November 02, 2015

Do the #Cardinals really need to resign Jason Heyward?

Jason Heyward:
Key to many
Cards dominos
falling in place
With the World Series over, the clock started ticking today on a five-day exclusive negotiating window MLB teams have with free agents on their current roster. After that, players are free to talk to any teams they want to. MLB Trade Rumors has the details of this and other pertinent calendar dates.

For the Cardinals, there's one big free agent, of course.

If we go by Fangraphs' rating, St. Louis Cardinals right fielder (and occasional center fielder) Jason Heyward is the second-most-valuable free agent on the market, after Yoenis Cespedes. This list does not include Zack Greinke, but Fangraphs ranks Heyward a skoosh above him, even if Greinke opts out of his Dodgers contract. And, speaking of opt-out contracts, I'll get to that in a minute.

If we go by Baseball-Reference, the two outfielders tie for first. Among position players, that is.

I'm not so sabermetrically advanced to understand how B-Ref and FG can differ 3.5 WAR points on Greinke, but they do. He's at 5.9 WAR with Fangraphs and 9.3 with B-Ref. But, looking at all of the B-Ref black ink Greinke has on various advance statistics, somebody at Fangraphs needs to give its analytics formulas, computers or whatever, a swift kick or else consignment to the tire fire.

So, Heyward is tied for being the second-best position player free agent. And, he's the Fielding Bible winner at right field.

That said, he was just 25 this year, while Cespedes was 29 and Greinke 31.

That gets to opt-out contracts, like Greinke's, especially since position players, unlike pitchers, don't usually have to worry about UCLs and Tommy John surgery.

This all said, who else do the Cardinals have for the outfield?

Matt Holliday's a fixture in left (and no, not at first) for either one or two more years. I suspect the Cards use the $1M buyout rather than pay $17M for 2017, given the amount of outfield talent possibilities, unless Matt accepts a two-year deal for no more than $20M total. Nominal starting center fielder Jon Jay has one year left, since GM John Mozeliak, in one of his head-scratchers, bought out Jay's second and third years of arbitration both before the start of 2015. Backup CF Peter Bourjos has apparently maxed out his potential and is good for nothing more than backup/defensive replacement outfielder, pinch-hitter and pinch-runner use.

But, there's more available. Randal Grichuk showed, in half a season, he can not only mash, he can patrol center at near league average, based on an assessment of limited duty there. And, as a late call-up, Stephen Piscotty showed he can also swing the bat, and be a corner OF, at least, and also a corner IF. His long-term status depends on two things: whether or not Mo resigns Heyward, and if current 1B Matt Adams does or does not show further development. Piscotty at least wasn't a defensive Matt Holliday at first, but, I'm sure Mo would prefer him in the outfield. Tommy Pham shows enough to indicate he's at Jon Jay replacement level, at least.

So, Mo could let Heyward walk and play a Holliday-Grichuk-Piscotty OF, or Holliday-Jay-Grichuk, with Piscotty swinging between OF and first base. But, with Holliday gone after 2016, I would prefer to resign Heyward, and I damn well hope Mo feels the same.

Resigning Heyward gives you: Holliday-Grichuk-Heyward, with Piscotty as that fourth OF/1B combo. Jon Jay? He's trade bait for a backup catcher for Yadi Molina, since almost anybody is better than Tony Cruz. If Mo has brains, which he doesn't always, this backup catcher not only takes 10 more games off Yadi's schedule than previous years, he can play 1B.

The Cards have the money to sign Heyward. Mo knows that, and Cardinals fans who don't know it need to know it.

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