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SF Giants trade rumors: Astros doing ‘background work’ on Jeff Samardzija

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The Giants probably don’t want to get rid of Samardzija just to dump his salary, but if another team wants to overpay ...

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

There was a Pablo Sandoval rumor earlier on Saturday. This is all the coverage of that rumor that you’ll receive. If the Giants actually sign him to a major-league contract, well, I’ll eat some

Well, I’ll be very, very surprised, that’s what.

However, this is a trade rumor worth paying attention to: The Houston Astros are reportedly kicking the tires on Jeff Samardzija.

This is the hope for the Giants if they’re looking to trade: a smart, saber-savvy team looks at Samardzija’s amazing leap forward with his command, looks at the league-worst outfield defense of the Giants, and thinks they might get a bargain. While Samardzija hasn’t had the easiest time with home runs this year, I’m still willing to blame his outfield defense for the difference between his ERA and FIP.

Not only that, but Houston is a secretly rich team. They have the big market and the newer ballpark, and they’ve spent most of the last few years not spending a nickel they didn’t have to. They’re young, relatively cheap, and last year’s offseason spending spree was the first in a while. They might consider Samardzija’s contract to be a feature, not a bug.

People on Twitter are horrified, of course. And I can’t blame them. The ERA isn’t sparkly. It’s hard to sell a K/BB ratio to a fan base.

Still, the Jose Quintana trade as a perfect example of a smart, saber-savvy team ignoring an ERA and evaluating how a pitcher is actually pitching. And while Quintana has struggled to make it into the sixth inning for the last two months, Samardzija is a regular seven-inning guy, even if he’s been much worse at limiting runs than Quintana for the last few years.

I’ll give the Giants a 30-percent chance of dealing Samardzija before the deadline because I think they’re aware of what the Astros are interested in. I also have a hunch that the Giants are going to focus on their outfield defense in the offseason, much like they did when they moved Angel Pagan to left in 2016. The only problem is that Denard Span wasn’t the defensive upgrade they were hoping for, so they’ll look to get younger and fleeter of foot in center.

I promise you: An improved outfield would help Samardzija a whole bunch. So there’s no reason to trade him for squid scraps, not if the plan is to help him more in the field in the offseason. But if the Giants are looking for salary relief, and if they’re secretly not convinced that it will be that easy to find a replacement for Span, they could listen to the Astros.

The Astros, who have a deep, impressive farm system.

It’s not especially likely, but the Astros being interested makes a lot more sense than some of the other rumors you’ll consume. Like the one about the third baseman from Boston. That rumor will give you indigestion like you wouldn’t believe, boy howdy.