The biggest question the Cardinals GM John Mozeliak faces this offseason is what to do with the outfield. While many fans and reporters may disagree, I truly believe that Jason Heyward must go.
Jason Heyward, arguably the best position player set to enter free agency, is likely to demand one of two deals. Scenario A for Heyward is a 4yr/$110M deal. This option would allow for him to reenter free agency amidst his prime at the age of 30, in hopes for a second big deal that would pay him very well over the remainder of his career. Of course, this would require him to play as well as he did this year over the course of his contract. Scenario B, the more likely of the two, is a 10yr/$200M deal. This option would provide him with a high paying contract over the majority of his career. And is a safer option.
Yes, Heyward needs to stay
Let's go ahead and pretend the Cardinals re-sign Heyward. If this were to happen, the Cardinals outfield would consist of Holliday-Grichuk-Heyward. On the rare occasion all three were healthy in 2015, this very successful outfield powerhouse helped lead the Cardinals to a 100-win season. But where would this leave Stephen Piscotty? While Piscotty did not have an error in 11 games at first base, he needs to remain an outfielder. In an interview he conducted with me last off-season, he stated "I can play more than one position, which I take pride in, but I am much more comfortable in RF than any other position." With a young player with such potential as Piscotty, it is rare to put the player through a position change of such magnitude.
Let's look at a big hypothetical situation. Say that Heyward is re-signed and Piscotty is placed atop the depth chart at first base. What would the Cardinals do with young slugging first baseman Matt Adams? He cannot play any other positions, so barring a trade, he would be benched. You might be telling your-self "He's not that good anyway." If that is the case, look at his numbers. Due to last season being fully injury plagued, we will look at the two years prior to 2015. Adams hit 32HR, tallied in 119 RBI's, while batting .287 over just 250 games. That would have resulted in 22HR, with 80RBI over a 162 game span. All of that for a player who was just 24 years old, a terrific defender, and still far from his prime. Comparing those stats to Jason Heyward, you may be surprised to find Adams' 162 game average represents better production than Heyward's, whose projections would be to hit 14HR and knock in 62RBI while having a slightly better .293 batting average if he had played every game.
If no other deals were to transpire except the re-signing of Heyward, it would certainly be Adams finding the loss of playing time. I find it difficult to bench a young, power-hitting first baseman who the Cardinals have developed since they drafted him. It is rare for a team to do that to a player entering his prime years, while promising 100RBI's in the near future.
This is all without mentioning such a minuscule role Tommy Pham, the man who led the MLB in slugging percentage for a 4-week span in August-September, would have with the team.
No, Let Heyward walk
Signing a position player to a deal with the magnitude Jason Heyward is projected to sign, he is bound to be a middle-of-the-order-bat. Jason Heyward's stats do not justify the idea of him batting 3-5; therfore he should not sign a contract with such a large average annual value. But, the man is going to get paid. When he receives his contract, the Cardinals should not be the team giving it to him.
By giving him his walking papers, the Cardinals can watch Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Tommy Pham(although a 4th outfielder) and Matt Adams play all season long. This young core (plus Kolten Wong) will have the opportunity to play together for a long time, and why not start watching them develop into MLB stars now?
This option also comes with another major bonus, money. Saving 200 million dollars of salary cap space can do quite a bit for an organization, and could be used to bolster the roster in other ways (to be discussed in a later article).
Forgetting all of the aforementioned reasons, the main reason I want to let Heyward leave is Stephen Piscotty. Coming into last season, Stephen Piscotty was the Cardinals top prospect, and he had a terrific spring training. Due to MLB's rule on arbitration and player service time, Piscotty did not make the Cardinals opening day roster. When finally called up on July 21st, he became an instant success. Including the playoffs, Piscotty had 77 hits and knocked in 45RBI in just 67 games(a 109RBI average if he had played 162 games). Stephen Piscotty will be a tremendous player for the St. Louis Cardinals, and if he is able to focus on offense, rather than a defensive position change, he will quickly develop to be a face of the franchise.
What should the Cardinals do with their prized outfield?
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