The San Francisco Giants appear to have entered the running for prized Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. This comes just a day after Gordon Wittenmyer's report that the Cubs are already "well underway" in trade talks involving Samardzija and rotation-mate Jason Hammel.
The Giants rotation has been excellent this season, compiling a 3.48 ERA (7th in baseball) and 3.59 FIP (6th) on the backs of stellar campaigns from Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner, as well as a strong bouceback year from Ryan Vogelsong. At 43-26, the Giants have the best record in baseball, and an already cushy 6.5 game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. While they aren't necessarily in dire need of rotation help, Samardzija would represent a large upgrade over Tim Lincecum, who is struggling for the third straight year and may be best suited for the bullpen at this point.
Whlle Nightengale has categorized the Giants' interest in Samardzija as "strong", Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle refutes the report, claiming that he has heard the Giants have no plans to switch up their rotation unless an injury strikes, though they may just be posturing.
I've heard the exact opposite than Nightengale about Samardzija, that barring injury #sfgiants have no plans to adjust rotation.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) June 15, 2014
If San Francisco does decide to go after Samardzija, they likely have the prospects to do it. With the Cubs' plethora of young bats such as Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora, they are in need of young arms, which just so happens to be the Giants' system strength. At least one of Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar, considered by many to be the club's top two prospects, will likely have to be included any deal, while secondary names such as Adalberto Mejia, Keury Mella, Ty Blach, Andrew Susac, and Clayton Blackburn should also be considered possible targets.
Of course, the Giants are not alone in demonstrating interest in Samardzija. Nightengale lists the Angels, Orioles, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox as other possible landing spots, while Wittenmyer notes the Blue Jays, Braves, and Mariners as the three teams showing the most interest. Wittenmyer also hears that Seattle is heavily interested in Hammel, which could take them out of the running for Samardzija.
The 29-year-old Samardzija is scheduled to be a free agent following the 2015 season, and is due to be paid just over $3 million of his $5.345 salary over the rest of the season. A former Notre Dame football star, Samardzija has broken out over the past couple years, notching a 4.10 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 9.1 K/9, and 3.1 BB/9 over his first two seasons as a starter in 2012 and 2013. This year, he has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the National League, posting a 2.77 ERA (141 ERA+), 2.95 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and a 2.2 WAR that has already doubled last year's mark. He will be arbitration eligible for the third time this winter.