Just this morning I told you about Zack Greinke's new home in Arizona and what it meant for the rest of the NL West. It meant distress for the Giants and Dodgers - their top option plucked from the market and into the rotation of the Diamondbacks. San Francisco has not sat idly by. According to Alex Pavlovic of CSN they've signed Jeff Samardzija to a five-year, $90 million contract to play second fiddle in their rotation.
The man known as "Shark" is coming off a rather rough season that saw him post a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP, 4.31 DRA) and the highest full season HR/9 of his career. It was a far cry from the excellent 2014 campaign in which he finally put together the outstanding stuff and innate talent that he possesses into 219.2 innings of 2.99 ERA ball.
His 2015 struggles were the results of two factors. The first and foremost was that Samardzija's slider command nearly evaporated. The second was that the White Sox defense he pitched in front of was horrendous. That will change in San Francisco, and he'll have one of the best pitch framers in the game (Buster Posey) working with him.
Giants were MLB's second-best defensive team in 2015 by UZR (+37.2) White Sox were MLB’s worst defensive team in 2015 by UZR (-39.5)— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) December 5, 2015
Also in tow in San Francisco will be highly-regarded pitching coach Dave Righetti. Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are banking on Righetti's ability to fix Samardzija. They'll be aided by a spectacular defense and a cavernous home ballpark that should contain many of the fly balls that went over the fence at U.S. Cellular Field. If nothing else, Samardzija gives the Giants lengt; he's thrown at least 210 innings for the last three years. Giants starters were 18th in baseball in innings pitched in 2015, and with an aging Jake Peavy and the fragile Matt Cain still in the fold, the bullpen could grow taxed very quickly. In theory, it all makes some form of sense.
Is Samardzija the right man for the job, though? If Samardizja regresses to his former ability, his pitching should play up to a remarkable degree in San Francisco. If he doesn't, then he's yet another bland starter sharing a mound with Chris Heston and Peavy while Sabean and Evans pray that the good version of Cain shows up more often than not. Shark is likely not the final pitcher that the Giants add either. Yovani Gallardo makes a great deal of sense for them, as do Hisashi Iwakuma, Scott Kazmir, and Mike Leake. The elephant in the room is Johnny Cueto. Cueto is the last true ace on the market and could potentially be the source of a bidding war of epic proportions with the Dodgers if San Francisco feels comfortable paying Cueto's price after allocating $90 million to Samardzija.
We cannot say for certain that Samardzija was San Francisco's definite Plan B in the event that they lost Greinke. Samardzija may have just been the first of a group of targets to say yes. With a team like the Giants that's so very starved for pitchers not named Madison Bumgarner, it would be foolhardy to tell Samardzija to wait around because they've asked a few other pitchers to the prom.
Another factor to consider is that the signing costs the Giants their first round pick in next year's draft. San Francisco's system is rather top heavy. Christian Arroyo feels like a trade candidate with Joe Panik and the newly-extended Brandon Crawford firmly entrenched in the middle infield. Tyler Beede may be a year away, and Phil Bickford further behind him. Lucius Fox is 18 years old. Signing Cueto or Iwakuma will cost them another pick. Another pick will be gone if they fill their left field hole (and need for more power) with Justin Upton. With a first round pick already gone, it may be time for San Francisco to blow the draft entirely and load up on weapons to fend off the Dodgers and ascendant Diamondbacks.
This is but the latest of what is sure to be many, many moves in the NL West over the coming week. The Winter Meetings were Andrew Freidman's coming out party with the Dodgers. He has many a trade chip at his disposal and more than a few gaping holes on his roster. The Giants need bats and arms. The Diamondbacks will look to strengthen themselves further as they try to topple Los Angeles from the throne.
It's going to be so much fun to watch. Brace yourselves, baseball fans. The dogs of war are upon us.