The Jason Heyward Contract Is Great for Everyone
I’m generally not a fan of teams deciding to give player opt-out clauses in high-paying, long-term contracts, but I think that the Cubs’ recent eight-year $184M deal with Jason Heyward that allows Heyward to opt out after both years three and four is a great deal for both player and team.
Obviously, this is a no-lose situation for Heyward. If he peaks in his age 26 through 28 or 29 seasons, he can opt out and get an even bigger deal a few years from now. If he gets hurt, he’s still guaranteed $184 million. While he could have gotten another $20 guaranteed, there really isn’t much of a difference between $184M and $204M in terms of the life the contract in the worst of eventualities will allow Heyward and his family to lead.
The contract is kind of a no-lose deal for the Cubs also, because unlike most of the other opt-out contracts that teams have agreed to, it appears pretty clear from multiple reports that the Cubs saved money (the aforementioned $20M other teams were willing to add to a long-term deal) in the worst case scenario — Heyward gets hurt and doesn’t perform. In the best case scenario in terms of Heyward’s future performance, the Cubs arguably win also. This isn’t the Yankees blowing out everyone else on contract amount and giving the player an opt-out also.
If Heyward plays in his age 26 to 28 seasons the way most players who are major league starters in their age 20 season end up playing, he will surely opt out of the contract. However, the Cubs will have thereby received Heyward’s age 26 to 28 seasons, which could well be spectacular, at what would turn out to be a tremendous bargain price, since the Cubs will be under no obligation to be the team that breaks the bank to re-sign Heyward with a second mega-contract. The odds that Heyward’s offensive production will jump forward playing his home games in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field with a lot of other good hitters hitting around him is pretty high.
I am absolutely sure this is why Theo Epstein offered Heyward the contract he did. The Cubs have a reasonably good chance of getting three superstar seasons for only three years of salary, which is unheard of for an elite free agent. If the Cubs win a World Series in the next three seasons, then the Cubs will be under a lot of pressure to be the team that shells out for Heyward on his next free agent deal, but that is obviously a dilemma the Cubs would love to have.
If the Cubs don’t win a World Series in the next three years, they can simply let someone else overpay Heyward for the fine seasons he just had. It seems like a win-win for player and team any way you slice it.