Astros rumors: Add Jeff Samardzija to the long list of potential trade candidates
By Cody Poage
Another summer day, another Astros trade rumor comes forth. Who is it today?
Welcome to the ride which never ends; I have dubbed it, “The Astros Never-Ending Starting Pitcher Carousel”.
Let me list some names for you: Sonny Gray. Jacob deGrom.
. Gerrit Cole. Chris Archer.
These are the names which have been predominantly rumored as Astros trade targets at one point or another. While the likes of Gray and Cole may be more realistic than deGrom or Archer, you have to admire Jeff Luhnow for leaving no stone unturned.
In keeping with the “no stone unturned” narrative, the Astros have apparently turned their attention to the “other” team in the California Bay Area in the search.
You may be familiar with Jeff Samardzija as he was once a member of the Cubs back in the Astros’ NL Central days. Fast forward a few years and three teams later, the right-hander is now a member of the Giants. The 35-and-56 Giants, I might add.
On the surface, the interest in Samardzija doesn’t seem like the Astros style. Not only does Samardzija have a 4.58 ERA in 118 innings this season, he is also in his age-32 season. Last I checked, the Astros have been linked to pitchers on the other side of thirty-years old.
Oh, Samardzija is also owed $19.8 million each season through 2020. Not exactly the cheapest of contracts.
However, there is sense to this rumor if you look past the surface.
For example, Samardzija’s peripherals have been encouraging all season long.
2017 Statistics: 4-10 W-L, 4.58 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.09 xFIP, 2.9% BB%, 26.2% K%
If you ignore the win-loss record (which you should) and discount the ERA to a certain extent, you will see a pitcher who has actually been decent in 2017. In particular, the walk and strikeout rates are definitely encouraging.
In terms of his batted ball profile, Samardzija is somewhat similar to another Astros starter, Collin McHugh. For example, Samardzija currently has a hard-hit percentage of 29.1%. McHugh in 2016 had a hard-hit percentage of 30.2%. Their soft- and medium-hit percentages, found on Fangraphs, are within two-to-three percentage points. In fact, the ground ball percentages historically have been similar for each pitcher.
McHugh career ground ball percentage: 42.5%
Samardzija career ground ball percentage: 44.7%
We all know Houston has a certain fancy for the ground ball, am I right? And Samardzija also throws harder than McHugh and this usually a good trait to have in a pitcher.
Samardzija is pretty much a known product at this point in his career. He will have a series of solid starts followed up with a stinker. In 2017 alone, he already has four starts in which he has allowed six or more earned runs.
Since May 14th, though, the 32-year old has been a bit more stable pitcher with an ERA of 4.05 with a 3.34 FIP in 71.2 innings. Only two of those starts has he surrendered anymore than three runs. Progress, right?
For his career, Samardzija has been a picture of consistency in terms of starts and innings pitched.
2014: 33 starts/219.2 innings pitched
2015: 32 starts/214.0 innings pitched
2016: 32 starts/203.1 innings pitched
Agree with me or not, but there is a certain value attached to pitchers who can make thirty-plus starts and throw 200-plus innings in a season. While the results may not be stellar, you need a starter out there who can throw more than five innings on a consistent basis. If you look at his WAR converted into Dollars on Fangraphs, you will find that his salary based on his current deal is fairly close. Sure, this is not a figure to assess future value towards, but Samardzija hasn’t been less valuable because of his contract. If anything else, the opposite is true.
The compensation to acquire Samardzija’s services is another question.
While the asking price remains high for starting pitchers under club control, the trade package for Samardzija could look different. For example, he is owed $19.8 million through 2020. He is also 32-years old. Odds are that the Astros may not have to sacrifice multiple top prospects if the team agrees to take on the full contract. Or they could work a deal out with the Giants to take on a certain amount of salary for a more desirable prospect return.
Next: Astros rumors with a spotlight on Tigers closer Justin Wilson
At the end of the day, the Giants are likely listening to offers for multiple players. Samardzija may not fit into their long-term plans, but there is value in pitchers who can eat innings. The Astros have a need for such a pitcher. Whether this turns into anything worthwhile is left to be seen.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs and Spotrac**