Jason Heyward Announcement Could Come Today, Cubs Among Favorites…Or Are They?

That tweet came from Bay Area journalist Andrew Baggarly, who stoked the flames of the rumor fire while perhaps clearing up some of the smokescreen at the same time. Or did he? This process has been quite nuanced from the start and appears to have more levels that the big-money pursuit of, say, Crush Davis. In that case, you had some pretty specific salary figures being discussed, with the Orioles going up to a reported 7-year, $168 million and Davis asking for $200 million over 8 years. Good luck, buddy.

But back to Heyward, whose courtship has been a bit more cloak and dagger, at least from the outside. All we’ve really gotten in terms of his projected contract are estimates, and those range from 8-10 years and between $200-280 million. Then you’ve got the questions as to the veracity of the Cubs’ reported desire and the potential of the ubiquitous Mystery Team.

In an appearance on 670 The Score today, Bruce Levine indicated that the Cubs’ motive as far as the Heyward negotiations are concerned is to drive up the price for the other teams. That could be to either price their division rivals out of contention (unlikely given how they’ve missed out on some other FA’s and the influx of TV money they’re getting) or simply force the Cardinals to pay through the nose to retain the man for whom they traded Shelby Miller last year.

To support his assertion, Levine went on to say that he believes the Cubs have been targeting Alex Gordon this whole time. That makes sense and is actually something I wrote about a little while back, but it’s kind of a dangerous game. But I’ve got another thought on the reasoning the Cubs may be employing in this whole thing.

Before I get to that, though, I do want to briefly address the opening of Baggarly’s tweet: “Not sure if Heyward deal is done…” Like the Ben Zobrist signing, some of these things have already been agreed upon and simply require a few other pieces to fall into place before being made official. It was not coincidence that the Zobrist deal and the Starlin Castro trade were announced around the same time.

It’s possible that Heyward has already made his choice and that the parties involved are simply waiting on a few other moves to solidify before telling the rest of the world. If that’s the case, I’d imagine the Cubs were the winning bid, as the Cardinals wouldn’t need to play musical chairs with their roster to accommodate the right fielder.

But back to my thought, which is that it’s possible the Cubs could be trying to both land Heyward AND drive his price higher. Not that they want to pay more for him, mind you, but they could very well feel comfortable going with a very high dollar figure that the Cards would have to bring out a monster to beat. If that’s the case, the Cubs pivot to Gordon with the knowledge that they’d pushed their opponents beyond where they were willing to go.

I just can’t believe Theo Epstein would conduct a very expensive game of chicken, the potential result of which is a huge contract they never wanted. I believe they do want to land Heyward but that they’re going to make the Cards really beat them to get him. Regardless of the outcome, the Cubs will need to make some moves to complement either Gordon or Heyward (assuming they’d land one of the two).

Gordon has never played CF, so it’s unlikely to imagine him patrolling the middle of the outfield in an capacity. That would mean acquiring a center fielder and/or moving Jorge Soler in order to allow Kyle Schwarber to shift to right. With news that Denard Span is looking for a multi-year deal, you have to wonder if the Cubs won’t look for a cheaper option. Javy Baez will get some run out there, but he’s not going to be close to the primary option.

Heyward presents similar complications, though he has at least logged 32 whole games in center. I still foresee a Soler trade in order to let Heyward play right, though the former Brave and Cardinal’s youth and athleticism might make it possible to play him in the middle for a while until all the options settle out. Maybe I’m just too sold on the idea of a Soler trade and have already prepared myself for his departure.

So the Cubs could be favorites or they could simply be putting the Cards in a very uncomfortable place (you mean like the back of a Volkswagen?). Or we could hear that a mystery team (Angels?) swooped in and trumped them both. This might sound strange, but I wouldn’t be all that upset about the Cardinals keeping Heyward at a huge cost. Think about it: they missed on some of their other targets and even devil-magic-fueled athletes get older. Keeping Heyward doesn’t make them better, it just prevents them from getting worse, and does so at a huge cost.

Of course, I’d rather see him sign with an AL team if he doesn’t choose to join the Cubs, just saying that Heyward remaining in the shadow of the Arch wouldn’t be the end of the world.┬áRegardless of how it shakes out, it sounds like we’ll see an end to the position-player logjam here before too long.

 

Update: A little more on the Giants’ role in J-Hey sweepstakes and when we’ll get to the finish line:

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