No stone unturned! If you’re looking to add on the cheap, then you have to check out everyone.
And that includes old friends that you might not have otherwise considered. Bruce Levine reports that Jeff Samardzija “will work out and throw for the Cubs at some point in the next few days, according to sources.”
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) January 29, 2021
Samardzija, who just turned 36, last pitched with the Cubs nearly seven years ago, and has since pitched with the A’s, the White Sox, and the Giants. Those years have been mixed, but he was actually sneaky solid for the Giants in his last full season there in 2019:
Samardzija was never right in 2020, with his ramp-up for the partial season not going well, and then getting shut down almost immediately with a shoulder issue. Obviously, if you’re scouting him now, you’re largely trying to get a grasp on how healthy he is, and how much his health will hold up in 2021.
Samardzija’s separation from the Cubs wasn’t necessarily acrimonious way back in 2014, when he and Jason Hammel were traded to the A’s for, among others, Addison Russell. Samardzija kinda knew the score and knew where the Cubs were heading, and he wanted to compete in his prime. Plus, he made more money in free agency than he would’ve wound up getting in an extension offer from the Cubs. I don’t think there are hard feelings.
At his best, Samardzija displayed truly elite control, which is something you would often associate with a pitcher who is also a great athlete (makes repeating mechanics a little more feasible as you age, among other things). The strikeout rate comes and goes, though, as does the quality of contact. And in his 30s, the home run rate has crept up as he lives in the strike zone so much.
Still, overall? A guy who was as useful as he was in 2019 is worth a look. Probably by a lot of teams. But as we’ve said before, not too many clubs out there are going to have substantial innings available for buy-low/bounce-back types while also theoretically being able to compete in 2021. The Cubs are a rare bird in that regard (which is maybe two parts bad, one part good).
One modest consideration here is that Samardzija is another righty, and the Cubs have a group of starters to choose from right now who are, exclusively, right-handed (including today’s addition, Kohl Stewart). I say “modest” consideration, because when you’re buying low, you aren’t exactly looking to perfectly balance out your rotation. You’re just trying to get an undervalued opportunity, whatever it looks like. Still, all else equal, I’m sure the Cubs want to get a lefty option in the door like, for example, Carlos Rodon.
In any case, you can throw Samardzija into that Rodon, Chris Archer, Mike Foltynewicz, Trevor Williams, Rick Porcello group/tier of arms the Cubs are reportedly looking at.