As unlikely as it was to ever really materialize, talk of Jason Heyward going to San Francisco in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon was at least fun to discuss. What really intrigued me the most about the general concept of a swap is how it would allow the Cubs to fill a couple holes without adding too much to the payroll.
But alas, it appears the rumor was just a figment of someone’s imagination, or perhaps the result of some bad info.
Giants people seem as baffled by Heyward/Cubs rumor as the rest of us. Zero chance of that deal. Welcome to the offseason.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) November 8, 2017
Here’s the thing though: The Giants may very well be looking to get down on some trades, even if they don’t want to acquire Heyward in the process. In fact, they’re pretty much going to have to make moves in order to clear some cap space if they want to add players of any significance this winter.
Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area gave us a look at the Giants’ unenviable luxury cap situation in light of Johnny Cueto’s choice to remain under contract.
According to numbers compiled by Cot’s Contracts, the Giants already have a tax number of about $187 million when you account for arbitration-eligible players, the remainder of the 40-man roster and benefits that are included in the final tax number. That leaves them only about $10 million of wiggle room until they hit the tax for a fourth straight year, which would continue to penalize them in multiple facets of team-building. They also would again be taxed a 50 percent penalty on any dollar over the $197 million limit.
You can see why it’s such a sticky situation. Bringing Nick Hundley back as the backup catcher would wipe out a chunk of that remaining room. The Giants want to add a veteran lefty reliever, and that player would also just about put them at the tax. This is why Sabean again hinted Monday that the best route might be a trade, where the Giants could potentially pick up a pre-arb or early-arbitration center fielder who won’t cost more than a couple million.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d enjoy trying trying to turn around a 98-loss team that’s already within kissing distance of the luxury tax threshold. Outside of hitting on a bunch of prospects at once, the Giants are going to have to either flip the bird to the tax cap as they sprint past it or spin off a few high-priced assets that still possess residual value in exchange for another team’s redundant pieces.
So you can imagine why Samardzija and Melancon would be floated out there, even if it’s sort of rumor to get people talking about it. There’s nothing like hearing that another team is interested to get competitors’ ears perked up. Neither pitcher is young or cheap, but both could serve valuable roles for the right team with $37.4 million AAV to spare.
The Cubs definitely fit that description, though they’d have to unload a big salary of their own in order to really make it work. Well, let me rephrase that and say that it’d be much better for them to move some money in order to add the other ancillary pieces they’d need for this year and beyond while avoiding the same luxury tax snafu from above.
It’s not a very popular opinion among folks who still have pitchforks in hand from his first go-round with the Cubs, but I’d be all for a Shark reunion. If nothing else, it’d be glorious to bathe in the poetic beauty of Samardzija coming back to Chicago in order to escape a rebuilding team and join a competitor. Full circle, yo.
The real lesson to be learned from all this is to never trust Phil Rogers. But if there’s another takeaway, it’s that the hot stove can teach you a little something even when it burns you. While it’s pretty much guaranteed that the Cubs and Giants won’t be making a deal along the lines of the rumor, their disparate situations could lead them to cross paths this winter.