Jeff Samardzija entered Saturday’s start against the Pirates with full knowledge that it would be his last. Over the next couple of hours, he pitched like a man wanting to make a grand final statement.
The former Notre Dame wideout struck out nine batters in a complete-game victory at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, allowing just four hits and two earned runs while fanning nine. He threw 120 pitches — 81 of which were strikes — as the Cubs rolled 4-3.
Samardzija was merely a setup man last season and seemed destined to remain one for the rest of his career, but the rebuilding Northsiders decided to give him a crack in the rotation this spring and may have found themselves a top-end starter to build around.
The 27-year-old will finish up with a 3.81 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and a 180/56 K/BB ratio in 174 2/3 innings. He topped out at 88 frames in the Cubs’ bullpen last year, which is why he’s being shut down prematurely.
The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.
Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.
The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.
In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.