Chicago Cubs Analysis: Jason Heyward is simply too expensive


The Chicago Cubs can’t afford to add free agent outfielder Jason Heyward this offseason while also addressing other needs on their roster

Many MLB experts expect 26-year-old free agent outfielder Jason Heyward to command over $200 million from potential suitors this winter. This lofty price tag hasn’t prevented Heyward from getting linked to the Chicago Cubs as a possible free agent target.

On Wednesday, ESPN writer David Schoenfield listed the Chicago Cubs as a potential landing spot for Heyward.

"The team is currently without a legitimate center fielder on the 40-man roster. The outfield corners would be Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber, both below-average defenders, with Chris Coghlan filling in. So two options here. Heyward would be passable in center field, at least for a couple of seasons, if the Cubs wanted to go that route. Or to maximize his defensive value, they play Heyward in right and move to Soler to left, especially if they believe Schwarber can catch. Or they trade Soler or Schwarber. Remember, there’s always a big free-agent signing that comes out of nowhere. This wouldn’t shock me. —-Content created by ESPN writer David Schoenfield"

The Chicago Cubs are in the market for an outfielder and lead off option because incumbent Dexter Fowler rejected the $15.8 million qualifying offer that the Chicago Cubs extended him in mid-November.

There are several reasons why the Chicago Cubs should forgo spending $200+ million on Heyward.

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Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

In 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Heyward slashed .293/.359/.439 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs in 610 plate appearances. The biggest concern with Heyward offensively is his lack of power. The 13 home runs that he hit this year was just average among all Major League hitters and he hasn’t been able to touch the 27 home runs that he hit in 2012 with the Atlanta Braves. According to data compiled by sporting charts, Heyward’s 2015 slugging percentage ranked 69th in the MLB among qualified hitters.

Heyward’s true value comes from his defense. According to, Heyward led all right fielders in 2015 in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) with a 20.2 rating (second place was 13.8). According to baseball reference, he saved 22 runs more than a hypothetical replacement player (Rdrs). Heyward is also valuable for his base stealing ability. According to, he finished tied for 19th in the MLB in total stolen bases with 23.

Clearly, Heyward is a valuable player, but his limited power potential and higher value defensively compared to offensively makes signing him to a $200+ million contract problematic. Free agent outfielders like Denard Span and Alex Gordon offer above average fielding and good hitting lines at a much more economical price. The Chicago Cubs free agent Austin Jackson provides tremendous value while not attracting too many suitors which could keep his market price relatively low. Chris Denorfia is another player that played for the Chicago Cubs in 2015 and became a free agent this offseason. He slashed .269/.319/.373 in 2015. Additionally, it is entirely possible that the Cubs could look to re-sign Dexter Fowler as well.

Oct 10, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Austin Jackson (27) is congratulated by center fielder Dexter Fowler (right) after scoring on a sacrifice bunt by starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (not pictured) during the second inning in game two of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs have a number of in-house options if they don’t want to hit the open market to address their need in the outfield.

Chris Coghlan remains under team control through 2016. The 30-year-old veteran has been solid in his two seasons in Chicago. With the Cubs, he slashed .265/.346/.447. He has played center field in 95 games during his career. Coghlan is the type of veteran player that can fill in a position effectively while the Cubs continue their search for a long-term option.

Oct 12, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler (68) celebrates with left fielder Chris Coghlan (8) after hitting a two run home run during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Unsurprisingly, the Cubs have another highly talented prospect in their minor league system who could become their long-term option at center field. His name is Albert Almora. The 21-year-old prospect from Florida played for the Chicago Cubs Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies in 2015. He slashed .272/.327/.400 in 106 games.

The numbers aren’t overly impressive, but the Chicago Cubs still believe they have a good player in Almora. Scouts cite maturity beyond his years as a major reason for his impending success. He is an outstanding center fielder, and, while not the fastest guy, his innate ability to take effective routes to the ball makes him potent at this position. Also, in the minors thus far, he recorded a low strikeout rate (7.1 percent in 2015) which bodes well for his chances for success in the MLB.

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  • The Cubs could realistically approach free agency with the mindset that Almora is their long-term option at center field. With this approach in mind, adding Heyward or another free agent would only block Almora’s path to the MLB. Why sign free agent talent when an up and coming prospect figures to make an impact at this position in the near future, especially when the Chicago Cubs have had so much success with their prospects in recent years?

    There has been rumors that the Chicago Cubs may consider addressing their overflow of young middle-infielder talent by moving Javier Baez to center field. The 22-year-old has never played in the outfield during his professional baseball career although some suggest that he is athletic and versatile enough to make the transition to the outfield.

    In this scenario, the Cubs wouldn’t have to choose between trading Javier Baez or Starlin Castro to make room for one to become the full-time starter at second base. Addison Russell is the long-term answer for the Cubs at shortstop.

    October 20, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores (4) steals second in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez (9) in game four of the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    With all the above players as possible options for the 2015 starter at center field, it would be foolish for the Chicago Cubs to open up the pocketbook and write a big check worth upwards of $200 million to sign Jason Heyward. The price tag on Heyward is also problematic because it retracts from the ability of the Chicago Cubs to sign starting pitching.

    From the onset of the offseason, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein stressed that adding pitching would be his number one priority.

    "“The topic sentence is we would like to add more quality pitching. Anybody who follows the team knows that. We’ve been open and transparent about it, that we’re really building a foundation of young position players and that we’re going to trust ourselves to add pitching along the way and build really effective pitching staffs each year and over time add impact pitching.” —-courtesy of CBS Chicago"

    However, adding quality starting pitching  isn’t cheap. If they want to sign an ace like David Price or Zack Greinke they will probably have to pay upwards of $200 million. Even if the Cubs choose to add a guy that would become a third or fourth starter, they could still face a nine-figure, multiple-year investment.

    Additionally, the Cubs are going to have to decide what to do with their own ace Jake Arrieta. He remains under team control until he becomes eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. The Cubs can sign him to a long-term contract before then.

    Arrieta’s agent Scott Boras suggested that re-signing Arrieta will come with a massive price tag. Like other superstar pitchers in this league, the Chicago Cubs are probably looking at a $200 million+ investment to sign him to a long-term extension.

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    If the Cubs sign Heyward, this pulls away money that they could use to resign Arrieta or add another quality starting pitcher. The Cubs need to improve their starting rotation if they want to win a World Series next season. They can’t afford to compromise their ability to do this with unneeded free agent signings.

    More from Da Windy City

    The Cubs have some choices to make regarding how they want to allocate their resources this offseason. They could go out and spend $200+ million on Jason Heyward; however, this move would seriously compromise their ability to make a run at beefing up the starting rotation which is a more pressing need than adding a free agent center fielder. Heyward would help the Cubs win but he comes at a huge cost. The costs of signing him far outweigh the pros especially considering how many other feasible options the Cubs have at this position.