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Jeff Samardzija's future is in free agency

White Sox GM Rick Hahn says starter intends to test market, which sets up qualifying offer

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Jeff Samardzija's awful August -- plus a shaky first September start -- has made the idea of a qualifying offer difficult to grasp, at least for those unfamiliar with the process.

In a vacuum, there isn't much logic to it. After all, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many White Sox fans aren't pleased with the prospect of one more year of John Danks at $14.25 million. Yet he has a lower ERA this season than Samardzija, who would be making around $16 million for 2016 if he accepted a qualifying offer. With that in mind, why would the White Sox give Samardzija a qualifying offer, and why wouldn't Samardzija accept? The White Sox seem like the ones assuming the risk when speaking only in terms of dollars versus production.

But when placing it in the context of free agency, I've been of the mindset that it'd take an injury for the calculus to change. Considering Samardzija was in line for a payday of $80 million (or maybe even nine figures) before this season, a commitment of one year and $16 million almost seems trivial by comparison. On Samardzija's side, while he might have to accept a one-year deal to rebuild his value, I'd imagine he'd shop around for the best situation rather than automatically handcuff himself to the team with which he had such a miserable contract year.

And that's before you get into Samardzija's staunch pro-labor background. There's a reason why a player has yet to accept a qualifying offer -- it's more designed to compensate a team for losing a player than keeping one under agreeable circumstances, and Samardzija doesn't seem like the guy to buck that trend.

This has all been the matter of speculation, rumination and discussion among us, anyway, since there wasn't much in the way to work with in terms of quotes. But then Rick Hahn spoke to reporters on Tuesday.

"[Samardzija's] going to have to go to the market and hear what's out there. He's worked too hard and too long over his career to get to something that's very valuable to a player," Hahn said. "We've obviously built what we feel is a strong relationship, both with Jeff as well as his representatives, and I'm sure we'll be in contact throughout the offfseason as that unfolds. But at this point he's right on the doorstep of free agency and we fully expect him to explore that as he has intended."

As for qualifying offer, Hahn called it  "an offseason conversation" before adding, "If that occurred, that's great, so be it." I don't think it was intended to be a lead-pipe lock answer to a hypothetical scenario -- his overarching message was that October and November questions will get answers in October and November -- but based on what he said before it, I'm pretty sure "That's great" would be his honest assessment of a one-year, $16 million contract for Samardzija regardless, especially if there's any merit to Ken Rosenthal's early assessment:

Samardzija, 30, is under-performing, but still will exceed 200 innings for the third straight season. He's durable, yet he still will have thrown fewer major-league innings and pitches than virtually every starter on the market.

Not long ago, it appeared inevitable that Samardzija would exceed Homer Bailey's six-year, $105 million contract. Something along the lines of James Shields' four-year, $75 million deal might be more realistic now.


Robin Ventura's situation is murkier, although he made his opinion on the matter clear:

"Absolutely [I want to return]," Ventura said. "People that think I don't care, that's an unfair assessment. Nobody cares more about how it's going here than I do."

Just like the Nolan Ryan thing, Ventura is probably never going to outlive this notion. He had the misfortune of following Ozzie Guillen, whose rants are still longed for by sizable portion of the fan base, even though they grew les specific and meaningful over the years. Ventura shouldn't be slammed for resisting false hustle, even though of course he will be.

His return isn't as certain, and Hahn didn't offer up the usual vote of confidence. When asked if he was evaluating Robin Ventura and his coaching staff, Hahn said, "We're evaluating everything right now."