SAN FRANCISCO -- Striving to stay ahead in the fast-developing market for pitchers, the Giants announced Saturday that they agreed with free-agent right-hander Jeff Samardzija on a five-year contract.
Samardzija passed the requisite physical examination, and the Giants already can feel relief over filling the void left by the fruitless attempt to sign Zack Greinke. The highly sought free-agent right-hander reached a six-year, $206.5 million deal with Arizona on Friday. Greinke's accord was hastened by David Price's deal earlier in the week with Boston. And now that the Giants have secured Samardzija, the likes of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake may soon forge agreements.
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"It was helpful to put a significant piece in our organization," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said, referring to Samardzija.
Samardzija's contract, which is worth $90 million, includes a limited no-trade clause that enables him to list eight teams to which he can be dealt. He rejected a $15.8 million qualifying offer from the White Sox, which will force the Giants to relinquish a compensatory selection in next year's Draft. The Giants remain interested in bringing back Leake, their prized Trade Deadline acquisition from this past July. However, as a relatively young free agent (28), he's receiving plenty of attention from various clubs. Given the deep pool of free-agent starters, the Giants can pursue other hurlers if they can't land Leake.
The Giants also need outfield help and are believed to be one of the leading suitors for Ben Zobrist, who can play virtually every position.
Samardzija, who turns 31 on Jan. 23, is expected to occupy the No. 2 spot in the Giants' rotation behind ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder owns a 47-61 career record with a 4.09 ERA -- pedestrian numbers, but he spent his first six and a half seasons playing for mostly underwhelming Cubs teams. This year was a season of contrasts for Samardzija, who reached a career high for victories with an 11-13 record while posting a 4.96 ERA. He yielded an American League-high 29 home runs but recorded two shutouts in 32 starts.
Durability is Samardzija's most notable quality. He has averaged 216 innings for the past three seasons.
"This guy's a horse," Evans said.
Samardzijia didn't become a full-time starter until 2012, prompting Evans to add, "He has a lot of innings left in that arm."
Samardzija's athleticism is well-documented. He emerged as one of the nation's top receivers as a junior for Notre Dame, catching 77 passes for 1,215 yards and 15 touchdowns.
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After posting a 2.99 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and an 8.3 K/9 rate in 2014, Samardzija was frequently drafted as a No. 2 mixed-league starter last year. He struggled a great deal during his lone season on Chicago's South Side, though, taking big steps back in ERA (4.96), WHIP (1.29) and K/9 rate (6.9) on a team with a below-average defense and a hitter-friendly venue. The move to San Francisco -- along with normal, expected regression -- is bound to help the 30-year-old, as he will toss in front of a strong fielding unit -- and to a stellar pitch-framing catcher, Buster Posey -- at a pitcher-friendly home venue that should help curb his homer woes from '15 (1.2 HR/9). Given his success in prior years, this bounceback candidate can be drafted as a mid-rotation arm in mixed formats.