Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward and the future of the Cubs’ right field

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Outfielder Jason Heyward
MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24: Outfielder Jason Heyward /

Jason Heyward has failed to live up to the value assigned to his contract so far for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs may be forced to consider alternative options if Heyward doesn’t bounce back soon.

When the Chicago Cubs signed Jason Heyward in the winter following the 2015 season, most Cubs’ fans couldn’t be happier. At the time, it looked like the Cubs locked down a top outfielder for the better part of a decade. Fans rationalized his 2016 slow start because of slow starts for Heyward in years past. However, time showed that the offensive struggles weren’t simply a temporary blip.

In 2016, his first season with the Cubs, Heyward slashed .230/.306/.325. Each metric were career lows. Meanwhile, the Cubs were paying him $20 million for the year.

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2017 was a minor improvement for Heyward, but he was still the weakest everyday bat in the Cubs’ lineup. Manager Joe Maddon has shown that his faith in Heyward is limited as he limited his role in the Cubs’ postseasons. Could he find himself on the bench more often this season?

A historically bad contract

Even if Heyward did a full 180-degree turn and became one of the better bats in the Cubs’ lineup, he’s been bad enough in his first two years that it’s virtually impossible for him to reach the value of his contract.

In his two seasons with the Cubs, Heyward has accumulated just 3.9 WAR. In those years, the Cubs paid Heyward almost $50 million. That’s roughly $12.5 million per WAR which is not great. Few teams have spent as much for as little productivity in MLB history.

Potential everyday replacements

If Heyward fails to improve and the Cubs decide to move onto a new daily right fielder, they have a few options. Kris Bryant, Ian Happ, Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez all got reps in right field in 2017. Any combination of those four rotating between right field and infield would make the lineup stronger.

Next offseason would be the time the Cubs would have a real opportunity to fix their right field in Bryce Harper. The Harper to Chicago rumors have been well documented and perpetuated by Harper himself, but the Cubs are by no means the only team interested in the former NL MVP.

Next: Davis already at work with Heyward

Ideally, the Cubs and their fans would prefer for Heyward to return to playing how he did in St. Louis and Atlanta. With a new hitting coach, it’s still possible. But even if he fails to bounce back, few Cubs’ fans would ask for that contract back because of Heyward’s legendary rain delay speech in game seven of the 2016 World Series.