Picture rival Old West gunfighters eyeballing each other from across a dusty saloon.
They sit there staring holes in each other’s foreheads, matching the other guy shot for shot, and neither sees the ambush coming from the side window.
That’s how the Dodgers and Giants must’ve felt when Zack Greinke wrote his own plot twist and agreed to terms with the Diamondbacks for a reported six years and $206 million.
Reports indicate neither the Giants or Dodgers were willing to stretch beyond five years for a 32-year-old pitcher. The D-backs were, and in doing so have radically altered the National League West.
The Giants dreamed of placing Greinke alongside Madison Bumgarner. While Jeff Samardzija qualifies as a pretty swell consolation prize, he’s more durable innings-eater than co-headliner.
The guy is a horse.
Giants general manager Bobby Evans, on free-agent signee Jeff Samardzija
The Dodgers sought the status quo. They’ll sign a replacement for Greinke – after reportedly finishing second on Samardzija – but no matter who it is the rotation won’t be as formidable.
And the D-backs, with one of baseball’s best pitchers joining a young and improving lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, make the division a three-way tug-o-war.
In the space of 16 hours, the Hot Stove went from lukewarm to scalding.
Even though Samardzija isn’t a true ace, his reported five-year, $90 million contract may end up being a bargain in baseball dollars. It could also end up being a Rowand-esque bust.
Depends on whether the Giants are getting the guy who looked to be finally maturing as a full-time starter with the Cubs and Athletics in 2014 – or the guy who last season with the White Sox allowed more hits, runs and homers than any pitcher in the American League.
213 minimum innings pitched by Jeff Samardzija in each of the past three seasons
Take a closer look, though, and a possible explanation emerges: The White Sox play in a hitter-friendly ballpark and have one of baseball’s worst defenses.
Of this there is abundant statistical evidence, and here’s some in anecdotal form tailored to Fresno-area baseball fans: Conor Gillaspie played 58 games at third base for the White Sox in 2015.
The Giants are betting the spacious confines of AT&T Park, combined with airtight defense provided by Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Buster Posey et al., makes all the difference. Not to mention the tutelage of Dave Righetti, who 15 years ago helped transform a hard-throwing but unpolished right-hander named Jason Schmidt.
Samardzija’s durability is an indisputable plus. He has pitched at least 213 innings over each of the past three seasons. Bumgarner is the only Giants starter who has surpassed 200 innings since 2012.
Also, because Samardzija took an unusual career path (he was a star receiver at Notre Dame and came up as a reliever with the Cubs), his 30-year-old arm has less mileage on it than others.
Because Samardjiza took an unusual career path (he was a star receiver at Notre Dame and came up as a reliever with the Cubs), his 30-year-old arm has less mileage on it than others.
“The guy is a horse,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said Saturday on a conference call with reporters.
“You look at his track record, look at the presence he brings on the mound, look at the back-to-back-to-back 200-inning seasons, and he’s a force to be reckoned with.”
By all indications, the Giants aren’t done shopping. There’s money in the kitty for another multiyear contract. I’m guessing it goes to an outfielder who can provide some presence in the lineup – Justin Upton would be a good fit – but starting pitching still feels like a need.
“There’s a number of different directions we can move,” Evans said.
So, too, can the Dodgers, whose rotation is no longer headed by baseball’s scariest one-two punch.
Baseball’s wealthiest franchise sure picked an odd time to become fiscally responsible. The Dodgers’ maximum offer for Greinke was reportedly five years and $155 million.
Now that everyone in baseball knows the Dodgers are desperate for an upper-tier starter, the price tag for the only free-agent left who fits that description (Johnny Cueto) just went through the roof.
Now that everyone in baseball knows the Dodgers are desperate for an upper-tier starter, the pricetag for the only free-agent left who fits that description (Johnny Cueto) just went through the roof.
So instead of spending $200 million for Greinke, the Dodgers will have to fork over something like $150 million for Cueto, whose postseason résumé is spotty at best. If they blanch at that, the leftovers include Mike Leake, Scott Kazmir and Wei-Yin Chen.
The Dodgers, also in need of a starting second baseman and bullpen help, have many prospects (plus outfielder Yasiel Puig) that could be included in trades. However, the Andrew Friedman-Farhan Zaidi brain trust has shown extreme reluctance to do so.
While the Dodgers build for the future, they’re in grave danger of wasting Clayton Kershaw’s prime years.
Everyone assumed Greinke would return to the Dodgers, where his presence undoubtedly pushed Kershaw, or join the archrival Giants and do the same for Bumgarner.
Greinke spurning both for the Arizona desert wasn’t in the script, and now the NL West has a new gunslinger to deal with.