For the past several years, the name Jeff Samardzija has been synonymous with “Oh my god, what a disaster! Really, avert your eyes, everyone avert your eyes!” No, it’s not a synonym that comes in handy for writers all that often, but any shorthand can be useful.
Useful has not been something Samardzija has been, putting up ERAs of 7.53 and 8.38 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. But this year he has turned things around. In 69 relief appearances he has more than doubled his strikeouts per nine innings, dramatically cut his walk rate and reduced the number of hits he’s allowed. He is sporting an ERA of 3.12 and a 1.279 WHIP which, while not All-Star material for a short reliever is really good and is especially good for a guy like Samardzija.
Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times reports that, as a result of this great leap forward, the Cubs are having internal discussions about moving Samardzija to the rotation for 2012.
“We’ll evaluate where we’re at this winter, and who the [front office] might go get,’’ [pitching coach Mark] Riggins said. ‘‘But you’ve got to look from within first. And of the guys that we have who could possibly do that, he’s one you’ve got to think about.’’
Coming in to 2011, it looked like the Cubs’ rotation would be a strength. That notion has gone the way of many a man’s best laid plans, so the Cubs need to be creative. With a new general manager on the way and no sense yet of what direction the team may take in terms of spending. rebuilding, etc., it makes all the sense in the world to put Samardzija on a program that will get him ready to start games next spring. Flexibility is the key.
Now, if I could only convince myself that 2009 and 2010 were the aberrations and 2011 was what we could expect to see for the rest of his career …
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.