Opinion

Phillies should check in on pitcher Jeff Samardzija

Samardzija with the White Sox. Photo by Keith Allison

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija has cleared waivers. The Giants must be willing, at some level at least, to hear offers for the his services. He would certainly be a nice addition to the young, unsteady and at times uncertain Phillies rotation.

What’s on the table are Samardzija’s age 33, 34 and 35 seasons at the cost of about $60 million. These are risky years for a pitcher, but Samardzija’s actually been very good in this, his age 32 season.

He currently sports a rather high 4.43 ERA but it’s fairly misleading when considering his peripherals. His 3.44 FIP is a good indication of exactly how good he’s been as the stat itself solely considers independent pitching performance. That FIP is good for 12th in baseball, putting Samardzija ahead of guys like Jacob deGrom and Yu Darvish.

While this season may be one of his best, his time as a major leaguer as a whole has been solid. Over his last three seasons, dating back to the start of 2015, Samardzija has been a top-30 pitcher in most of the important pitching stats like K/BB, where he ranks 16th among qualifiers at 3.91.

So maybe not an honest-to-goodness ace but still an extremely valuable pitcher. Put it this way, he’d easily be the Phillies No. 2 pitcher, rivaling Aaron Nola for the top spot.

Why it makes sense

There are a few reasons why you’d make this kind of trade. First off, he’s a good, solid pitcher and that’s not easily found in the open market. The Phillies could buy the services of a Yu Darvish or Jonny Cueto (if he opts out of his contract) this winter but they’ll demand expensive contracts that will likely contract last longer than their ability to be effective on the mound.

Second, Samardzija would add an excellent veteran presence for the rest of the Phillies young staff. He’s exactly the kind of guy you want mentoring your younger players. His league-leading walk rate of 1.32/9 this season sets exactly the kind of example you want the rest of your staff to emulate.

Lastly, he’s as durable as they come. Over the last three seasons only Chris Archer and Max Scherzer have started more games than Samardzija – and Scherzer only leads him by a game. Samardzija’s 594 innings pitched over that span is fourth most, and the fact that Scherzer has only pitched 30.1 innings more over that span is a testament to how deep Samardzija goes in his starts.

Why it doesn’t make sense

So why wouldn’t you make this deal? Well, the Giants may want a decent haul. Surely the Phillies would have to relinquish a few prospects to get this deal done (though if the Phils eat all the money here, they could lighten the prospect load). Though he’s a bit older and will ultimately be more expensive than either Sonny Gray or Jose Quintana, the deals made for them earlier in the summer provide a bit of an example of what it would take to acquire Samardzija.

In both deals, at least one top-ranked prospect was headed in the other direction; for Quintana the Cubs had to part with Eloy Jimenez, BaseballAmerica’s No. 14 ranked prospect, and for Gray the Yankees lost Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian, ranked 85 and 87 respectively on BA’s top-100 list, and Dustin Fowler, the Yankees fourth-ranked organizational prospect.

Though those two deals aren’t exactly a similar situation as a Samardzija trade, you could expect to lose someone like Mickey Moniak and maybe even a current major-league regular like Aaron Altherr or Cesar Hernandez.

But the Phillies are fairly deep at several positions, and if they could swing a deal that doesn’t hurt too much they should do it. You could afford to lose Moniak because you have Adam Haseley and other outfield prospects, Hernandez because you have Kingery. They should at least give a call and see what’s what though; Samardzija-level talent at his current cost doesn’t come around very often, and man, would he look good in a rotation with Nola.

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