Jeff Samardzjia Signs with the Giants
The dominos of this offseason’s strong starting pitching market have really begun to fall with next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville looming. Mere hours after losing out on the Zack Greinke sweepstakes to the interdivision Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants’ front office called an audible and signed righthander Jeff Samardzija to a five year, $90M deal. The Giants, knowing full-well that Samardzija had declined a qualifying offer from the White Sox, had already been prepared to forfeit their first round pick in the upcoming draft when they put their names in the hat for Greinke. The Giants will lose the 18th overall selection, and the Sox will be given a sandwich pick as compensation. Samardzija’s contract will average out to $18M a year, and he will also get a limited no-trade clause which allows him to block a trade to eight teams of his choosing per season.
The Giants undoubtedly over-paid to bring The Shark aboard, considering the 30-year old’s rough 2015 season; however, the organization had money to burn and could conceivably use some of what they saved by not signing Greinke to turn one arm into two. Zack Greinke’s deal with Arizona averages out to over $34M a year, nearly double what the Giants will be paying Samardzija. If the team could sign another mid-rotation starter — maybe even bring back San Fran’s trade deadline acquisition from last year, Mike Leake — they would be well positioned with a starting rotation that already includes Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain. The Giants also saved about $4M a year by going with Samardzija as opposed to Jordan Zimmermann who received five years at $110M from the Detroit Tigers.
Samardzija’s nightmare of a season with the White Sox was the primary reason that the sheer dollar amount of his new contract is turning heads in baseball. The Shark is coming off his worst season since becoming a full-time starter back in 2012 and had surrendered an American League-high 228 hits, 118 earned runs and 29 homers. He saw some staggering spikes in other areas as well including a 4.96 ERA and 3.33 K/BB ratio.
Despite Samardzija’s south-side struggles, there is more than enough reason to believe that his 2015 campaign was nothing more than an off-year for the big righty. It was a bit of a strange season in general for The Shark. He recorded a career high in wins with 11 and threw two complete game shutouts amidst his difficulties; and other than a notable dip in his K/9 and groundball rate, Samardzija saw no drastic changes in his batted ball percentages. Hard contact was only up two percent from his previous season, leading me to believe Samardzija may have just suffered from a bit of bad luck and that his off-year has been blown out of proportion.
It’s unlikely that Samardzija will be worth $18M dollars a year at the tail end of his contract with the Giants, but his move to San Francisco will most certainly benefit the ball club in the short term and will make him all that much more valuable from a fantasy standpoint. Samardzija has gotten the reputation of being an innings eater since becoming a starter and has thrown over 210 innings each of the last three seasons. He will also be aided by San Francisco’s pitcher friendly ballpark and a strong defense that includes Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt in 2016; two luxuries he was not afforded last year in Chicago. Samardzija got a late start to pitching and he definitely still has some bullets left. It wasn’t so much that his stuff was lacking this past season; it was more an issue of command. Maybe a return to the California’s Bay area will be all it takes for The Shark to get himself right.