With or Without U: Imagining the roster with or without Jason Heyward

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.
If J-Hey leaves, it becomes more complicated. Grichuk would almost certainly start somewhere, either in center or right. I think Bourjos probably still goes elsewhere. Maybe Moss is back, but I wouldn't count on this. Carrying only Holliday, Jay, Grichuk, and Pham, with Piscotty playing 1B but able to give rest to the corners, gives the flexibility of carrying two extra infielders/utility guys that can spell the infielders periodically and one could even do some OF stuff. The reason I think Moss is gone is because he is limited to the same role as Piscotty, but will be much more expensive in his last season as arb-eligible, and presumably while receiving less PA.


Receiving an ESPN message of Heyward's departure most certainly wouldn't be as shocking as the one I got about Albert's, since there had been almost zero prior reporting on the Angels as a potential destination up to that point. I don't see how information like that could slip through the cracks again in the age of social media. My guess is that by the end of November or early December, we'll all have seen the writing on the wall as it pertains to Heyward's future.

I'd love to see Heyward back, and I think it would be prudent to pull the trigger this time. If he leaves, we have more flexibility with the bench next year. If he stays, relief and jubilation will ensue. Free agency isn't all bad, after all. Just look at a list of all the FA, and imagine all the possibilities... And don't forget about that bullpen.

Thoughts? Let your imaginations run wild.