The Cubs again signaled their intent to end 107 years of World Series futility, bolstering an already-formidable lineup by reportedly signing the top all-round outfielder in the market, Jason Heyward.
According to multiple reports, Heyward has agreed to an eight-year, $184-million deal to defect from the rival Cardinals to join the Cubs, who were swept by the Mets in the NLCS.
Heyward may have turned down larger offers in the $200-million range, according to reports, with the Angels, Nationals and Cardinals having emerged as serious contenders.
Once Heyward’s deal becomes official, the Cubs will have committed a little more than $276 million to four free-agent signings.
Even though the Cubs landed Heyward short of the $200-million mark, the deal reportedly includes possible opt-outs after his third and fourth seasons, both of which are tied to plate appearance requirements. The clauses add significant value to the contract for Heyward, who could re-enter the market just before his age 29 season, roughly in line with most free agents.
Heyward, 26, is young when compared to most free agents. That relative youth, and his outstanding glove in the outfield, helped to drive up his bidding.
Although Heyward is regarded as a solid above-average hitter, much of his value is derived from his defense. Yet he earned a contract more in line with a traditional middle-of-the-order slugger.
“This is obviously valuing his age and defense,” one rival executive said. “Stats have him as an elite defender, but I think most scouts do, too. So this is less of an analytics thing and more of a general understanding of the importance of defense.”
Another executive contended that Heyward’s defense has been “overvalued,” especially when taken with his offensive production.
Heyward hit .293 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs with the Cardinals in 2015. He spent his first five seasons with the Braves and never hit more than 27 homers in a season, but his defense in rightfield, baserunning and steady bat have made him one of the most valuable players in baseball.
By wins above replacement, a statistic that measures a player’s total contributions, Heyward ranks sixth among all outfielders.
Heyward has played mostly in rightfield, but barring another move, the Cubs might slot him in centerfield, which he has played in the past. Regardless of what comes next for the Cubs, they have been more aggressive this offseason than any other team in the National League and have done the most to this point to fortify their roster.
Ben Zobrist, who spurned a hard push by the Mets, signed a four-year, $56-million contract that reunites him with Joe Maddon, his former manager with the Rays. The Cubs also added pitchers John Lackey (two years, $32 million) and Trevor Cahill (one year, $4.25 million).
The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks and had a trade for Aroldis Chapman effectively scuttled when serious domestic violence allegations surfaced. The Giants, Cardinals and Nationals still have holes to fill.
As do the NL champion Mets, who on Friday officially announced the signing of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5-million deal that includes a team option for a third season. The Mets also traded for second baseman Neil Walker.