Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

The Chicago Cubs haven’t confirmed the signing, which means there is likely some paperwork to be done, and perhaps a physical, but we do know that the offseason’s top positional free agent chose the Cubs to be his next team.

After the swell of excitement of that election by Jason Heyward, now we have a chance to get into the many reactions to the deal, as well as some of the transactional nitty gritty. First, something to enjoy:

  • There are some obvious caveats there: the average annual value of the Cubs’ deal ($23 million) was probably higher than those offers, which may have been over nine or ten years; the Cubs’ deal comes with two opt-outs, which have enormous value to Heyward; and there are possibly other clauses we don’t yet know that made the Cubs’ deal more valuable (no-trade protection, achievable bonuses, assignment bonuses, etc.). But still, a larger guarantee is a larger guarantee (and these other offers were nearly 10% higher), and it’s pretty unusual to see a player take a guarantee that is this much lower. My assumption is that not only did Heyward really want to sign with the Cubs, but also that he’s ready to bet on himself that he can perform in the next three years (or four years) in such a way that he’ll want to opt out. This way, he gets protection against a career-altering injury (or performance decline), but also gets to cash in substantially in these next three years.

  • Speaking of which, we haven’t yet heard the financial particulars of the deal, and we probably won’t until it’s officially completed. I’ve always assumed that, if Heyward signed a deal with an opt-out early on, it would be at least a little front-loaded (otherwise, he wouldn’t be maximizing his most valuable years, reducing the value of the opt-out). However, Jesse Rogers says he hears it’s “not as frontloaded as you might think,” guessing that it could start at just $18 million. From where I sit, if it’s $75 million or less in the first three years, then it looks good for the Cubs.
  • As far as the roster goes, the Cubs are going to have to clear a 40-man roster spot at some point in the near future. Although it is presently at 38, that does not include Trevor Cahill, who has reportedly signed a new deal with the team, and it also does not include Brendan Ryan, who was reportedly the PTBNL in the Starlin Castro/Adam Warren trade. Add those two, plus Heyward, and you’ve got 41. The Cubs are probably already in the process of trying to sneak a player or two through waivers, especially now that we’re in the post-Rule 5 section of the offseason, and rosters are getting a little more crowded.
  • Oh noes, the signing costs the Cubs a draft pick! Assuming Dexter Fowler signs with a new team this offseason, the pick the Cubs lose for Heyward will be that compensatory pick between the first and second rounds, having already lost their first rounder for signing John Lackey. If you’re going to lose a first round pick, this was the year to do it for the Cubs, since they had lower value than a pick up in the 10 to 15 range. Thereafter losing the compensatory pick (and associated pool space) hurts a little, but, I mean, it was in service of signing two guys that are going to be hugely important to a hugely competitive team. You do it.
  • The Cubs’ first pick in the 2016 draft will now be their second rounder, unless they sign another qualified free agent, which is rather unlikely. Getting ahead of myself: if the Cubs go way under slot starting in the 5th round or so, they could probably afford a first-ish rounder who slips there with the second round pick. Also: given that the Cubs are blowing out their IFA budget in this period, they’ll be stocking up on extra prospects that way, lessening the blow of losing the draft picks.
  • It’s almost always crazy to call a team – even just on paper – a 100-win team, but it’s hard to argue with David Schoenfield that this is what a 100-win team (on paper) looks like.
  • Jon Greenberg talks about the Cubs’ robust movement this offseason and the win-now mode.
  • Keith Law is a big fan of the signing, and sees a lot of value for the Cubs.
  • Cubs players are digging it, too, and I especially liked Jason Hammel’s prediction of 173-0.
  • Over at BP, Sahadev Sharma, to his credit, has been saying it for months, and he’s saying it again – Jason Heyward is a perfect for the Cubs. And Matt Trueblood, prior to the signing, digs into why Heyward is so much better than many think.

  • Because it was the last eight-year deal the Cubs bestowed, and because it was another athletic outfielder, I can understand why some will mention the Alfonso Soriano deal when discussing the Heyward contract. But surely you can see the differences, right? Not only is Heyward five years younger than Soriano was when he signed with the Cubs, but also they could not be more different types of players. Outside of “outfield” and contract length, there’s just nothing to compare here. And also, people still forget that the Soriano deal wasn’t nearly as bad for the Cubs as the last few years made it seem.

  • You must be reminded that Jason Heyward is a day younger than Anthony Rizzo. Please consider him part of the Cubs’ young core. That basically never happens with a free agent. I find this neat.
  • There was an earlier look at this issue at FanGraphs (with a positive conclusion), but here’s another take, from a different angle, on how Jason Heyward could transition to center field. Everyone’s conclusion on this issue seems to be what my gut says: there’s little reason to believe Heyward cannot be an above-average defensive center fielder, though he might not be as elite there as he has been in right field. For me, this means the Cubs should have plenty of comfort in having Heyward be their primary center fielder for the next year or two, if necessary, and then he can always move back to right field thereafter if, for example, Albert Almora proves ready by then.
  • If you missed it yesterday amid the throng, ZiPS likes Heyward to be worth more than his contract in the coming years.
  • One final thing I was thinking about – I wonder if Wrigley Field’s unique dimensions (i.e., the short, homer-friendly power alleys) will help Heyward’s power, given that he’s not an extreme pull guy (he’s right about league average in that regard). A very small slice of data to back that up:

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