After missing out on Greinke, the Giants responded as quickly as the next day by inking Jeff Samardzija to a 5-year $90 million deal. Of course the first media reaction stated that the signing was too risky because of Jeff’s poor numbers, but great upside. However, the second reaction had to do something with Samardzija’s nickname being “Shark.” Back when Tim Lincecum was a Cy Young winner, the Giants heavily promoted “The Freak”, and the fans ate it up. Next was Pablo Sandoval, as his brilliant performances in the playoffs elevated his nickname, “Panda”, as one of the biggest promo stunts in Giants franchise history, but now he is gone as well. “Shark” may not be a terrific starter behind Bumgarner, but it sure will get the fans excited pumped up.
Samardzija is classified as a power pitcher, striking out over 200 batters twice so far in his career, as well as maintaining a K/9 of over 8. He may be a bit wild, and allows lots of earned runs, but he sure is entertaining. After all, baseball is a sport, and sports are for entertainment; its not all about winning championships. The new Giants starter has been inconsistent his whole career, posting an ERA below 3 in 2014, then above 4 in 2015. His unpredictability is what will draw fans to AT&T Park. Many general fans are bored of a low scoring game, thus leaving the game early, which drives revenue down because of the chances for a concessions sale disappearing with the fan’s disappearance; but a pitcher’s duel is more appealing when K’s keep popping up on the scoreboard. When Lincecum was in his prime, there were many 3-1, 2-1, or shutout games, but what kept the fans at the game, was the “Freak’s” ability to power through a lineup (led the NL in strikeouts 3 times). Why else was a guy like Nolan Ryan or Tim so good at drawing people to the stadium?
All in all, the $90 million may not look too bad, as the “Shark’s” presence might bring in more revenue, thus his contract being easily affordable. The Giants may deny it, but the front office signed Jeff not only for his huge upside with ace potential; they inked him as the team’s promo player. Every team has that guy who is the face of the franchise with the media; that player may not always be the most talented on the roster, but for some reason, he draws fans to the park, despite the squad’s performance. However, there are a few franchise’s out there who’s promo guy isn’t doing the trick, thus a steady pace of revenue flow. For example, why did the LA Angels draw more attendance than the Houston Astros in 2015, despite the Astros making the playoffs, while the Angels fell off? Houston had many young stars who haven’t emerged significantly in the media yet, but as for the Angels, Mike Trout is on almost every commercial seen.
The Giants need to get out in front of the controversy about Samardzja’s talents now by promoting “Shark.” Before the departure of Pablo Sandoval, fans wore panda heads, well now it should be shark heads. However, one can never clearly predict the future of how a player will perform. Out of any team in the league, the Giants may be the best fit for Jeff. “Shark” is yet to have a solid backstop framing and calling the game for him. He has also never had a better than average manager to get into his head. Lastly, Samardzija has yet to call his home ballpark a pitcher’s park. San Fransisco is all of those things, with the best manager in the game, Bruce Bochey, one of the best catchers in the league, Buster Posey, and a pitcher’s ballpark, AT&T (by the numbers, the least amount of run production in 2015). Samardzja has great upside, and is in the right place now to excel his career, while becoming one of the most popular characters in the MLB.