Jason Heyward’s time with the Cubs comes to an unceremonious end
A week removed from the trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs are very much casting an eye toward the future with their recent flurry of roster moves – but none sent as clear a message as Jed Hoyer’s decision to move on from veteran Jason Heyward at season’s end.
"“Jason and I have talked a lot about where things are going in the future,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer told reporters. “And I think for next year, we’re not going to have him as part of the team. We’ll go our separate directions.”"
Heyward was among the top free agents going into the 2016 offseason, along with David Price, Zack Greinke, Justin Upton and Chris Davis. The Cubs appeared to be big winners, signing Heyward, who was coming off a .797 OPS with St. Louis, to an eight-year, $184 million contract. Upon coming to the North Side, his defense was as elite as it always has been, but his offense really cratered in the years that followed.
Cutting ties with Heyward, despite still owing $22 million for 2023, is a big move for Hoyer and his front office. But let’s be clear: not all of Heyward’s seven years with the Cubs were total losses. So, let’s have a look at what this veteran outfielder brought to the Cubs over the years.
Cubs: During his career, Jason Heyward brought elite defense
Heyward has always been an elite outfielder, winning a five career Gold Gloves, two with the Cubs. While growing up and watching the Cubs in the mid-2000s, I remember the team not really having strong defensive players. There were really only 2 Cubs in the mid-2000s that were Gold Glove winners and impressed defensively year after year in second baseman Darwin Barney (2012) and first baseman Derrek Lee (2007).
You have to fast forward to 2016 before the Cubs had their next Gold Glove winners, in Heyward and Anthony Rizzo. Despite his lack of offensive production, the Cubs and the fans knew if the ball was hit anywhere near Heyward, he was going to make a play. Whether it was with his arm or glove, he was electric in the outfield.
The veteran’s leadership has and will never be questioned
Despite only having a few good moments throughout a season, we cannot forget about Heyward’s leadership during the 2016 postseason run, especially during that iconic Game 7 rain delay.
With Heyward being one of the veterans on the team, as well as having four previous October runs under his belt, him stepping up during the rain delay to boost morale in the locker room is something that probably gives every Cub fan chills even today. Just think what it must have been like in that moment, heading into extra innings during the delay with a chance to erase a 108-year championship drought. Just typing this out gives me chills.
So what comes next for Jason Heyward and his big league career?
With the signing of Seiya Suzuki, and the rise of Christopher Morel, Nelson Velazquez, and All-Star Ian Happ, there is just no room for Heyward moving forward. So, moving on from him makes sense. The Cubs also just signed Franmil Reyes and have Rafael Ortega in the outfield. With Heyward not being on the team in 2023, the outfield will likely look like Suzuki, Happ, and Morel, with Velazquez, and either Ortega or Alexander Canario on the bench. It is time to move on from the aging veterans, especially for a team that is hoping to turn the page in 2023.
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Out of all the players from the 2016 World Series team, Heyward was probably my favorite. Despite his lack of offense, I knew he would never cause problems in the outfield. I love watching that old-school, defense-first, and Heyward brought that to the Cubs on a daily basis. Other than his bloated contract (which is Theo Epstein’s fault, not Heyward’s) and lack of offense, he brought a lot of smiles and cheers to Chicago, and I am hoping that a team will give him a chance to play next year.