Well that escalated quickly.
The Giants, led on a wild goose chase for the the top arm on the market for the second winter in a row, came up short in their pursuit of Zack Greinke. Sixteen hours later, they’ve got Jeff “Shark” Samardzija in agreement to a 5-year pact. Here’s my rapid reaction to the whole ordeal, as well as the next steps for Bobby Evans and his team going forward.
Greinke: Signed with Arizona, 12/4 (6-$206M)
I tried not to get my hopes up. I really did. I told myself the Giants were a long shot all along. But in the back of my mind, I was excited. Battling with the Dodgers, mano a mano…
But as the clock ticked (and visions of ace pitchers danced in our heads), I knew something was off. Turns out (as per usual this time of year), we were all duped. When the Giants & Dodgers refused to separate themselves, Greinke and his agent left the window open just long enough for someone else to sneak in.
Whether Arizona’s front office is brilliant or insane, I’m not yet sure. But there’s certainly no doubting their boldness. Stepping in to give Greinke the sixth guaranteed year (boosting the deal over $200M) was all(!) it took, apparently. Like any top talent, he took the money without hesitation, while the state of California wept.
A year later, and the Giants still hadn’t lured a top arm to San Francisco. After my initial disappointment (pretty significant disappointment, really), I realized Greinke signing with Arizona probably hurt the Dodgers more than it did the Giants, as strange as that is to say. Check the LA message boards – Dodger nation is NOT happy with Andrew Freidman. Letting their co-ace get outbid by the Snakes apparently didn’t sit too well with those folks…
The only question that mattered for us on the good side of the state was this: what next for Los Gigantes?
Samardzija: Signed with San Francisco, 12/5 (5-$90M)
With the Winter Meetings fast approaching and 3 of the NL’s heavy hitters (Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals) still missing a rotation upgrade (what are the Yankees up to these days?), Evans absolutely needed to move fast. So he invited Samardzija’s team in for another meeting this morning, and didn’t let the Shark leave without an agreement.
So it’s 5 years and $90M total for the long-haired righty. The Giants lost their first round pick in the process (as will many other teams this winter due to the ridiculous and outdated qualifying offer system). For a draft class that has a pretty deep first round, that’s a significant piece to the puzzle, and something that has some of the fanbase a little miffed.
Personally, it seemed pretty unlikely to me from the start that the Giants would hold onto that pick this winter, as many of the arms on the market were slapped with the QO. Yes, there were a couple of first round names I had on my radar that likely won’t be available anymore, but so much will change between now and next June. In this case, I’m ok with giving up the pick.
So, what of this Shark, the newest Giant? Look, I’m no expert. I’m just a fan with a blog. I certainly can’t predict how Samardzija will perform every year of this contract. But I can tell you I’m excited to have him come to San Francisco. I really think there’s a lot to like here. The fact that Evans signed him for less than half of what Greinke got isn’t insignificant. The Giants absolutely have more flexibility going into the Winter Meetings now. Granted, Greinke would have been a sweet, sweet signing. But Shark is a pretty talented consolation prize in my opinion.
As far as recent performance goes, there’s a reason why Samardzija didn’t get $100M, and everyone knows it. Many people out there are hung up on his season with the White Sox. No, it wasn’t good (49.5 avg Game Score, well below league average). You know what? Sometimes good players have bad seasons. Sometimes players who perform well in one league go to the other and flop.
Think about the last two years for this guy. He’s having the season of his career for the Cubs, pitching like an absolute boss while getting absolutely no run support. The Cubbies decide to unload almost every veteran piece they’ve got at the deadline, and Jeff goes to Oakland. He pitches quite well there too, but the A’s come up short (trading Cespedes REALLY hurt). Shark gets the royal Beane treatment – shipped to the other side of Chicago for his contract year.
The White Sox, despite some big offseason moves, are a dud. Their defense is plain awful, Samardzija mysteriously starts tweaking with his fastball, and struggles with the long-ball in an extreme hitter’s park. It didn’t turn out well.
Now, what he gets is a winning organization, a talented group of teammates, and some of the best pitching gurus in the game. Maybe most important, he finally gets some needed stability. For the folks out there bemoaning this deal, I have this to say: Samardzija has the pure stuff to be a tremendous talent… and you don’t even have to squint to see it, because he was a tremendous talent just two seasons ago (58.8 avg GmSc, putting him in the top tier of starters).
He’s not an ace (we already have one of those), but he’s also not being paid like one. What Jeff Samardzija is though is a tremendous athlete, a durable pitcher with a competitive edge and an explosive fastball. He’s looking for a fresh start, and that’s what he gets with us.
Welcome to San Francisco, Jeff “Shark” Samardzija, I say. I think this could be a very nice relationship for both parties.
Another big positive of this move is the Giants still have payroll flexibility. They can and will still add to their 2016 (and almost certainly beyond) roster.
Ben Zobrist is reportedly coming for a visit shortly (before the Winter Meetings?). Really, he’d be a great fit for this team… but at four years? That makes me nervous for a 34 year-old on a team whose infield is stacked with young talent. While Zobrist can handle LF right now, I’m not sure how many more passable years he has left out there. I said it a while back, a 2-year deal would really tie the room together… but that isn’t going to happen.
Personally, I think the best move at this point is another pitcher. Evans really needs to stay away from the other QO guys at this point (no giving up the 2nd round pick too), so I’d campaign for someone like Scott Kazmir on a 3-4 year deal (4 might be a bit tricky considering his injury history). Another lefty would be very nice in that rotation. I also would not be surprised by a 1 year bounceback deal for Bay Area guy Doug Fister. Just what caused his velocity decline last year, and can he get it back?
Don’t discount the Giants farm system in all of this, or the fact that Jake Peavy’s contract is up after next season. At some point, they’re going to need some contribution from the in-house options, and I think there’s going to be a pretty spirited competition between Chris Heston and Clayton Blackburn next spring.
Adalberto Mejia and Tyler Beede aren’t far behind, Chris Stratton is still hanging around with his slider, and Chase Johnson heads back to AA with a mid-90’s fastball. There are certainly some options there, which is why I think a Fister-type short-term signing might be more likely now than a longer deal for someone like Mike Leake. But I could be misreading the situation as well.
And finally, I still don’t buy the Upton/Cespedes rumors. Alex Gordon though? As I’ve made clear, I am partial to Mac Williamson’s future with the club. But if they end up with extra money to spend, it would be very hard to blame them for wanting to put another veteran piece into their lineup.
As always, thanks for reading. The Winter Meetings start Monday, and I expect the Giants to be heavily involved in what’s going on there.