Reminder: It’s still very early in the offseason, so you must inspect every rumor with extreme caution.
With that said, Phil Rogers is hearing that the San Francisco Giants *do* have some interest in Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, and could offer (one of? both?) Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon in return:
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) November 7, 2017
Okay, let’s think about this for a second.
On a superficial level, this trade could make a fair bit of sense. We know that, given their position player glut, the Cubs would be open to moving Jason Heyward and his very big remaining contract (6 years/$147.5M) after two disappointing seasons in Chicago. But we also know that, at this point, the most the Cubs could realistically hope for is a big/bad contract swap.
And to that end, Samardzija ($54 million) and Melancon ($38 million) are owed a combined $92 million over the next three years, and each had issues in 2017. There’s way too much info (on each) to get into the weeds right now, but note that Samardzija had pretty great peripherals and pretty terrible results, but was otherwise healthy and prolific (207.2 IP) once again. While Melancon was, for the first time in the last five seasons, pretty ineffective and had to undergo surgery to alleviate chronic exertional compartment syndrome in his right forearm (he managed just 30.0 IP this season). (Also note that there has been chatter about the Cubs and a Jeff Samardzija trade going back to earlier this year, and popping up again recently.)
Of course, the fact that all three players had disappointing seasons relative to their expectations/contracts is precisely why a deal like this could theoretically work in the first place.
But make no mistake, this would be a crazy-difficult one to pull off.
Not only would there be a ton of money moving back and forth, but Heyward and Melancon each have full no-trade clauses right now, while Samardzija has limited no-trade protection (he can block trades to 22 teams). In other words, even if these rumors are true/serious and the teams manage to make the money/players work, that doesn’t mean anything will happen.
Because of the no-trades, alone, making this deal happen would be near impossible. For example, what evidence do we have that Heyward would have any interest in approving a trade away from the Cubs? At least at this time? Further, the money would be a challenge to pull off, because Melancon’s deal might be completely dead money, and Samardzija’s might be reasonably useful. And Heyward’s, well, you could argue he’s worth no more than a bounce-back, one-year, prove-it type contract, or you could argue that he’s a good guy to have under control for six years (just at nowhere near his current contract rate).
But let’s ignore all of that for the moment, because this trade does make sense for other reasons – namely, known needs of each ball club.
Everyone following this Cubs team knows they’re losing 40% of their rotation to free agency this winter (Jake Arrieta and John Lackey). At a minimum, then, they’ll have to add two starting pitchers before Spring Training, and it’ll likely be more. In Samardzija, they’d get a pitcher with whom the front office is relatively familiar and for a commitment that, while pricey, is short-term in length.
In addition to losing 40% of their rotation, the Cubs are also possibly losing their All-Star closer, Wade Davis, and one of their bigger bullpen arms in Brian Duensing. The playoffs underscored the Cubs’ bullpen needs, and Melancon, when he’s healthy and himself, could help address those problems.
Meanwhile, the Giants have been connected to pricey outfield trade targets already this offseason (namely, Giancarlo Stanton) – in part – because their outfielders ranked dead last in WAR this season (0.8 fWAR). And while Heyward might not provide a ton of value with his bat, we know what he can do with his glove – and the Giants outfield struggled that way too (-42 DRS, bottom 5 in MLB). Right field in San Francisco is uniquely spacious and difficult, too.
So, yeah, on a team-need, contract-swap, superficial level … there could be something to this. But this isn’t a rumor without it’s issues, so we’ll have to keep a skeptical eye on it for now.
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Brett Taylor contributed to this post.