In the early days of free agency, several teams have been identified as potential suitors for St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward.
Here’s a quick lot at the potential competitors, their needs and their possible constraints in the chase for Heyward.
▪ The St. Cardinals have been open about the fact that they’d like to have Heyward back. The player said he found St. Louis an ideal place to play. So there is certainly common ground. But it seems as if there is always an owner that is willing to go nuts to get the guy he wants. If Heyward is willing to return for what the Cardinals view as a fair price, he’d be a great foundation piece for the future. But its ridiculous to think of paying $200 million or more for a guy who really isn’t a middle of the order hitter.
The best chance for the Cardinals to retain Heyward is to make their best offer early with a reasonable deadline for consideration. If he wants to play here he can accept it without a lot of shopping it around. If he wants to hold out for the highest bidder, it’s not likely to be St. Louis.
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Here are some other potential landing spots:
▪ The Philadelphia Phillies have been predicted by some outlets as the favorite to land Heyward. While it’s clear the rebuilding Phillies could use an infusion of young talent, I have to wonder why a player like Heyward would choose to be part of such a project. Heyward talked about atmosphere being an important factor to him when he was traded to St. Louis last winter. Not only is it not a lot of fun to play on a team going through growing pains but, with major changes in store, Heyward has know way to guess what the chemistry of the Philly clubhouse will be like in coming years. He’ll have a lot of safer options available to him.
▪ Of course the New York Yankees are ALWAYS on the list of usual suspects whenever their is an expensive free agent available.
New York hasn’t bid on top free agents in the last few years. But that doesn’t mean they won’t. While the Yankees have been more conscious of keeping their payroll capped recently, like the Cardinals, they have a lot of money coming off the books in the near future. C.C. Sabathia makes $25 million in 2016, the last guaranteed year of his current deal, Mark Teixeira makes $23.125 million in the last year of his contract. Alex Rodriguez’s regrettable contract is up after the 2017 season and will clear $21 million per season off the books at that point. So, especially if they were a little creative, the Yankees could find a way to make Heyward fit if he’s on their to-do list.
▪ The Chicago Cubs are a team that has been linked to Heyward. But their primary need seems to be more depth in the club’s starting rotation.
The team’s ownership has previously stated that it would hold the line on payroll at least until a new local television package is in place in the next couple of years. But it wouldn’t be a surprise, after the team arrived early on the playoff scene in 2015, to see management go all in. There is also the possibility that the Cubs could trade for starting pitching and then sign Heyward to replace the departing talent.
▪ The Anaheim Angels don’t seem to have learned any lessons from their free spending ways.
While the club is paying Albert Pujols a quarter billion dollars to be a shell of his former self and Josh Hamilton $55 million over the next two years to play for a division rival, bloggers in California suggest the team shell out another $250 million plus to blow up the Heyward market. Like the Cubs, the Angels seem to need more starting pitching over anything else. Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson’s ridiculous free agent contract signed four years ago comes to an end after the 2016 season, freeing up $20.5 million. However, a chunk of his cash will shift over to homegrown outfielder Mike Trout who will see his salary rise from $16 million in 2016 to $34 million from 2017-20. Also noteworthy, ace Jered Weaver’s $20.2 a year salary could be cleared when his contract is up after 2016.
▪ The Detroit Tigers are definitely looking for a shakeup after a very disappointing 2015 season. The Tigers, in recent seasons, haven’t been afraid to open up the checkbook. For their efforts, they had a $172 million payroll last year including paying part of Prince Fielder’s salary with the Rangers. Heyward would be an improvement in Detroit’s defense, helping cover the expansive outfield at their home park.