San Francisco Giants Sign Jeff Samardzija, Aren’t Finished Yet


After missing out on the big fish, the San Francisco Giants settled for netting a Shark.

The dominoes were expected to fall fast after Zack Greinke, very unexpectedly, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday while spurning both the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Giants wasted no time in making their biggest acquisition of the offseason. On Saturday morning, the Giants signed free agent right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija to a five-year deal worth reportedly worth $90 million. The Giants are Samardzija’s fourth team, after the Chicago Cubs, the Oakland Athletics, and the Chicago White Sox.

The deal for Samardzija looks like a high-risk, high-reward deal from the onset. Samardzija, affectionately known as “Shark” throughout his career, has been an underachiever for the most part as a big league pitcher. Besides a really stellar 2014 campaign, when he finished with a 2.99 ERA and 1.065 WHIP despite a terrible record, Samardzija has been a middle of the road pitcher.

Even still, in today’s market $18 million annually isn’t as much as it seems, especially with Greinke earning nearly twice that with his mega-contract from Arizona. The Giants are taking a risk with Samardzija, but they do have a great history of turning average pitchers into key contributors in recent years. This is their most expensive test yet.

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One big plus for the Giants is that Samardzija is among the freshest free agent arms that have been on the market in years. On the cusp of turning 31 years old, Samardzija has thrown less than 1,000 career innings in the Major Leagues. He spent his first four seasons with the Cubs as a reliever (making five starts among his 128 appearances) and threw just 169.2 innings in that time.

Since then Samardzija has become a workhorse starting pitcher, and is one of just three pitchers in the game to surpass the 210-inning mark in each of the last three seasons, along with R.A. Dickey and Max Scherzer. The Giants’ biggest weakness last season was their rotation, and namely their inability to eat innings. Among Giants’ starters from last year, only Madison Bumgarner (6.2 innings) and Mike Leake (six innings in nine starts) averaged at least 18 outs per start last year. Samardzija will at least be able to eat up innings for the Giants and help keep the bullpen fresh and rested, which they rarely were last year.

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Even with the addition of Samardzija, the Giants are still hot on the trails of other free agents, and there are indications that are looking at both pitchers and hitters. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Giants are looking at outfielders who wield big bats, like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes. The link between the Giants and Upton is a little difficult to believe, considering Upton’s previous negative comments towards the Giants’ home park, but then again, money does talk.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rsenthal reports that the Giants have a meeting scheduled with super utility man Ben Zobrist. The possibility of a marriage between Zobrist and the Giants has already been discussed here. ESPN’s Buster Olney mentions that Mike Leake, the Giants’ trade deadline acquisition from 2015, is drawing interest from San Francisco, but also names the Kansas City Royals as a possibility. However, Giants’ beat writer Andrew Baggarly believes the Giants are unwilling to give Leake a “Samardzija-like deal”, which could be just what it takes to sign him.

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There’s still a lot of time left in the offseason, and Winter Meeting are getting closer and closer. With plenty of players available for signing, and a lot of money to go around, the hot stove should stay hot for a long time.