A big part of Jason Heyward choosing the Chicago Cubs as his next team was the ability to opt out after three seasons, but the age of most of the team’s dominant players probably played a bigger part in it.
Heyward snubbed bigger deals from the St. Louis Cardinals and at least one more team (Washington Nationals?) to sign a $184 million, eight year deal with the Cubs, who seem to present not just a young core that’s hard to compete with, but also a manager in Joe Maddon who everyone wants to play for, which helps them win these free agency battles against teams over the past two seasons again and again.
Right now, Heyward, 26, isn’t thinking about the opt out that’s coming before half the contract is done. He’s talking about growing with the team, and that the fact that signing a major deal for a long period would have left him without any of his current teammates in St. Louis played a major part in him bolting to a division rival, which didn’t sit well with a lot of Cardinals fans, even though they had Heyward for just one season.
It’ll be interesting to see how Heyward does defensively for the Cubs. He has three gold glove awards as a right fielder, but he’ll probably be playing mostly as a centerfielder in Chicago. He has a .311/.376/.522/.898 stat line at Wrigley Field, but the Cubs didn’t bring him over for his bat, or not mainly for that. He’s not a slugger (97 home runs through six seasons in the majors) and his .293 batting average from last season is a career high. But Heyward shows a changing trend, and how teams are willing to pay top dollar for defense first kind of players, as advanced statistics suggest to them there’s the ability to quantify what the real value of defense is, something that was difficult to do in the past.
Heyward will be paid $15 million for the first year of the contract and then between $20 million and $22 million for the next seven unless he opts out. He also gets a $20 million deferred signing bonus.