When the Giants signed Jeff Samardzija following the 2015 season, his durability was a driving factor for the then-defending champs. The Shark put up 411 innings over his first two seasons, but the back three years of the deal have been marred by persistent injury. After just 44 2/3 innings in 2018, Samardzija did manage to rebound for 181 1/3 innings as a 34-year-old last season with a 3.32 ERA/4.59 FIP. This season it’s been more injury woes for the Hoosier.
Now that his contract is set to run out at the end of this season, the Giants are still working to get Samardzija back into uniform, but they’re running out of time. The veteran righty made just 3 starts this season before being put on the injured list with a shoulder impingement. Samardzija threw 50 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday, and while he could return to the rotation, the Giants are considering a move to the bullpen, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Given the shortened timeline for this season, and the lack of traditional avenues for rehab starts, the bullpen might be the only way Samardzija pitches again in a Giants uniform.
It wouldn’t be the first time Samardzija worked out of the pen. He began his career as a reliever for the Chicago Cubs way back in 2008. He would throw one inning in relief for the Cubs in the postseason that year while getting swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers. It wasn’t until 2012 that he would establish himself in the rotation with 28 starts and a 3.81 ERA/3.55 FIP. And it wasn’t until 2016 that he’d find himself in the postseason again, this time with the Giants – facing the Cubs. Chicago would run him after two innings and defeat the Giants on the way to breaking their World Series drought.
All these years later, there would be some poetry to Samardzija finding himself back in the bullpen for a Giants squad fighting to make the postseason. When healthy, Samardzija has continued to be a useful arm, and he’ll be an interesting free agent at season’s end, if a low-cost one. The Shark may no longer be at the top of the food chain, but if he can return to help the Giants’ pen, Samardzija might be able to circle the free agent waters for one last payday.