It’s always worth remembering that the Giants gave Jeff Samardzija his huge contract the season after he led the American League in earned runs allowed. They weren’t bidding against themselves, presumably. There was enough interest to raise his salary demands, and he almost ended up with a nine-figure contract. That was before he boosted his strikeout rate and paired it with the lowest walk rate in either league.
Teams still want Samardzija, 4.85 ERA aside. He would get more than $60 million in free agency this year, just like he got way more than that the last time, which means he has surplus value.
Ah, but there’s a catch. A couple of them, really. The first one is that the Giants aren’t sure if they’re keen on trading their innings-eater because that means they would have to find another one somewhere else. If they wanted to buy one, they’d have to spend the same money, if not much more. If they wanted to trade for one, they’d have to give up prospects they don’t really have.
The second catch is that Samardzija has a no-trade clause that allows him to refuse deals to 21 different teams, and he’s not especially interested in waiving it. While it’s common for players to use no-trade clauses for extra leverage — to get an option exercised, or to negotiate a new contract — that doesn’t seem to be the game Samardzija’s playing here. I don’t think he plays games. Baseball. That’s a game he plays. Football, too, but it’s been a few years.
What about those eight teams that aren’t included, then? Is there a chance any of those teams would want Samardzija?
We can eliminate two of the teams right away. The Oakland A’s would like Addison Russell back. They would not want Samardzija back. And while the New York Mets would love to have someone who was as reliably healthy as Samardzija, they would not want to pay him. They’re also not contending, so they’re an easy team to cross off the list.
That leave six teams. In increasing order of likelihood ...
6. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
They’re quasi-contending, and they would love someone who can eat innings with the potential for more. Angels Stadium is a fine fit for Samardzija’s fly ball tendencies, and he’s a solid compromise for a team that needs pitching but doesn’t want to dish out additional $100 million contracts.
On the other hand, the Angels’ farm system is barren, at least when it comes to the kinds of prospects that would make the Giants unable to say no. If the Giants trade Samardzija, it’ll be because the other team believes he’s the elite pitcher his FIP and K/BB say he is, and they’re willing to dump prospects accordingly. It’s hard seeing the Angels being that team.
5. Boston Red Sox
He doesn’t play third base, for one. For another, the Red Sox have a rotation they’re satisfied with, and all of those starters are trending upward at the moment. They’re not interested.
4. New York Yankees
While the Yankees are looking for starters — controlled for next year is a plus, too — it’s hard to imagine a worse fit than Samardzija in Yankees Stadium. It was a disaster when he went to U.S. Cellular, and it wouldn’t get much better in one of the silliest parks in the majors.
The Yankees have the prospects. They have the need. They have the money. I just can’t buy someone stretching to get Samardzija to pitch half of his games there.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
How about Jeff Samardzija? Your fans won’t even notice the difference!
I would ignore the Giants/Dodgers rivalry as an impediment to a deal — both teams are in such different spots, it can’t possibly matter. And in theory, the Dodgers would like a seven-inning monster man because their rotation is filled with pitchers who shouldn’t be ridden as hard.
But their sights are set higher. They want an ace to support Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Rich Hill, not another fourth starter to cycle through.
2. Chicago Cubs
Hrmm. While the Cubs traded for Jose Quintana this year, it’s possible they would want yet another starter, with both John Lackey and Jake Arrieta leaving for free agency after the season. But I would think it’s a trade they would explore in the offseason more. If they trade prospects for another starter, he would have to be one of the starters they would use in the postseason without question.
I don’t know if Samardzija would be one of their top four pitchers. So there’s no reason to trade prospects for him right now. The Cubs should be more concerned with how their postseason rotation is constructed, even if they’re still fighting for their lives in the NL Central
1. Washington Nationals
This depends on how comfortable they are with Stephen Strasburg’s injury. They have the money, and they have the prospects, so if they’re worried about Strasburg missing a lot of time, a deal for Samardzija would definitely make sense.
It’s settled, then. The Nationals are the team that makes the most sense for Samardzija, and the Giants wouldn’t have to jump through clauses to trade him.
The only thing to remember is that other teams almost certainly not going to want Samardzija at the prices the Giants would require if they’re going to trade him. Unless the Giants are bluffing and committed to having that salary off the books, it’s likely that Samardzija’s current team values him a lot more than the rest of the league is willing to pay for.
He’s sticking around, everyone.
But at least we got to rosterbate on a warm summer afternoon. You’ll remember these days fondly.