Jason Heyward is a good player. If you reduce what a valuable baseball player is down to an easy definition — a player who helps his team win more than he helps them lose — Heyward qualifies. Don’t worry about the WAR and the lackluster hitting and try to solve the equation on the whiteboard by yourself. Just go along with the simple assertion that Heyward has helped the Cubs win more than he’s helped them lose over the last two years, and you’ll be in basic agreement with almost everyone in front offices around baseball.
If someone offers you a free Jason Heyward for your team, you should accept. He will be better than at least one of the 25 players who would make the roster otherwise.
However, Heyward is a spectacularly bad fit for the Giants on a few levels. First, he’s owed just over $134 million until he’s 33, in 2023. Second, he’s a left-handed hitter, so any possible offensive value he might have would be muted by AT&T Park. Third, he might be one of the only corner outfielders in baseball who could make the Giants’ lineup worse the second he arrived. That’s a neat trick!
Why are we talking about Heyward, then? Because Phil Rogers, who generally isn’t in the business of barfing up rumors for the retweets and likes, heard something.
@Giants have interest in @Cubs' Jason Heyward, w/Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon to offer. Very complicated deal but not impossible.— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) November 7, 2017
The names Rogers includes would help take care of that first part. Heyward is owed more than $136 million; Samardzija and Melancon will combine for about $98 million over the next three years. Add in some prospects from the Cubs’ side, or maybe some additional money, and bingo, bango, bongo, it’s something that could work, right?
I ... no. Heyward is a valuable player despite his warts, this is true. But so is Samardzija. According to Baseball-Reference, which bases its WAR on runs allowed, Samardzija was more valuable than Heyward last year. According to FanGraphs, which bases its WAR on estimated runs allowed, he was nearly four times more valuable.
That’s before you get to Melancon, who had a four-year stretch of being an unquestionably dominant reliever prior to the Giants and the cavernous maw of the 2017 season. An injury and a BABIP nearly .100 points higher than his career average had something to do with his miserable year, and while it’s possible that the Giants would be willing to give his contract away for nothing, just to avoid the possibility that the All-Star version of Melancon isn’t coming back, his prospects aren’t so dire that the Giants would need to swap him for an even worse contract. He isn’t Vernon Wells or Barry Zito. His contract is more of a Brandon Belt, really. Teams would still want him, just not quite at that salary.
So any deal involving these three players would make the Giants appreciably worse, shifting a hole in the outfield to holes in the rotation and bullpen, without freeing up any money to address those needs. That would make the plausibility of this deal wholly dependent on whatever prospects or young players the Cubs would include. You can probably get creative and add on players like a Baseball Mogul trade until you find something that fits, but it’s hard to see the Cubs going along with anything like that.
If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air, or at least some logic-scented air freshener, you’re in luck:
#sfgiants have had zero discussions with #cubs on deal involving Heyward, Shark, Melancon. Anyway, Heyward contract probably unmovable.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) November 8, 2017
Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, although I’m uncomfortable with the idea of an immovable contract. if Vernon Wells could get traded, anyone can get traded. It’s just a matter of moving money around. If the Cubs were offering Heyward and $90 million for Denard Span and a reliever, say, the Giants would be interested. If it were Heyward and Ian Happ for Samardzija and Melancon, with no money exchanged, maybe that would balance out the money the Giants would absorb and the talent they’re giving away.
(I know the Cubs wouldn’t do either of those, but the main points are a) there are ways to be creative if the Giants really, really want Heyward and b) that doesn’t mean the Giants would be interested in trading two players who could help them win next year in exchange for just one.)
Regardless, this is less likely than the Giancarlo Stanton rumors if you can believe it. The Giants want to get better defensively, but that doesn’t mean their first move in the offseason will be a soft-hitting outfielder owed $134 million in a trade that creates two more holes.