Rumor buy or sell: Cubs could deal Heyward to Giants for Samardzija, Melancon?

Welcome back to Rumor Buy or Sell, where we ... OK, so the title is kind of self-explanatory. Our rumor to break down here a few days before free agency officially begins and unofficially sort of kicks off the Hot Stove season: 

Hoo boy, that's a juicy one. 

Phil is right, it's complicated. Let's dive in. 

Jason Heyward just finished the second year of an eight-year, $184 million deal. There are six years and $134,166,667 left on the deal. If Heyward were a free agent this offseason, there's no chance he even sniffs a fraction of that. In two years with the Cubs, he has been a great baserunner, exceptional defender (he just won his fourth straight Gold Glove) and supposedly an even better teammate. He has also hit .243/.315/.353 with 18 homers, with power around baseball way up and him at a traditionally offensive position in right field. After some, but not much, improvement in 2017, I'm not confident he'll ever again be a worthwhile offensive player. 

Surely, the Cubs would love to deal him. He also has a full no-trade clause, though. 

Jeff Samardzija has three years at $19.8 million per season left on his deal with the Giants. He was 9-15 with a 4.42 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 205 strikeouts in 207 2/3 innings last season. 

Mark Melancon is due $53 million over the next three seasons, but he could opt out of his deal after 2018. In an injury-riddled 2017 season, Melancon had a 4.50 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 30 innings. 

Through the next three seasons, Heyward is set to make $69,166,667 while Melancon and Samardzija will make $112.4 million. The latter two are done after three years, however, while Heyward still has two years and $44 million after that point. 

Again, this is complicated, especially with Heyward's no-trade clause, but perhaps the Cubs could pay a big portion of the final two years of the deal while taking on the extra short-term dollars of Samardzija and Melancon to further sweeten the deal for the Giants. 

Oh, hey, Samardzija and Melancon also have no-trade clauses. 

Why this makes sense for the Cubs

Heyward and his albatross of a deal would be gone. 

In terms of paying most or all of Heyward's salary in 2022 and '23, it's far in the future and the team isn't committed to any other players in those years, so it's pretty irrelevant right now. 

Taking on the extra payroll in the short term on these two pitchers while clearing Heyward makes a lot of sense, given the team needs this offseason.

As previously outlined by yours truly, the Cubs need two starting pitchers and probably three relievers, including a back-end guy. They don't have the prospects to make a trade without dealing from the big-league roster, but there is a position-player logjam. If Heyward is dealt, Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist can serve as corner outfielders, flanking Albert Almora (who should play center field almost every day by next year). That leaves the stellar infield of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and Kris Bryant intact defensively. 

The outfield defense obviously takes a hit, but with more of Schwarber, Almora and Happ next year at the expense of Heyward, the offense improves. 

The short-term increase in payroll of just over $40 million in three years is easily palatable given the additions of Samardzija and Melancon in this situation. The Cubs likely will have upwards of $70 million to spend in free agency this offseason alone. Say we take around 1/3 of that away and it's still close to $50 million. 

In this scenario, the Cubs would have already checked off the box for a fourth starter behind Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Jon Lester in Samardzija. Samardzija's traditional numbers might look bad, but he led the NL in innings pitched, struck out 205 compared to just 32 walks and had the lowest walk rate in the majors. Thanks to that, his FIP of 3.61 shows a much better pitcher than we actually saw last season. He's not a front-line starter, but the Cubs wouldn't need him to be. 

They would have also added their big back-end bullpen guy in Melancon. He was one of the best relievers in baseball for the previous four years and last season an injury hampered him. He's only 32, so a bounce back seems like a good bet. 

There's plenty of money left to pursue someone like Alex Cobb in free agency along with a pair of relievers like, say, Mike Minor and Jake McGee (a lefty). 

All of a sudden, the Cubs' offseason seems a huge success. 

Why this makes sense for the Giants

As noted in September by my colleague Mike Axisa, the Giants are in a tough spot here. They are coming off an awful 2017 season. They are old, expensive and don't have a great farm system. An on-the-fly rebuild would require some creativity and here you have that. 

Assuming the Cubs do help with the final two years of Heyward's deal, the Giants are actually saving money. They would be getting an outstanding defender in right field and AT&T Park's right field is one of the toughest in baseball. He would be more valuable with the Giants than the Cubs in this aspect. 

Further, the deal frees up money for the Giants in the next three seasons in a big way -- more than $40 million. They could be more aggressive in free agency and round out a few other problem areas with cheaper and smarter signings than Samardzija was, for example. 

Perhaps the deal frees up money to sign J.D. Martinez to play left field, then? With better and healthier seasons from the likes of Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, maybe the offense could absorb Heyward for what he brings with the glove. 

As for the rotation, a healthy Madison Bumgarner fronts it while Johnny Cueto is one year removed from serious Cy Young contention. The Giants could use some of the savings with this hypothetical trade for a mid-level arm like Jeremy Hellickson or Andrew Cashner

They would be looking for a closer again, but the market is flush with quality relievers. And they would be saving a lot of money in this trade. Lots of things are possible. 

Buy or sell? 

Man, I'm selling it. I put everything I could into those explanations above, but I'm still just not seeing it. There are so many moving parts here and I just don't see it getting done. No one really likes selling low and that's what would be happening on both sides here. Throw in the three no-trade clauses and far too much has to happen to make this a reality. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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