I will never forget where I was when I heard that Albert Pujols had been signed away by the Los Angeles Angels. I was standing in the doorway of a friend's dorm room after having taken a final exam when I received the ESPN alert that broke my heart. My jaw dropped and I returned to my own dorm room to assume the fetal position and listen to the appropriate music.
Free agency can really suck. I mean, it's good and everything, but it can totally suck. It can be a heartbreaker. I studied Economics as an undergrad, so studying the free market of MLB FA is actually quite entertaining, but as we all have witnessed, the price on players is driven up - usually unreasonably high for a small market team like St. Louis - and the best of the best usually jump ship to a bigger market, e.g. the artist formerly known as 'El Hombre.'
As has been highly discussed, however, is the Cardinals' new TV contract, which, the team has said, will give them far more flexibility with the payroll than in the past. That is why I like our chances to keep Heyward. Mozeliak understands the value of a dollar, which is exactly why he smartly allowed Albert to walk. If J-Hey, nearly seven years younger on opening day 2016 than Albert was on opening day 2012, wants this highly publicized opt-out that his agents have successfully fought for before, Mo should give it to him.
First of all, Heyward would most certainly opt-out for one more shot at a big deal, as Grienke did today. We should let him walk then. But I certainly believe that Heyward will be worth three to four seasons at less than a $20MM AAV (provided the contract is backloaded). This situation is far and away different from Pujols' situation in the winter of 2011-12. Mo knows that Heyward will retain value better than Albert through the first several years of a deal. Plus, honestly, the opt-out clause halfway through a contract that sees an abnormally young FA become an older, riskier pick up is like a slam dunk escape for a typically cautious front office, provided Heyward goes that route (history of the opt-out suggests he would).
I expect it to happen, and here are the implications.
- With Holliday locked in at left, and Heyward in right, Piscotty plays first - at least to start the season. Adams didn't even make the postseason roster, and given Piscotty's reign of terror this year, I expect he'll get the first crack at 1B.
- Moss gets dealt. He carries a lot of value as a 1B option that can hit righties, and that has pop. He would be expensive as a backup COF/1B and pinch hitter, and the Cards could return some of the value they lost by trading Kaminsky.
- Bourjos is probably gone as Jay's behemoth contract (given his level of production) can't possibly be sold. Grich and hopefully Pham make up the rest of the OF. Hopefully Jay doesn't open the season as the starter, but MM seems to love him, so who knows.
- Mo signs/acquires somebody who can spell Peralta/Wong/Carpenter throughout the season and hit relatively effectively. Hitting at all would be a step above the Kozma era. Guys like Asdrubal Cabrera, a free agent, who can play all three positions, come to mind.
Thoughts? Let your imaginations run wild.