There is enough smoke now where it’s probably time to talk about Jason Heyward and trades. It’s not surprise that the Cubs are going to kick the tires on seeing if they can’t move this contract, because it’s quite obvious that Heyward isn’t going to be opting out after year three of his deal unless he is an actual saint. And even if he was a saint, the MLBPA would probably stamp that out of him right quick.
The biggest rumor is sending him the Giants in a contract swap for Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon. There’s only one problem. This doesn’t make any goddamn sense unless Bobby Evans has been topping his garlic fries with glue.
There seems to be this strand of thought that Jeff Samardzija is somehow a reclamation project or financial blackhole that the Giants are quite anxious to unload for fear his negative energy will turn AT$T Park into the Upside Down. Here’s the problem with that: Shark was nearly a 4-WAR pitcher last year! (2.4 if you go be BBREF). He had over a 6-to-1 K-BB ratio. His FIP was a very respectable 3.61. If his outfield defense didn’t consist of the cast of “Cocoon,” maybe more people would have noticed? By FIP and fWAR Shark was a better pitcher last year than every Cubs starter save Quintana.
Oh I’m not done! The Giants rotation right now is Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and leftover motor oil. Sure, they’re probably going to be big players for Jake Arrieta, but Shark would remain a better option for the fourth slot than anything they have there now. Yes, it would be a very expensive rotation with Cueto, Jake, and Shark (and Bumgarner goes UFA in two years and he’s going to make basically Kershaw money), so I guess in that sense the Giants might be looking to lessen the financial burden on their staff. But just moving the financial burden to right field doesn’t really work. And given their ages and how the past couple years have gone, shockingly Arrieta isn’t a huge improvement on Shark. No, seriously, he’s not. Especially when he might cost $8-$10 million more.
We know the Giants aren’t a team poised for a rebuild. Sure, they lineup is getting old but you’d still wouldn’t be embarrassed to have Posey, Crawford, Panik, and Belt to start. It’s not the end-all be-all, but it’s a good base. It’s hard to believe the Giants are going to be in on Giancarlo Stanton talks, while at the opposite end of the spectrum giving up a legitimate, useful starter for Jason Heyward.
Ok, fine, right field on the Cove is like trying to man Yellowstone. Heyward is probably the best option for that, but is that really all the Giants are after here? Maybe their historically woeful outfield defense of last year simply has them warped into thinking it’s priority #1.
The other portion of this supposed trade was Mark Melancon. He’s also signed for three more years and coming off an arm injury, so you get the unease the Giants might have there. And if this were a rebuilding team, then it makes total sense to jettison a closer who might not be healthy that you’re not going to need because you’re only winning 70 games anyway. This is how the Cubs got Weigh Davis. But the Giants aren’t rebuilding, and they’ll think they need a closer. And if human jug band Derek Law or professional bouncer Hunter Strickland were up to the task, they wouldn’t have signed Melancon in the first place.
I understand the Cubs have a player jam now. If Heyward wasn’t there, you could cobble together some kind of rotation in right of Zobrist, Almora and Happ, and whatever fourth outfielder they’re going to sign. Except you can’t play Zobrist and Happ in right for very long stretches because they’re not any damn good at it. And if you’re moving Heyward and one of the much discussed “pieces” (Schwarber, Happ, Baez, Russell) suddenly you look a little thin. Because if both Happ and Heyward are gone (depending on return but we all assume it’s pitching) you basically have Zobrist and…Austin Jackson? And anyone who says Curtis Granderson is getting tossed off this bus and run over with it. Lorenzo Cain is at least interesting… but how are you divvying up ABs with him and Almora?
And even if the Cubs believed that Samardzija was somehow a “reclamation” project for their new pitching coach, why doesn’t Chili Davis get a crack at actually fixing Jason Heyward’s swing? Which Malee either couldn’t or wouldn’t? It’s not like Heyward being a productive offensive player is that far in the rearview. It was only two years ago that Heyward was coming off a string of wRC+ seasons of 121, 121, 109, 121. It’s not dead and buried yet, but someone has to do the heavy lifting here. Seeing as how a lot of Cubs hitters didn’t move forward last year, perhaps a new voice can unlock this all? Just a thought.
If that ends up being the trade, I certainly wouldn’t be that upset. Shark as a 4th or 5th starter is a great place to be, and if Melancon can be healthy again that’s a another valuable arm. Neither are signed when the Cubs really have to start paying people. That bill doesn’t come due for another three years, though Bryant’s arbitration years could affect that.
But this one doesn’t seem to work in any way for the Giants.