The long regional nightmare continues. Jason Heyward is not signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to initial reports from Derrick Goold which were followed up with the same from Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal. Jason Heyward was the best player in the free agent market and the Cardinals lost in a bidding war to the rival Cubs, per Jon Heyman. His home runs and RBI might not jump out and scream $200 million, but Heyward is young at just 26, incredibly good at defense and baserunning, an above average hitter who takes walks and does not strike out often. His power in today's reduced run-scoring environment is merely average, but he is one of the very best all-around players in baseball and Cardinals fans should be incredibly disappointed he will not be returning to St. Louis
There was a lot of interest from other teams in Heyward. The Angels were rumored to be interested in Heyward as were the San Francisco Giants. The Nationals came on late. The Cubs were rumored to be heavily interested, and apparently got the deal done.
It is difficult to say where the Cardinals go from here. The team held on to Brandon Moss after the midseason trade. Between Moss and Stephen Piscotty, one of those players is likely to man right field next year with the other receiving significant time at first base. The Cardinals could pursue Alex Gordon or Justin Upton, but only Heyward offered a significant upgrade over internal options. Bringing in another pitcher seems more likely given the financial resources still supposedly available to amplify what looks to be a solid rotation that does have some injury concerns.
Articles on this site have advocated for keeping Jason Heyward in St. Louis from the moment the Cardinals traded for him over a year ago. The requests were renewed on multiple occasions. In addition, to the benefit of the aesthetic pleasure of watching one of the best players in the game ply his trade, the Cardinals needed Heyward as he is unique in his skills and more valuable than any conceivable alternative. While there are other outfielders on the market, none possessed the all-around skills of Jason Heyward and none of the players were as young, potentially gaining more prime years with Heyward than possible for any other player.
Last year's team won 100 games, and Jason Heyward was a big part of that. On a team riddled with injuries, Heyward provided consistency and stability in the lineup. He struggled for a few weeks at the beginning of the season, but was the Cardinals best player from May onward. Bringing Heyward back was incredibly important to the Cardinals offseason, and now that they have failed to do so, the Cardinals' future is a bit in flux.
As the aging core of Cardinals greats in Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright decline as they age, giving way to younger players like Carlos Martinez, MIchael Wacha, Kolten Wong, and perhaps Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, Heyward would have bridged the gap between generations. He, along with Matt Carpenter, would have helped keep the Cardinals competitive as the organization tries to move from one great core to the next. The cost was certainly high, but given the incredible value Heyward provides along with soaring revenues and salaries throughout the game, Heyward should be worth the contract he signs.
John Mozeliak and the Cardinals will certainly regroup and try to salvage the offseason, but the team just lost their best player, and after missing out on their other major target in David Price, it is difficult to see where the Cardinals go from here. The Cardinals will certainly field a good team next season with a lot of talented players, but they are not likely to be as good as they were last season while Cubs have made major improvements this offseason, getting the best player available. This is incredibly disappointing for the Cardinals.