Jeff Samardzija

Evaluating Giants 'painful' trade options

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Evaluating Giants 'painful' trade options

SAN FRANCISCO — Two years ago, the Giants entered the offseason with a clear goal of adding to the rotation. They scooped up Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. Last year, there was no doubt that the priority had to be getting a closer, so Mark Melancon was brought in. 

The 2017 offseason is quite a bit more complicated. The Giants have an aging roster that just lost 98 games, a payroll that is bumping up against the tax for a fourth straight year, and a farm system that is poorly rated and not yet ready to fill the major league club. 

It’s a sobering time for Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and the rest of the front office, which is why they so often mention how painful this winter might be. Sabean did so again on a recent episode of “The TK Show.”

“There are going to be some painful decisions,” Sabean told Tim Kawakami. “To do what we need to do to be competitive to start the year and hopefully have that roll into also making some moves at the deadline, we’re going to have to make some tough choices and may have to move some payroll, which means moving some people that we perhaps under normal circumstances would not.”

When it comes to moving money, the Giants would love to find a way to shed the $18.5 million they owe Hunter Pence and $11 million they owe Denard Span, but those aren’t realistic options. Those are not the players Sabean is talking about when he refers to pain. Neither are Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford or Madison Bumgarner, the three Giants viewed as most untouchable. 

When you’re talking pain, you’re really only talking about a few regulars. Here’s a look at some players the Giants might have to make decisions on:

Joe Panik: The greatest strength of a terrible team was infield defense up the middle, which also means Panik serves as the front office’s best trade chip. You can bet there are a few general managers out there who would like to see what the 27-year-old could do with a full season away from AT&T Park; he hit .320 on the road last season with all 10 of his homers. Panik also brings cost certainty, as he’s just now entering his arbitration years. The Giants don’t want to break up their Crawnik duo. They also might find themselves with no choice, and with Kelby Tomlinson and Christian Arroyo in the wings, this is one position where they have options ready in-house. 

Brandon Belt: Many Giants fans focus on what he doesn’t do, but the people filling front offices can see what he does do. Belt is an elite defender with a strong eye at the plate and power that would play up outside of AT&T Park. He’s also owed $64 million over the next four seasons, about to turn 30, and coming off his fourth concussion in eight years. On the surface, it seems just about impossible to move him at this moment, but some big-market teams (most notably the Red Sox) have sniffed around in the past and could find that Belt is a nice alternative to more expensive free agent options like Eric Hosmer. 

Jeff Samardzija: He’s coming off a sneaky-good season that was wrecked in large part by the Giants’ outfield defense, is as durable as it gets, and has the repertoire that will forever have opposing pitching coaches dreaming of unlocking an ace. There was interest in Samardzija at the deadline and there will be this winter, with a lack of quality starting options on the market. At the same time, he has a restrictive no-trade clause and has made it clear he likes being in San Francisco. This one is highly unlikely, but Evans will again get calls on a pitcher who could step into any rotation and toss 200 innings next season. 

Hunter Strickland: The Giants have said they want to upgrade center field, third base and the bullpen … so why would they deal a reliever? Well, if Mark Melancon returns to form, they’re actually in decent shape from the right side, with Sam Dyson, Cory Gearrin and Kyle Crick backing Melancon, and youngsters like Reyes Moronta, Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede potentially being options. To fill one hole, the Giants will have to create another, and a small-market team out there could view Strickland as a cheap (he’s due about $1.7 million this year) option in the late innings. 

Report: Giants 'have interest' in 'complicated' Jason Heyward trade

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Report: Giants 'have interest' in 'complicated' Jason Heyward trade

Let the season of crazy baseball rumors begin.

In need of a center fielder, the Giants have their eye on Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, according to MLB.com.

But price could be steep.

According to the report, the Giants appear to be dangling a package of starter Jeff Samardzija and closer Mark Melancon.

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, is still owed $134 million over the next six years of his contract. While he's proved dependable with the glove, his production with the bat has fallen off in recent years. This past season, the 28-year-old hit .259/.326/.389 with 15 doubles, 11 homers and 59 RBI in 126 games.

Heyward's primary position is right field, but he has started 63 career games in center field, including 12 in 2017.

While Samardzija finished with a 9-15 record and a 4.42 ERA this past season, he finished with a 6.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio,  good for second in the National League and fourth overall in the majors. He also surpassed 200 innings for the fifth straight season, finishing with 207.2 innings pitched.

Melancon's first season with the Giants didn't go as planned. After signing a four-year, $62 million deal last winter, he battled an arm injury all year. He spent chunks of the season on the disabled list and appeared in just 32 games. When he returned in August, he served as the setup man to Sam Dyson. In early September, Melancon underwent pronator release surgery. He finished with a 4.50 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Samardzija hits two milestones, makes 200-200 club in start vs Dodgers

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Samardzija hits two milestones, makes 200-200 club in start vs Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — When the Giants gathered for spring training in February, team officials thought they had put together a rotation with four 200-inning arms. The starters didn’t come close to hitting that lofty goal, but one Giant got to the 200-inning mark Friday night. 

Jeff Samardzija hit 200 innings in the third inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium, reaching the standard for the fifth consecutive season. Samardzija also became the first Giant this year to reach 200 strikeouts when he struck out Curtis Granderson to open the second inning. The right-hander will be the only member of the rotation to reach either milestone, with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto limited by injuries and Matt Moore having a down year. 

“These guys like Jeff that are able to handle that workload that he does and log 200 innings and have durability, that’s invaluable,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You look at what it does for the ‘pen but also the quality of innings he gives you. His record should be different with how he has thrown the ball — he can’t control that. But the workload itself is important.”

Samardzija became the first Giants right-hander to strike out 200 in a season since Tim Lincecum (220) in 2011. Samardzija joined Carlos Martinez as the only National League pitchers who have thrown 200 innings this year, and Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Robbie Ray, Martinez and Zack Greinke in the league’s 200-strikeout club.