Jason Heyward bids farewell as his Cubs career draws to a close

(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images) /

Without Jason Heyward, there’s no 2016 World Series championship. That’s all you need to know when evaluating whether or not the eight-year, $184 million contract the Cubs handed to him all those years ago.

In just a couple days time, year seven of that deal will conclude – and it will be the final one he spends in Chicago, with the front office opting to cut ties with the veteran and five-time Gold Glover at season’s end. This will allow Jed Hoyer to prioritize younger players on the roster, while affording Heyward a chance to catch on with another team in 2023.

"“It brings a smile to my face, knowing that I had a chance to play in front of these fans,” Heyward said. “It was really gratifying, because good times, bad times, they’re still right there waiting for something positive to happen. And we earned the right for them to be right there, even more on the edge of their seats.”"

Coming off a monster year in St. Louis in 2015, expectations were sky-high for Heyward when he came to the North Side. To say he failed to live up to those expectations performance-wise is certainly accurate and fair. In seven seasons with the Cubs, he slashed just .245/.323/.377 – good for an 85 OPS+, which means he was about 15 percent less valuable than the league average player.

He earned Gold Gloves in each of his first two seasons in Chicago – anchoring the team’s outfield with stellar defensive work in right field. But the bat just never came around, with the exception of the all-too-strange 2020 season, when he turned in a near-career best .848 OPS.

Despite it all, Cubs fans will always appreciate Jason Heyward

But when it’s all said and done, the offensive struggles aren’t going to be what fans remember about Heyward. It’s going to be the now-infamous ‘rain delay’ speech, delivered on the heels of Rajai Davis’ game-tying home run in Game 7 of the 2016 Fall Classic. Sensing his team on the ropes, the veteran spoke up in the weight room at Progressive Field and, soon thereafter, the Cubs made history, winning the franchise’s first championship in more than a century.

"“We don’t win that championship without him,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That guy’s a great human being, a great player. And he’s done a lot for this organization and myself, for sure.”"

When Heyward is officially released, Ross and right-hander Kyle Hendricks will be the final two bridges to that team left standing, assuming Willson Contreras winds up elsewhere in free agency this winter. It doesn’t seem like that much time has passed since millions of ecstatic Cubs fans filled the streets of Chicago on a sunny November day, but that’s life. One thing’s for sure, though.

Next. 10 years and 3,000 articles about the Cubs. dark

No matter how much time passes or what the future holds, Heyward will always hold a very special place in history – and in the hearts of everybody who bore witness to that magical 2016 season and unforgettable Game 7.