With Zack Greinke shocking everyone last night, and with the Cubs snagging John Lackey earlier in the day, it was pretty clear that there was going to be a wave of movement in the pitching market, particularly in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the Dodgers and Giants had just lost out on the ace they thought they were going to get.
Samardzija, who turns 31 in January, is coming off of one of the worst seasons in baseball, but teams were able to look past it because of his uniquely projectable ability, and some flukiness that they believe will fade away when he’s off of the White Sox. At five years and $18 million AAV, the Giants are paying handsomely for Samardzija’s upside, and they must be convinced that he’ll reach it. If he’s anything short of the guy he was in 2013 and 2014 with the Cubs, the Giants are bound to be disappointed by this deal.
Or will they? We keep noting over the past two weeks that the price of poker has fundamentally changed, and perhaps this is the going rate for a good middle-of-the-rotation type with upside.
As for the Cubs, it’s pretty clear that they were excited about a reunion with Samardzija, but at a much lower rate. When it became clear that Samardzija’s market was going to be stronger, they likely took that opportunity to move on to Lackey and hammer that deal down. For Samardzija’s part, it seems clear that his market was simply waiting for the Greinke decision to clarify, as we surmised earlier in the week. And if the Cubs’ choice for their first next tier pitching move was Samardzija at 5/$90M or Lackey at 2/$32M? Well, I laid out that very question yesterday morning, and I chose the latter. So did the Cubs. I like what the Cubs opted to do.
The Giants now have at least the one solid starting pitcher they were seeking this offseason, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them still involved on other arms, picking and choosing not unlike the Cubs might now do. Their bigger need is in the outfield, so we’ll see how aggressively they move on guys like Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton, or, gulp, Jason Heyward. The Giants have the money.
The Dodgers and Cardinals were also possibilities for Samardzija, and you can expect the former to turn their attention toward Johnny Cueto, and the latter to grab a couple arms from the next tier, or scour the trade market. The Cardinals will also probably be able to be even more aggressive on retaining Heyward.
UPDATE: The Giants are still in on at least a couple other mid-tier pitchers:
Sources: #SFGiants still in on Leake, also like Iwakuma. Nothing brewing in trade discussions at this time.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2015
UPDATE 2: The Cubs were willing on the AAV, but not the years, and this sounds about right:
Cubs offer to Samardzija had less years but same 18 million AAV
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 5, 2015