MLB Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz on Christian Yelich, Jason Heyward and More

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2017

Miami Marlins' Christian Yelich walks in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)
Brett Davis/Associated Press

It's barely been one week since the Houston Astros were crowned World Series champions, but the calendar's switch to November has had all 30 Major League Baseball teams anxiously planning their strategy for 2018 and beyond. 

Free agency has officially started and players are eligible to be traded, but it's unlikely there will be significant activity by any clubs until the winter meetings begin on Dec. 10. General managers are working hard to figure things out now, even though it's logistically easier to negotiate things when everyone is in the same place. 

With the trade winds starting to swirl around MLB, here are the latest rumors that will be talked about until there is some resolution during the long winter. 

        

A's Watching Miami

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 28: Marcell Ozuna #13 interacts with Christian Yelich #21 during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images)
Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins/Getty Images

Even though there will likely be big-market players, like the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, keeping an eye on what happens with the Miami Marlins, one surprise candidate has emerged for two of Miami's potential trade chips. 

Per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Athletics are mainly interested in Marcell Ozuna and will keep an eye on Christian Yelich. 

Slusser noted the A's would prefer to add a right-handed hitter, which is why Ozuna would be their preferred choice between the two Miami stars.

Oakland is in an interesting spot in terms of roster construction heading into 2018. Slusser reported last month the team had made Ryon Healy, who hit 25 home runs in 149 games last season, available in trade talks. 

Healy is basically a power-hitting designated hitter who will post low on-base totals, including a .302 mark in 2017, and the A's already have an abundance of power hitters like Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Matt Olson. 

The A's are in a terrific financial position to add payroll with three players under a guaranteed contract next season totaling $18 million, not including arbitration-eligible players, per Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Coming off a career season with a .924 OPS and 37 home runs, Ozuna is going into his second year of arbitration and is projected to make $10.9 million. He's only under team control through 2019, so the A's have to believe they are capable of competing for a playoff spot immediately to make a deal worth their while. 

Yelich would offer more long-term stability for the A's, who went 75-87 last season. He's signed to a long-term deal through 2021 with a team option for 2022. The 25-year-old has turned into an excellent hitter with a career .290/.369/.432 slash line.

Because the A's play in a big stadium, Ozuna's power would make him more attractive in the middle of their lineup. Yelich would be able to slot into one of the top two spots in the order, setting the table for Chapman, Davis and Olson. 

       

Bad Fantasy Baseball Trades

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 17:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Chicago Cubs warms up before game three of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on October 17, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Ge
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The technical definition of a challenge trade is one player under a bad contract being traded for another player under a bad contract, with the teams involved hoping a change of scenery will return each player to their former glory. 

Per Phil Rogers of MLB.com, the San Francisco Giants have interest in Jason Heyward and could attempt to build an offer around reliever Mark Melancon and starter Jeff Samardzija.

It's not exactly a one-to-one challenge deal, but this would match the definition of two teams trying to move bad contracts and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. 

Before anyone gets too excited about either side being able to pull this off, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported there have been no discussions between the Giants and Cubs about any of the players Rogers mentioned. 

Heyward has been a massive disappointment in his two seasons with the Cubs. The 28-year-old has hit .243/.315/.353 with 18 home runs in 268 games since signing an eight-year, $184 million deal in Dec. 2015. 

By FanGraphs offensive value, Heyward's minus-27.5 over the past two seasons ranks 43rd out of 44 qualified outfielders. He does have opt-out clauses in his contract after 2018 and 2019, but it seems like a long shot either will be used since no team will pay him close to the $134.2 million he's still owed through 2023. 

Melancon and Samardzija aren't exactly All-Stars at this stage of their careers. Melancon posted a 4.50 ERA with 37 hits allowed in 30 innings, lost his closing job to Sam Dyson and had forearm surgery in September. 

Samardzija did post an excellent strikeout rate (8.9 per nine innings) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.41), but his 1.3 home runs allowed per nine innings was his highest total since becoming a full-time starter in 2012. 

In two of the past three seasons, Samardzija has posted an ERA of at least 4.42. He's owed $19.8 million in each of the next three seasons, and Melancon is owed a total of $53 million through 2020. 

The Cubs do have a need for help in the starting rotation and bullpen with Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Wade Davis all being free agents. But the Giants' duo is owed a lot of money after producing little value in 2017. 

Heyward's defensive ability in right field would fit nicely in the spacious AT&T Park outfield, but the last thing the Giants need coming off a 98-loss season is to add another bad hitter signed for the next six years. 

     

Contract info via Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.