Notes: Samardzija's 'margin for error' with Giants; Pence golfing


Notes: Samardzija's 'margin for error' with Giants; Pence golfing

NASHVILLE — The Giants spent November finding out more about Jeff Samardzija, and they liked what they learned. Scouts view him as an elite competitor, the type who will fit right in alongside a Hunter Pence or Madison Bumgarner. Bruce Bochy described Samardzija as “high energy,” and multiple Giants people have said this week that Samardzija’s desire to pitch in San Francisco was a boost. That hasn’t always been the case with marquee free agents. 

The on-field work was ugly much of last year, but Bochy said Tuesday that he likes what he’s seen from the 6-foot-5 right-hander who averaged 94.3 mph on his fastball last year.

“He's got the equipment. Jeff's always had great stuff,” Bochy said. “He’s really had a nice career. Last year had his hiccups, but, you know, we certainly like what we're working with, and we look at him as a guy that's starting to come into his own. He's young, he's got a young arm. He's got velocity, sink. He's got all the pitches that can make him successful.

[RELATED: Krukow explains how Samardzija similar to Bumgarner]

“Hopefully we can do our part and help out, but I think he's primed to come into his own. That's how we felt and that's why we signed him, and we're excited to have him. He's a guy that can carry some innings for us, get us deep in the game, something that our pitching staff could use.”

The Giants have had just one starter, Madison Bumgarner, throw a 200-inning season since 2012. Enter Samardzija, who has three consecutive years of at least 213 innings. He agreed to a five-year, $90 million deal Saturday that will become official after a physical, which was being taken Tuesday. 

The sense here in Nashville is that Samardzija will be a good fit in San Francisco. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are familiar with his good times (2.99 ERA in 2014) and down times (4.96 ERA, 29 homers allowed in 2015). The word out of Chicago is that Samardzija didn’t always see eye-to-eye with pitching coach Don Cooper last season, and Bochy noted Tuesday that he believes he’s got the best in the game in Dave Righetti. Samardzija also goes from the worst defense in the American League to the best in the National League. And he’s moving to a pitcher’s park.

“You know, it plays a little part. We do look at that,” Bochy said of the ballpark switch. “We’re into analytics and we are in a pitcher-friendly park that does benefit a guy … He does sink the ball and he can get ground balls. There's a little bit of a margin of error when you pitch in our ballpark.

“But, regardless, this is a guy that was on our radar, and we wanted him.”

--- The Giants first wanted Zack Greinke, but he’ll be introduced in Phoenix on Friday. Giants officials were said to be a bit stunned that the Diamondbacks swooped in, mostly because everyone involved thought it was Giants vs. Dodgers.

“He's a great pitcher. He was a guy that it's obvious we had a lot of interest in, didn't work out, but who wouldn't have interest in a Zack Greinke?” Bochy said. “You know, we were in the mix. We were hoping to get him. But, you know, after they got him, you move on. There's no point in really having any kind of reaction because it's over. That's part of the business. It's baseball. So we took the next step and signed Samardzija, and that's the best thing we could have done.

“We all just said, okay, we'll move forward from this.”

Bochy noted that the top three teams in the division now have “their horse” in the rotation.

“With Greinke going to Arizona, I think they are definitely a team to be reckoned with,” he said. “They have good young players, position players. They have got (Patrick) Corbin back. So they have a nice, strong rotation, bullpen. That move made them a lot better club.”

[RELATED: Giants' Cain ready to regain sharp mental edge he 'kind of' lost]

--- Bochy on Matt Cain: “I couldn’t have been more encouraged by his last game.” Cain had a rough year, but allowed just two hits in five shutout innings in his last start. 

--- The biggest news this morning: Hunter Pence has taken up golf. Bochy checked in with Pence and the right fielder (who also got engaged recently) said he has been playing golf for a few weeks. My first thought is that the oblique must be feeling great if Pence is swinging a driver. My second thought is that, knowing Pence, he probably took up golf specifically because he feels it may help stretch his oblique out and prevent further injury. My third thought is I WANT A VIDEO OF HUNTER PENCE SWINGING A FIVE-IRON! Bochy had the same thought. 

“I’ve gotta see this,” he said, smiling. 

MLB trade rumors: Giants might receive only 'Grade C prospects' for relievers

MLB trade rumors: Giants might receive only 'Grade C prospects' for relievers

The Giants have three relievers whom other MLB teams covet.

Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson all have been mentioned in trade rumors this month. But a problem has come up.

The Giants broke out of the All-Star break on fire and have put themselves in the middle of the NL wild-card race. Their hot streak almost certainly will delay Farhan Zaidi's decision to buy or sell.

If Zaidi is forced to wait, the market could be flooded with options for teams, driving down the price.

As ESPN's Buster Olney writes, that could hurt the return the Giants receive for Smith, Watson and/or Dyson:

"Some executives believe that by the time we get to the last hours before the trade deadline, there will be a lot of starting pitchers and relievers available, and if that's the case, then it could depress the possible return that the Giants or any other seller would get. It's possible, one evaluator indicated, that if San Francisco decided to unload some relievers, it might get offered Grade C prospects."

Zaidi reportedly had hoped to use the trio of relievers and ace Madison Bumgarner to replenish the Giants' farm system. But now, it's not certain that the Giants will be sellers before the July 31 trade deadline. If they do indeed decide to sell, it most likely will come after their two upcoming series with the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres.

[RELATED: Bumgarner could reject trade to stay]

But by then, it might be too late for Zaidi to acquire the top prospects he covets.

MLB rumors: Madison Bumgarner could reject trade to stay with Giants

MLB rumors: Madison Bumgarner could reject trade to stay with Giants

With their recent surge in the standings, Farhan Zaidi and the Giants are in a tough spot.

Do they cash in trade chips such as Madison Bumgarner and restock their farm system? Or do they hang on to the 2014 World Series MVP and make a push for an NL wild-card spot?

Zaidi isn’t ready to answer that, as he mentioned before the Giants' 3-2 12-inning win over the Mets on Sunday.

But what about another crazy option? What if Zaidi agrees to trade Bumgarner to another team before the July 31 deadline and Bumgarner envokes his power to reject the deal?

ESPN's Buster Olney, citing a source, reported Sunday that that certainly is a possibility.

"In light of the Giants' recent surge, one source says he wouldn't be shocked if Bumgarner turned down a deal just to continue to be part of something he loves for the rest of his deal," Olney writes. "He could use the no-trade clause to extract some cash out of the Giants -- a going-away present, you could call it, a final chunk of change for a player who has been worth far more to the franchise than he has been paid during his time in San Francisco."

Back in May, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported that Bumgarner has eight teams on his no-trade clause: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.

Following his last start, Bumgarner was asked about the trade rumors surrounding him, and he made it clear his only goal is to win games for the Giants.

"I don't give a s--t," Bumgarner said. "I'm here to win games for this team, and that's what we're doing."

[RELATED: Giants will 'ride wave of wins']

In the moment, he meant that as a short-term goal. But what if Bumgarner really meant he doesn't want to leave?

Olney's latest reporting certainly puts that thinking on the table.