The St. Louis Cardinals may eventually have to make a trade to bolster their offense.
But, in the short term, it could go a long way if outfielder Jason Heyward would start to live up to expectations.
Heyward, as an Atlanta Braves youngster, was touted as a potential future most valuable player. He’s a guy the Redbirds thought would find another gear when he reached St. Louis and settled in.
But, so far, Heyward has struggled with a .251 batting average -- the second-worst of his six-year career -- and he’s struck out 41 times compared to walking only 12. That’s caused Heyward, who was used at times as a leadoff man in Atlanta, to have a dismal .294 on-base percentage -- by far the worst of his career.
At his current pace, Heyward will be lucky to drive in 50 runs in 2015. Heyward has five home runs in 16 total extra base hits and his .382 slugging percentage is the worst of his career.
I’m not sure of the reasons why Heyward has struggled so much this year. But he needs to turn it around... fast.
The Cardinals can’t afford to carry an under-performing right fielder with number three hitter Matt Holliday shelved indefinitely by injury and clean-up hitter Matt Adams lost for the season.
There is some reason to be optimistic that Heyward will come around. He’s batting .306 over the past two weeks and .278 over the past month, although he’s had only nine RBIs over the past 30 days with a .299 on-base percentage.
But Heyward’s career splits suggest he gets better as the year goes on. He’s a .225 hitter in April, a .250 hitter in May, a .270 hitter in June, a .271 hitter in July and a .297 hitter in August.
I’d like to think Heyward is motivated to play well. He’s a free agent at season’s end and he needs to show signs of life to convince the Cardinals or another team that he’s deserving of a long-term contract.
The question at the beginning of the season was if the Cardinals would be able to afford to re-sign Heyward after acquiring one year of control in exchange for young pitcher Shelby Miller.
While a bad season will likely drive Heyward’s price down, it seems like the question now is whether the Redbirds can afford to take a chance on committing financially to a player who has been largely underwhelming since his arrival.
At this point, St. Louis might be best off tendering Heyward a one-year deal and accepting a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. It seems like too much of a gamble to commit eight or nine figures to a guy who hasn’t lived up to the hype.
So let’s see what you’re really made of, young man. Prove the doubters wrong for the sake of your team ... and for yourself.