The situation between the Chicago Cubs and veteran outfielder Jason Heyward seemed untenable.
A rebuilding Cubs organization that wanted to look at other players didn’t mesh with Heyward and his overall declining production. What seemed inevitable became reality Monday when president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer announced that the Cubs and Heyward would part ways after the season.
Hoyer had an open dialogue with Heyward about the Cubs’ plans, in which a continued union between the sides made no sense. The Cubs also want to give Heyward the full offseason to find a new team.
“Given where we are as a group and where we’re likely to be in the corner outfield next year, with Seiya (Suzuki) and Ian (Happ), we’re going to be moving in a different direction,” Hoyer said. “He obviously struggled last year, and we wanted to see how he bounced back from that and had a great 2020 season. … He obviously didn’t bounce back well from (2021).”
Heyward, 32, is due $22 million in 2023, the final season of the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed with the Cubs on Dec. 15, 2015. The Cubs are also due his $20 million signing bonus. in four installments in April. 1, 2024-27.
“He doesn’t like it, but he certainly understands where we are,” Hoyer said. “I think it’s been a frustrating year and a half, with a lot of the guys that were a big part of why he signed here have been traded. And so it made sense to both of us and we’ve talked about it and we’re in a good place.”
Heyward was slashing .204/.278/.277 with a 57 OPS+ in 48 games before injuring his right knee in June. He ends his Cubs career with 744 games played, a .245 batting average, .323 on-base percentage and a .700 OPS.
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Most memorably, Heyward delivered a speech during the rain delay in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, giving the Cubs a spark in extra innings to win the franchise’s first title in 108 years.
Heyward is not expected to return before the end of the season due to inflammation in his right knee. The Cubs’ 40-man roster isn’t complete, so they can’t put Heyward, who has been out since June 27, on the 60-day disabled list.
However, the time Heyward would need to make up to get ready for the game, combined with the depth of the Cubs’ outfield, makes Hoyer and the organization want to reallocate at-bats to other players.
Hoyer described Heyward as a great professional and leader the Cubs wanted to have on the team this year. There were initial talks about the possibility of Heyward having a role in the organization once he finished his playing career.
Heyward’s investment in the Chicago community will outlast his time in a Cubs uniform. Among his local contributions, Heyward is helping build a baseball academy in the North Austin neighborhood.
“He certainly had his good times here, but he also had a lot of problems,” Hoyer said, “and when he had those problems, he never blamed anybody, he never stopped working. He was always the guy who showed up in better shape every season. He was always a guy who was in the cages trying to get better.
“That’s probably how I’ll remember him is that he, from my perspective, never stopped working. He never stopped trying to win the contract from him, he never stopped trying to be better, and that says a lot”.