Early in May, I wrote this article stating that the Cubs should not DFA Jason Heyward. That’s been a popular call from some fans for over a year about Heyward, who has been injured much of the last two seasons.
Two weeks after that, the Cubs placed Heyward on the injured list with no injury designation, which can mean a COVID-19 placement. He’s now spent two weeks on the IL and there’s been no discussion of when he might return.
Christopher Morel was called up from Triple-A Iowa to replace Heyward on the active roster and Morel has been nothing but impressive. He is currently hitting .283/.387/.491 (15-for-53) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs, five stolen bases and eight walks. Tuesday, he set a franchise record (14 games) for the most consecutive games reaching base at the start of a career, breaking the mark set by Willson Contreras in 2016. Morel is a high-energy player who can play several positions well, and though it’s still a fairly small sample size, his play so far would warrant him sticking around in the major leagues.
Today, Paul Sullivan wrote this Tribune column on this very topic, what to do with Heyward. Here are some of his thoughts:
Heyward was cleared over the weekend from his COVID-19-related absence. He has been sidelined since May 17, and the Cubs haven’t given a timetable for his return as he ramps back up. He moved from right field to center this season to make way for free-agent signee Seiya Suzuki but struggled offensively with a .208 average, no home runs and four RBIs in 72 at-bats.
A sprained left finger suffered during a slide in Cincinnati last week put Suzuki on the 10-day IL, so Heyward could move back to his old position in right for the time being, assuming he’s deemed ready this week. But the Cubs have made a five-year commitment to Suzuki, so a move would be temporary if it happened.
Ross also could move Morel around defensively, but slowing his development in center just because it’s Heyward’s spot would be risky for an organization focusing on the long term. The Cubs seemingly would like to move Heyward’s contract, but that’s easier said than done with $36.7 million remaining through 2023.
So Heyward could return any time, but again, as noted, there’s no timetable.
Moving Morel around doesn’t seem to hurt his offensive production. Perhaps he could develop into that multi-position guy the Cubs have been searching for since Ben Zobrist’s departure.
The key, of course, is the $36.7 million remaining on Heyward’s contract. The Cubs are simply not going to eat that much money, even though it’s a sunk cost and has to be paid regardless of whether Heyward is playing or not. They’re getting some good production from Morel on a minimum salary, and also the presence of Nelson Velazquez on the active roster argues against a Heyward return, because Velazquez can play right field, as he did during Monday’s doubleheader. Velazquez probably goes back to Iowa when Suzuki returns, but that’s more than a week away.
Could the Cubs possibly find a taker for that Heyward contract, even if it wouldn’t bring much back in return? Or could they offer to pay part of that $36.7 million to move him to another team?
To me, that would seem the most likely outcome. If it doesn’t happen this year, I suppose the Cubs could eat one year’s worth of Heyward’s deal, he wouldn’t seem to have much role on the 2023 Cubs, even though his experience has reportedly made him a good mentor for younger players.
In any case, it doesn’t appear Heyward is going to return soon and the young roster replacements are doing a good job, so he could probably just stay on the IL for the time being. That’s likely the short-term answer.
What would you do?
What should the Cubs do with Jason Heyward?
This poll is closed
DFA him now
Just leave him on the IL
Try to trade him, eating part of the contract
Something else (leave in comments)