Giants Miss Greinke, Sign Samardzija

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 The Giants lost their first round pick in the process (as will many other teams this winter due to the ridiculous and outdated qualifying offer system).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.

What Now?

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.

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11 thoughts on “Giants Miss Greinke, Sign Samardzija”

  1. Samardzija-Nice move.Sale had some good things to day about his former teammate.Like the way he competes on the mound.

    FA Pitchers-I like Kazmir.Injuries a concern for sure.

    FA Outfielders-I believe we are serious about Cespedes.I’ve always liked his game.His game reminds me a lot of Pence.Free swinger,good speed,good glove,great arm.No organization has given this guy the respect he deserves.Why? Who the fuck knows.I hope we do.As good as we have been the last five seasons.I believe Cespedes could take us a notch higher.

    Trade-Trading for Shields would be a good move.Durable innings eater.Competitive,hard worker,and works well with young pitchers.Having two innings eaters behind our ace would be nice.SD might pick up some of the deal.They probably will not ask for much in return.We get the guy we wanted last year,for probably half the price.And,we get a highly motivated veteran pitcher,who can really help some of our younger pitchers develop.It’s win,win situation for us.

    Peace Cove

    1. Thanks David! I like Cespedes too. Impact player for sure. If they aren’t blown away by any of the other pitching options left, might as well aim a little higher for the OF huh? Upton or Cespedes, if the interest really is true, would get people fired up in a hurry.

      1. Another good option via trade would be Joe Kelly.Good arm.Boston looking for bullpen arms in return.Good match for us.

  2. I look at the Greinke contract and I think ‘whew’ dodged a bullet. I really think he was paid for 2015 and not the larger body of his recent work (2010-2014) which is how I look at him. And 2010-2014 were good years, but not this kind of money good.

    As for the OF, I think power is not the way to go. There were 109 HRs hit at ATT last year. The Giants hit 53 of those HRs at home. Their opponents hit 56.

    On the road the Giants hit 83 home runs. If you double the road-production (basically a neutral playing field) the Giants would have hit 166 HRs. Clubs, in the MLB averaged 163 HRs last year.

    So I think the splits illustrate that (a) nobody hits HRs at ATT and (b) the Giants do fine on the road which should, to me at least, demonstrate the Giants have, at a minimum, average power for a baseball club

    The problem is not a lack of power, per se, but that ATT is a park where it’s exceedingly difficult to hit HRs compared to the average park. Better, in my book, to have speed, defense and good contact rates than to try for power and sacrifice defense. Because for half your games that power will be marginal and defense (being able to run down all those balls that aren’t going to leave the park) will be more important.

    Now, a guy who is great defensively and can hit for power is great. But the Michael Morse’s of the world are bad investments. In LF Morse give up as many defensive runs as he hit HRs and we were lucky that his poor LF play didn’t cost terribly.

  3. I can’t decide between Gordon or Cespedes but I like either better than Heyward or Upton. After that I would be fine with Buerle, Alvarez, Lee, Fister or Chen just to add some depth at SP. After that the only question mark for me is CF and leadoff. Bullpen should work itself out but leadoff is going to be another story. Blanco can play CF if Pagan continues to stink but he isn’t much of a leadoff hitter. If we signed Gordon maybe he becomes leadoff and the lineup looks something like this:

    Gordon LF
    Panik 2B
    Posey C
    Pence RF
    Belt 1B
    Duffy 3B
    Crawford SS
    Blanco/Pagan CF

    I would be ok with that and a rotation of MadBum, Shark, Peavy, Buerle, Cain and everyone else fights for the pen. Someone will emerge throughout the year to take over closer for Casilla and if Panik can’t stay healthy we have Kelby waiting to step up.

  4. The Shark signing reminds me very much of the Pence signing.

    – 5/$90M
    – Exceptional athlete, high competitive drive. I can see Pence and Shark being good dude friends as were Pence and Morse.
    – Has all the tools, but never quite put it all together.
    – Wants stability of contract, dollar and place.
    – Is a character

    For many of the same reasons I see Shark emerging into a stud pitcher and team leader as Pence has. BOOM!

    1. Hey, thanks for checking in. Your points are great ones, and after watching his press conference, I think you’re spot on about Shark and Pence hitting it off. He truly seems like the perfect fit for this club. Well spoken, goofy, long hair, but highly competitive on a baseball diamond. And now he’s our #3 starter. Man, what a time to be a Giants fan!

    1. David, thanks for commenting! After watching Shark’s press conference, it’s hard not be excited about him. The guy was born to be a Giant. There’s no doubt he’ll fit right into the team atmosphere, and I think he will be very successful on the mound as well.
      So, how about that Cueto signing…. Can the season start already??

  5. Cueto- Cueto has similar command to Greinke.He’s not the athlete or hitter Greinke is.But,he’s every bit the pitcher.He pitched on a team that was in rebuild mode for the last two seasons.I think he’ll be amongst the ERA leaders in the NL.Now we have two aces in our rotation.Nice move by Evans.

    Samardzija-Maybe his football background and his transition to baseball can be helpful to Crick.

    Peace Cove

    1. Hey David. Two aces in the rotation indeed. I’ve been thinking about Cueto vs Greinke lately. Greinke had by far the best season of his career last year, and now he’s the richest pitcher in baseball because of it. He should be very, very good the next few years, but there is little chance he’s ever as good again as he was this season.
      Cueto, on the other hand, is being judged for missing a start in May and battling some inconsistency in KC. The 5 tremendous seasons he had in Cincinnati were basically ignored. So the Giants jumped in, acted quickly and brought him to SF for $75M less than Greinke. Absolutely genius move, in my opinion.

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