Free-agent outfielder Jason Heyward has signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs, the team announced on Tuesday. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times first reported the news on Friday.
As part of his deal, Heyward has two opt-out clauses in his contract, with the first coming after the 2018 season. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Heyward can opt out of the deal after the third or fourth year if he exceeds certain plate appearance thresholds.
Heyward, 26, chose the Cubs over returning to the St. Louis Cardinals; he hit .293 with 13 home runs, 60 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 2015 for the Cardinals after being acquired from the Atlanta Braves in an off-season trade. He also won his third Gold Glove award as the National League's top rightfielder.
The Los Angeles Angels also reportedly expressed interest in Heyward, and the Washington Nationals were reported to have made a late run at him; Heyward is believed to have turned down around $200 million from Washington. The Cardinals may have been the third team that offered more than $200 million that he passed up, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Because Heyward and Lackey were given qualifying offers by the Cardinals, the Cubs will lose their two highest picks in the upcoming draft.
As to where Heyward will play with the Cubs, Wittenmyer reports that the team's intent is to have Heyward man centerfield, with Jorge Soler in right and Kyle Schwarber in left. Heyward has made just 30 starts in center in his six-year career.
Chicago's front office has been active this off-season. In addition to signing Heyward, the team signed another former Cardinal, starting pitcher John Lackey, to a two-year, $32 million deal and former Royals infielder Ben Zobrist to a four-year, $56 million deal. Chicago also dealt shortstop Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees, acquiring righthander Adam Warren and utility infielder Brendan Ryan.
Chicago finished last season 97–65 and third in the NL Central. The Cubs defeated division rivals Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the wild-card game and division series, respectively, but were swept by the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.
- Jeremy Woo