samardzija has had the following WARs in his career since being converted to a starter:
2012 - 1.8
2013 - 1.0
2014 - 3.7
2015 - 0.2
Based on his $18 million a year salary, the Giants are effectively paying for 3.0 WAR a season. Something he has only accomplished once in his career, and he wasn't particularly close in any other year. He was ridiculously off in 2015.
In contrast, lets take a look at David Price's contract at 7 years and $217 million. The Red Sox are paying for what they hope is about 5.1 WAR per year. Since 2010, when he began a full time starter, David Price has WARs of:
2010 - 4.8
2011 - 2.8
2012 - 6.9
2013 - 2.8
2014 - 4.6
2015 - 5.9
That's not too bad. He cracked a 5.1 WAR two times and was pretty close another two times. Minimally he's averaging a WAR of 4.6 (~90% of desired) compared to the average of 1.67 for Samardzija (~55% of desired).
Lets look at Zack Greinke. His 6 year $206 milllion dollar contract means the Diamondbacks are looking for 5.7 WAR per year. Since 2008 when he began playing as a starter full time Greinke's WAR has been:
2008 - 5.4
2009 - 10.4
2010 - 3.4
2011 - 1.5
2012 - 2.6
2013 - 3.9
2014 - 4.3
2015 - 9.3
He's cracked 5.7 twice and was pretty close in 2008. Again, his average is 5.1. Not that far off (~89% of desired).
Lets look at Jordan Zimmerman to just round things out. Zimmerman got a 5 year $110 million dollar deal, so that comes to a goal of 3.66 WAR per season. What's his history?
2011 - 2.8
2012 - 4.7
2013 - 3.7
2014 - 4.9
2015 - 3.5
This deal seems to be a bit more on the mark. Zimmerman is averaging a WAR of 3.9 over his career. Based on this, it seems the Tigers got a pretty good deal on Zimmerman.
So while I'm perplexed about the Samardzija signing, a team that has won three World Series in the last 6 years should deserve some credit. Perhaps they see something that others don't. At the minimum, because Samardzija converted to a starter later in his career, he doesn't have as much mileage as other starters.
But the Giants are certainly banking on the fact that 2015 was a fluke and 2014 is a better indicator of his performance. In 2015, Samardzija played for the most defensively poor team in baseball (see Fangraphs chart). So a change of scenery to a very good defensive team (#2 according to Fangraphs for 2015) may do wonders for Samardzija.