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When the news of the new TV deal between the St. Louis Cardinals and Fox Sports Midwest landed, the first thought that hit my head was simple. It’s time to sign Jason Heyward to a long term deal.
If there was hesitation before, the extra money that kicks in during 2018 demolishes the doubt. As John Mozeliak told KMOX last week, he’s seen enough to know that Heyward belongs in St. Louis for a very long time so let’s wrap it up. He was being brought in to be the cardholder in right field and be the future face of this franchise. He has delivered the play in the field to prove he is worth the big contract.
Heyward turned 26 years old on Sunday, so signing him to a long term deal would be a fine present. Why not? What has Heyward not shown you through four months that was expected?
If you are looking for more power, look elsewhere. No one ever labeled Heyward a home run threat. You don’t see him competing in home run derbies, do you? He’s hit 20+ homers one time, so stop looking for gold there.
Through 107 games and 384 at bats, Heyward is hitting .286 with a .342 on base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage. His strikeout rate is only 17 percent. He has drawn 32 walks. He has 9 home runs and 37 RBI. Heyward has gotten better every month. He has been hitting since May 1st.
Here is his OPS and batting average per month.
In case you have been blinded by the light, Heyward also plays a mean right field, and that includes a missile for a left arm and an ability to make run saving catches. According to Fangraphs, Heyward has saved 13 runs in right field and has an UZR(ultimate zone rating) of 11.8. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis won a Gold Glove with lesser numbers in both categories last season. Heyward’s overall WAR of 3.8(highest on the team) is powered by his gold glove caliber defense. It’s no lie that his greatest asset is his ability to take hits and runs away in the field, through physical action or reputation. For a team that relies on great pitching being aided by great defense, Heyward is a nice asset to have out there.
He can hit anywhere in the lineup. Clean up, move up to 3rd or slide down to 6th. Did I mention he’s only 26 years old? The capabilities for this guy haven’t reached the roof offensively either, so the baseball card mafia can still hold out some hope for some more boom in that stick. Yes, I’d like a home run from Heyward sometime soon(his last came in Miami on June 24th) but that’s not where his true value is.
Heyward’s value comes in a versatile tool set. He has 18 steals in 20 attempts and he has 24 doubles. He has recaptured the ability to hit lefties this year(.286 in 105 at bats) and hit the ball to the opposite field. When Heyward did display the power back in 2012, he was a big time pull hitter, almost to where teams would shift on him. These days, he’s refined that part of his hitting approach and its fits right in with the Cardinals. Whitey Herzog would have loved to coach Heyward, right?
The time is now to sign Heyward because he is getting more expensive by the week. The closer he gets to free agency the higher his price tag goes. The free agent market this winter will include Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton as their premier young bats. If the Cardinals let Heyward reach November without a contract, his price will sky rocket. Don’t get into a bidding war with the Yankees. If the money is there, sign Heyward now. The promise of this movie trailer of talent hasn’t disappointed over the first 2/3 of the season. Mo has seen enough, so I expect a deal to get done before the start of September. There’s no reason to wait.
With aging players like Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina reaching their final contracts and their bodies wearing down, it’s important to secure a big piece in the future in Heyward.
How much for his services? The Cards traded a big piece in Shelby Miller to acquire Heyward, so Mo knows the market and the price. A deal like seven years/161 million carries an annual average value of 23 million doesn’t sound bad for either side but it could be higher. That’s a place the Cards could start with at least. Who knows? The next few weeks will tell the tale.
Heyward has shown me enough to want him here long term. Has he done enough for you? Tell me in the comments below.