Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

jason heyward cardinalsIn the wake of the Red Sox agreeing to sign David Price to a monster seven-year, $217 million deal, the conversation in the Cubs-centric conversational sphere naturally turned to …

Jason Heyward?

It was an interesting thing to see unfolding across Cubs Twitter and here in the comments, and I suppose I do understand the connection: although Price has long been unlikely for the Cubs, we all intrinsically recognize that *IF* the Cubs were going to drop a monster deal on someone other than Price this offseason, it’s not going to be Zack Greinke – word is he’ll soon choose between the Giants and the Dodgers – and it would probably be Heyward. Again, that’s ***IF*** the Cubs were going to drop a monster deal this offseason. Which they very well may not.

So, then, I thought it appropriate to open up a spot here to chat about Heyward for a moment, in the wake of the Price deal, even though they really aren’t connected in a meaningful way for the Cubs. Which is not to say that Heyward stuff is coming out of nowhere – he’s been connected to the Cubs this offseason before, and we’ve discussed him at length.

The BN crew had some thoughts this evening on Twitter:

So, how much is Heyward going to cost? Well, given his unique circumstances – he’s crazy young for a free agent, he’s good with the bat but not great for a corner outfielder, and he derives so much of his value from excellent outfield defense (which isn’t always easy to value) – it’s really hard to predict. The FanGraphs crowd predicted eight years and $184 million. Jon Heyman was at nine years and $180 million. MLBTR was at ten years and $200 million. If you combo the AAVs and the years to create a range, you’ve got a low of eight years and $160 million (SIGN THAT DEAL TODAY, CUBS!) and a high of ten years and $230 million (um, probably don’t sign that deal, Cubs).

Of course, there’s a statistical argument to be made that Heyward is worth even more than the highest of all of those predictions. Getting there, though, requires a belief that Heyward’s defense (1) is as good as our current evaluative metrics say it is, and (2) will not seriously and rapidly deteriorate as he ages. It’s just tough to bet $200 million on it. That’s not to say his bat is a nothingburger – far from it – but he doesn’t project to perform like a “$200 million hitter,” whatever that vague ideal is.

So, in the end, I can say with confidence that I’d have no problem with the Cubs going to eight years and $160 million for Heyward, and, indeed, I think that’s a contract that would be a good bet to be a steal over its life. Of course, that’s precisely why he’s going to get more. Possibly much more.

From there, when you talk about how much higher the Cubs can reasonably go, you have to get into some ancillary things like how much backloading he’ll tolerate, is there an opt-out, and the big one … do the Cubs believe he can play well-above-average defense in center field, at least for the next two or three years? If so, perhaps they’re willing to be a little more aggressive, given the obvious need and fit.

With the Winter Meetings fast approaching, we’ll see if anything Heyward-related becomes legitimately Cubs-related, or if it remains the stuff of late night, semi-unrelated-to-the-news-of-the-day chats like this one.

(You should also note Bob Nightengale’s report that the runner up in the Price sweepstakes was the Cardinals, indicating that, in line with our previous discussions, they have a ton of money to spend this offseason. Might they just pony up to keep Heyward now?)

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