With the Winter Meetings in Nashville this week all eyes are turned to the league’s general managers and the Hot Stove. One of the biggest subjects of the offseason has been where the top free agents will sign. We have already seen elite pitchers David Price (7 years, $214 million with the Boston Red Sox) and Zack Greinke (6 years, $206 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks) sign, but what about the position players? So far the position player’s market has been relatively quiet, with nothing more than rumors and speculation. One of the top names on many boards is outfielder Jason Heyward. Heyward, 26, is coming off a season with the St. Louis Cardinals in which he hit .293/.359/.439 while also providing stellar defense in right field. Given his age, defensive prowess, and potential for power (27 home runs in 2012), Heyward is expected to be one of, if not the, top position player available this offseason.
Despite spending last season in St. Louis and helping the Cardinals win 100 games, many expect Heyward to be donning a different uniform in 2016. While naturally there is bound to be competition for the young outfielder’s services, many have written off the Cardinals due to the team’s history of being frugal when it comes to free agents. However, there are a few things to note that keep the Cardinals in the running as major players for Heyward. The first is that the Cardinals haven’t been as good as they have for as long as they have by making questionable trades, and they didn’t give up multiple years of Shelby Miller (3.02 ERA, 3.45 FIP in 2015) and a decent prospect in Tyrell Jenkins (3.19 ERA between double and triple-A) for just one year of Jason Heyward and losing to the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. Another thing is that Heyward wasn’t the reason the Cardinals lost to the Cubs, quite the opposite as he hit .357, drove in two runs and hit a home run in that series. Given what they gave up along with Heyward’s performance, the Cardinals will definitely give their max effort to re-signing Heyward.
The argument regarding the Cardinal’s frugal history is also moot. Yes, the fact remains that the largest contract in Cardinal history is still the 7-year, $120 million extension Matt Holliday signed back in 2010, but the Cardinals are set up to have quite a bit of money to spend. It starts with the new TV mega-deal with Fox Sports Midwest, that is expected to boost revenue by $20 million in the first year alone. There is also a second financial factor, which is the salaries of Holliday and Jaime Garcia that come off the books after 2016, a load of $28 million total. The new money, coupled with the fact that the Cardinals currently only have $33.25 million committed to their payroll for 2018, have them set up with quite a bit of money to dish out. Of course, the Cardinals were aware of their financial situation when they acquired Heyward, and general manager John Mozeliak knew he would have the money to compete with the big market teams interested in Heyward when his free agency hit. Despite the competition that is bound to come from teams like the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels, the Cardinals will have the strength to keep Heyward and will have a very good chance of doing so despite reports otherwise.