Before win over Nationals, Hoyer confirms Cubs will part ways with Heyward after season
With the Cubs rebuild in full swing, Jed Hoyer answered one lingering question Monday: Outfielder Jason Heyward will not be part of the team next season.
The Cubs president of baseball operations also does not expect Heyward to play again this season. He's been sidelined with a knee injury since June 24. Heyward signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Cubs before the 2016 season. He has one more year left at $22 million, which the Cubs will have to pay.
"We've already talked to him about that," Hoyer said before the Cubs' 6-3 victory over Washington at Wrigley Field. "We want to give him the full offseason to go out and find an opportunity and, I think for us, given where we are as a group and where we're going to likely be in the corner outfield with Seiya (Suzuki) and Ian (Happ), we're going to move in the different direction."
This news doesn't really qualify as a surprise, since Heyward, who turns 33 on Tuesday, has struggled at the plate for the past couple of seasons. He's hitting .204 this year and hit .214 in 2021.
Hoyer said he has spoken to Heyward about possibly working for the Cubs in some capacity when his playing days are over. He established long-term ties to the city by breaking ground last August on the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy in the North Austin neighborhood of Chicago.
"I welcome that, but I know he wants to play after this year," Hoyer said. "I always tell people, 'Make sure you know you're retired, make sure you know you're done.' I think he's definitely not there, so I know he'll want to catch on with someone."
Heyward had a few big hits and great catches during his time with the Cubs. But he'll probably be best remembered for the pep talk he reportedly gave the team during the rain delay prior to the 10th inning of World Series Game 7 in Cleveland. After blowing a lead, the Cubs came back to score twice in the 10th to end the century-plus championship drought.
"From my perspective, he never stopped working, never stopped trying to earn his contract, never stopped trying to be better," Hoyer said. "I think that says a lot. In a lot of ways, he was an emotional leader of a group of players that broke the curse here and provided fans memories of a lifetime, so he should be remembered that way as well."
Another topic for the winter is how aggressive the Cubs will be in the free-agent market. There are some big-name players expected to be available, but one question is whether the Cubs are even in a position to be a playoff contender next season, given the number of top prospects still working their way up through the minors.
"Yeah, I expect to be aggressive this winter, there's no question," Hoyer said. "We'll have some money to spend. I think certainly we want to spend that money wisely.
"Our goal is to build something special and trying to do that too quickly or trying to do it all at once can be a mistake. But certainly there's going to be good players on the market and I'm sure we're going to be involved in those discussions."
After all the trades last year, the Cubs slid from a top-five payroll in MLB to around 15. But they did sign a couple of midlevel free agents in Suzuki and pitcher Marcus Stroman.
"I think we have to rethink how to reconfigure our offense a little bit," Hoyer said. "We don't have that power right now. We have to get the ball in the air more. Those are two things we'll be focused on a lot this winter."
The Cubs found some power in the third inning Monday, when Nelson Velazquez and Christopher Morel hit a pair of homers into the wind to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Nico Hoerner and Willson Contreras added RBI singles later.
Keegan Thompson (9-5) allowed 1 run and 5 hits over 6 innings to earn the win. Nick Madrigal had a milestone of sorts when he coaxed a pair of walks in the same contest for the first time in his major-league career, which is now 119 games.