Are you a GM or Front Office type (outside the Cardinals) who is considering signing Jason Heyward? If so, I've put together a helpful primer to help you get to know him and figure out how much you might want to pony up for his services. Now that David Price has signed with the Red Sox, you're probably focused even more on the J-Hey Kid.
Granted, I'm sure you've got your own "proprietary metrics" to evaluate players and all that, but who has the time to sort through those? Wouldn't you rather just read a blog post? (And again, to any Cardinals front office staff who might be reading this online or in the cache of an Astros official, please do not continue reading.)
The most important number to remember when it comes to Jason Heyward is unlucky number 13. That's how many dingers he hit last year. It's also the same number that Pat Meares hit in 2000. So, when you sign Heyward, you're basically getting the same power as a middle-infielder from the '90s you've almost forgotten. Now, some eggheads will try to tell you that 2000 was the peak of the steroid era, and numbers have to be adjusted to their historical context, blah-blah. But the truth is we know now what we knew then: Chicks dig the long ball.
Heyward also drove in just 60 runs last year. As we all know, it's important to be a "100 RBI guy," because the number 100 requires a third digit, and it is very easily divisible. Now, some of those same eggheads will again claim that RBI are context-dependent, and therefore not a great measure of a player's individual ability. But what if a player uses his telekinetic powers to will the players in front of him not to reach scoring position? Then we would have to say his ability to drive runners in is very much in his control, and can any of us confirm that Jason Heyward can't manipulate objects with his mind?
Of course, defense is where much of Heyward's value comes from, and it would be hard to argue he is an excellent defender. But let's remember, you can't win a baseball game without scoring runs. You can keep your lineup of great defenders. I'll take nine Kyle Schwarbers, with a bench also made up of Schwarbers.
Some have argued that it is Heyward's cumulative skills that make him so valuable - hitting, defense and base-running. They will even point to Heyward ranking as a Top 12ish player when it comes to Wins Above Replacement, which aims to value a player across all these skills. That sounds awfully compelling, but did you know that they don't even put WAR on the back of baseball cards? ... Hold on, what's that? ... I'm being told that they now do put WAR on baseball cards. Let me rephrase: Are you really comfortable valuing a player based on a statistic that has only been on baseball cards for like 2-3 years?
Many pundits seem to fixate on Jason Heyward's age, and it's true he is only 26-years-old. But have you seen pictures of him as a kid? At 14, he could grow a beard that puts mine to shame. So sure, some might say that Jason Heyward is only 26-years-old, but I say that Jason Heyward has been 26 for about 12 years now.
Lastly, let us not forget: Jason Heyward hit only four triples last season.
The fervor over Heyward has gotten so intense, this Sports Illustrated article published just yesterday posited that he might be worth north of $300 million, possibly even the biggest contract in baseball history. (GMs of non-Cardinals teams, I cannot emphasize this enough: Do not read that article.) Sure, you could assign a dollar value to each Win Above Replacement, then multiply that by a player's likely production, controlling for expected decline and market inflation - as this article does in great detail - or, you could just go with your gut. As long as your gut comes up with a number less than $300 million, I say go with your gut.
How much is Heyward really worth? It's hard to put a number on it. But I'd say a good benchmark for other teams is slightly less than whatever the Cardinals are willing to pay.