This time last year, Cubs fans were staying up late to find out where free agent pitcher Jon Lester would sign. He would, as we know, sign with the Cubs. Fast forward a year later, and everyone was at it again. This time, it was Jason Heyward, who was about to leave the division rival Cardinals. And just like last year, Cubs fans are celebrating as Heyward signed on Friday to play at Wrigley Field.
Heyward inked an eight-year, $184 million deal as reported by MLB Network. His deal also includes opt-out clauses after the third and fourth years, considering he stays healthy and exceeds certain plate appearance thresholds. He becomes the second player this offseason that the Cubs have signed from St. Louis, as he will rejoin Jon Lester on the north side of Chicago. Heyward had been a hot topic of discussion over the last few days, mostly from the Cubs and Cardinals. The Giants fell out of contention for him mid-week, then the Nationals chimed in as a mystery team that was interested. The general feeling was he would sign somewhere just north of $200 million, but he opted under that amount to make this deal.
With the signing, Heyward will now join a stacked lineup that includes Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and newly signed Ben Zobrist. Their lineup, managed by second year team manager Joe Maddon, seems to only improve from just narrowly missing the World Series this past season. It will also heat up and already vicious division in the NL Central, as the Cubs can now keep pace with the Cardinals and Pirates. Some have already said since the announcement that signing Heyman may have sealed the division title for them, if not a trip to the World Series.
Jon Heyman reports that the Cubs could live with him in center field, but are also taking offers on Jorge Soler in right field. If a deal would be made, they would look to move Heyward to right field and bring in someone to take over that spot in center. As of now, here is the projected 2015 National League lineup for the Cubs.
- Jason Heyward – R (CF)
- Ben Zobrist – L/R (2B)
- Anthony Rizzo – L (1B)
- Kris Bryant – R (3B)
- Kyle Schwarber – L (LF)
- Jorge Soler – R (RF)
- Miguel Montero – L (Catcher)
- Addison Russell – R (SS)
Heyman also reports that it wasn’t so much about the money for Heyward when it came to signing. Both the Nationals and the Cardinals were willing to shell out over $200 million for his services. But he sees Chicago as a “team of destiny” and he may well be right, as we see how well the Cubs did this past season in making the National League Championship Series. If things go as expected, the Cubs could turn that Wild Card victory into a division championship and even a trip to the World Series. As a side note for those that love the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, they start things early with April 18 being the first time they meet in the new season.