SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija has always resembled a p/Pirate more than a Yankee anyway, and perhaps he would like to keep it that way.
The hirsute Giants starter is a natural trade candidate on a rebuilding team and entering the final season of his contract. The Yankees are a natural link after they lost Luis Severino for the season (Tommy John surgery) and at least temporarily lost James Paxton (back surgery).
The Yankees also are quite an unnatural fit for Samardzija, who would need a haircut and to lose his goatee, off-limits to the trim-and-proper Yankees.
“Oh, yeah, give me No. 2 and not have me cut my hair,” Samardzija joked Wednesday after his two scoreless innings in his spring debut.
Samardzija was ready for the questioning and came prepared with quips, making what can be a tense conversation into one with laughs. The 35-year-old has been here before, dealt from the Cubs to Oakland in midseason of 2014, the 12-year pro having seen just about everything in MLB.
Still, the rumors are going to hound him until and if he is a Giant on Aug. 1. He gets it.
“The way I look at it, you look to put yourself and the team you’re on in the best situation going forward,” said Samardzija, who’s due $18 million this season, meaning San Francisco’s trade return would hinge on the amount it would be willing to eat. “Obviously the best situation going forward for us would be in the playoff hunt, add talent at the break and make a run for it in the fall, and that’s our No. 1 goal.”
There are not too many around the team talking about playoffs, but Samardzija wants to believe he’s on a contender. He also realizes the expectations are not high.
“If something does happen … [you want to] leave the team in a better position than you left it. That’s what I tried to do in Chicago, we went through the same process.
“… I have a lot of respect for this organization and all they’ve done for me, and I’ll give them everything I can as long as I’m here in the jersey.”
What what would best for both sides is for Samardzija to continue where he left off last season, when he was among the best pitchers in baseball from July 1 on. He posted a 2.67 ERA in his final 97 2/3 innings, the Giants winning 10 of his 16 starts.
His velocity was slightly down Wednesday, as to be expected for Feb. 26. Everything else looked solid, including his facial hair — for however long it lasts.