Based on the contract alone that the Chicago Cubs gave him, this season has been a financial blunder in the eyes of most fans. The great defense can’t make up for the lack of any consistency at the plate. But I simply can’t give up on him, and Jon Lester is the reason why.
The Chicago Cubs hadn’t been in a position to dole out big money for a free agent in several years. They did sign Edwin Jackson to a four-year, $52 million deal in January of 2013. That of course, didn’t work out very well and he was eventually released in 2015. So when the Cubs signed Jon Lester last season to six-year, $155 million dollar deal it turned heads. This year was Jason Heyward and his eight-year, $184 million deal. It turned more heads. And now those same heads are shaking in disapproval.
The money the Cubs gave Heyward was, in my opinion, too much. But that, unfortunately, is how baseball contracts are now. Heyward can opt out after three seasons if he chooses, becoming a free agent again at age 29. There’s another conditional opt out in 2019 if he has 500 plate appearances that year. But for many fans, that seems like 500 too many. But not me. Yes, this season is a wash at the plate. Then again, Lester left many people with the same bad taste last year–so why can’t Heyward turn it around?
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He’s batting a career-low .225, while his slugging percentage and on-base percentage are career worsts so far as well. His OPS+ is 67. SIXTY SEVEN. For reference,
is toting an OPS+ of 99. He’s been bad, really bad this season. And now
has given him the weekend off–in Colorado. Seems odd, right?
A break to clear his head
But in actuality, it’s the right move. Maddon knows Heyward better than we do. And it’s possible that a series in Colorado would cause him to press even harder knowing that it’s a “hitters park”. It’s possible that if the Cubs need a defensive replacement in the late innings, Heyward could still fill in there. But from the sound of it, he’s going to get a full weekend for a “mental break”.
I do believe that Heyward is going to come around. If that happens before the regular season is over, in the playoffs or not until next spring is yet to be seen. Lester came around and has had a great second year in Chicago. For Heyward, as hard as this is to swallow, we might need to be patient. Hitting coach John Mallee has been working with him, and Heyward has put in all the extra time he can.
There’s a lot going on at the plate in Heyward’s stance, all things the Cubs have identified and continue to work on. But fixing them on the fly hasn’t been the easiest for Heyward. But I have faith. Javier Baez had a swing that “needed fixing”. One year after hearing his name mentioned heavily in trade rumors he’s a staple of this team with his defense (Sound familiar?), and now a more consistent approach at the plate.
I preached last year that Lester would turn it around and he did. At the halfway point of this season, I predicted Kyle Hendricks would be the best Cubs pitcher of the second half (TBD, but a good start). So if you can trust me on this one, try to. It’ll also help you from tearing out your hair the rest of this year.