San Francisco Giants Sign Jeff Samardzija To Five-Year, $90 Million Deal
After the San Francisco Giants loss out on top free agent starting pitcher Zack Greinke, they moved quickly to lock-up their consolation prize, former Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to a five-year, $90 million deal. The Giants were rumored to be in talks with Samardzija as a backup plan if they were to lose out in the bidding war for Greinke’s services. The former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher ended up signing with inner-division rival Arizona Diamondbacks for a record six-years, $206.5 million contract ($34.42 million AAV is baseball’s largest ever, breaking the contract starting pitcher David Price just signed with the Boston Red Sox days ago).
Last 2015 season with the White Sox, Samardzija was 11-13 W-L, with a 4.96 ERA, 228 H’s, 122 R’s/118 ER’s, 29 HR’s, 49 BB’s, 163 SO’s, and a 1.294 WHIP in 214.0 IP/32 games started. The 228 hits allowed, 118 earned runs allowed, and the 29 home runs allowed lead the American League. Samardzija figures to slot into the Giants #2 starter role in their rotation, a spot that has pretty much vacant all of last season.
While Samardzija is entering his age 31 season, he doesn’t have the same wear-and-tear and innings as some of the other pitchers on the free agent market this offseason, meaning there is a good chance that he will age nicely throughout the life of the contract, not losing much velocity off his fastball. His average fastball velocity according to Fangraphs was 94.3 MPH. He also features a two-seam fastball which has an average velocity of 94.3 mph, but he only throw that a career-low 8.8%, compared to 33.5% on the four-seamer. This is somewhat puzzling, as the two-seam fastball is generally used to generate ground balls, something that will work to his benefit if he so inclines to throw it more with the Giants as they have one of the better defensive infields in all of MLB.
Many Giants fans will be disappointed with this signing as the hope was they would go all-in on signing Greinke, but this could actually turn out to work in the Giants favor if they play their cards right. The Giants also have a gaping hole in LF and are also in need of another quality starting pitcher. Committing $200+ million to Greinke could have potentially left the Giants short of funds to fill all of their offseason priorities with high-quality players, leaving them to have to go bargain-basement hunting or fill needs with in-house minor league player who may not be ready yet for the big leagues. By signing Samardzija for less than half of what Greinke signed for, the Giants could now take that $100+ million and go get themselves a quality LF bat and another starting pitcher. Some potential free agent suitors include outfielders Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordon, Chris Davis (a natural first baseman who could play LF or the Giants could move current starting first baseman Brandon Belt to LF), and Jason Heyward, although the latter seems much more unlikely than the former. Some potential free agent starting pitching suitors include: re-signing Mike Leake (who the Giants acquired at the trading deadline last season), Johnny Cueto, Wei-Yin Chen, Doug Fister, Scott Kazmir, and Shelby Miller (who the Giants would have to trade for but have been rumored to have inquired about with the Atlanta Braves). Samardzija plus one of the potential outfielders and one of the starting pitchers mentions above may be greater than Greinke, a lower-tier outfielder like Gerardo Parra or Dexter Fowler, and a minor league in-house option as a 5th starter. However, if the Giants sit on their hands and don’t use the savings affords to them by signing Samardzija than Greinke, then we are having a different conversation.
Personally, as it stands today, I would have signed Greinke and given him the guaranteed sixth-year he was seeking in his contract terms. It’s not that I hate the Samardzija signing; I think it’s fine and they acted appropriately in quickly signing him better getting into a desperate bidding war for other starting pitchers. But I believe that if the Giants would have signed Greinke to the same terms he got from the D-Backs, they would have found a way to still sign a quality outfield bat and possibly pulled the trigger on a [Shelby] Miller trade with the Braves. However, depending on how the Giants decide to take this new-found $100 million savings for a spin through the free agent market, I could be changing course and feeling a lot better about the Samardzija signing.