Jason Heyward is having the worst year of his career.
It’s strange, actually — after a rising OPS and OPS+ for four straight years from 2017-20, Heyward’s performance has really gone in the tank. He’s currently hitting .198./271/.322, all career lows, and though he’s still relatively young (turns 32 next week), he seems to have lost a step defensively and his arm doesn’t appear to be what it used to.
With two years left on his deal after 2021, he’s very likely not going to be an important contributor to the next Cubs playoff team.
This has led some to suggest that the Cubs simply outright release him. To me, that seems an unlikely choice. From now through the end of his contract, that’s about $51 million (a bit less than $7 million remaining this year, plus $22 million each of the next two seasons).
Obviously, the Cubs have to pay this money whether Heyward is on the team or not. It seemed to me that the Cubs might be willing to eat one year of that contract, but not two.
So here’s an idea. Heyward can’t be traded right now — not even on a waiver trade, those can no longer be done. They can waive him and if a team claims him, they get the whole contract, but that’s not going to happen either. It’s true that if the Cubs released Heyward right now, they could call up Greg Deichmann and give him a two-month try in right field. But they could do that with Deichmann anyway if, say, they just released Frank Schwindel.
What if they waited until the offseason and offered Heyward in trade and also offered to pick up the entire cost of the contract? As noted, they have to pay the money anyway, so why not try to send him to a team that might offer an A-ball lottery ticket in exchange for getting Heyward at the minimum salary?
According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, should the deal be finalized, the Cubs will also pick up between $17-20 million of the $25 million remaining on the 8-year, $136 million contract that Soriano signed before the 2007 season.
So the wealthy Yankees got the Cubs to give them Soriano AND money equal to somewhere around three-quarters of his remaining pay. The Cubs got minor league righthander Corey Black in the trade. Black was a decent-looking prospect at the time, but he never made it above Triple-A, largely due to injuries, and was out of baseball after 2018.
But at least the Cubs got something for Soriano. Similarly, if they are willing to pay most or all of Heyward’s money, why couldn’t they do the same here — at least get something, as opposed to simply releasing him? Who knows, maybe the Braves would be interested in bringing him back to his hometown to be a fourth or fifth outfielder, since they’d only be paying him league minimum.
It’s worth thinking about, right?
What should the Cubs do with Jason Heyward?
This poll is closed
Keep him and play him regularly in right field until his contract expires
Offer him in trade and pay his full contract
Offer him in trade and pay a significant portion of his contract
Something else (leave in comments)