The Chicago Cubs have agreed to sign outfielder Jason Heyward to an eight-year deal, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday afternoon.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Heyward will make $185 million over the course of his contract, good for an average annual value of $23 million, easily making him the highest paid position player of the offseason.
Heyward's deal includes two opt-outs, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. Rosenthal reported that Heyman can opt-out after year three or year four of his deal if he exceeds certain plate appearance thresholds.
Heyward was pursued by plenty of teams throughout the offseason. The Cardinals, Cubs, and Nationals were named as the three finalists in his sweepstakes. According to media reports, Heyward turned down two $200+ million deals, presumably from St. Louis and Washington.
The addition of Heyward is huge for the Cubs. He will likely play center field in Chicago, alongside the likes of Kyle Schwarber in left and Jorge Soler in right. The Cubs' lineup is more balanced with the addition, as Heyward replaces Dexter Fowler, who was barely above-average in offensive value last year.
Heyward is just 26, having made his MLB debut at age-20. He had a solid offensive season last year, hitting .293/.359/.439 with 13 home runs and 60 RBIs in 610 plate appearances. He is also one of the best defenders in the league and thus was worth an astounding 6.0 fWAR last season.
Heyward was going to make a lot of money in his contract this offseason, but the most interesting aspect of the deal are his two opt-out clauses. While his contract breakdown is still unknown, the deal should be front-loaded, in case Heyward has a good enough first few seasons and opts-out.
Another interesting aspect of this deal is that Heyward reportedly took less money to sign with the Cubs over two other teams.
This could be for plenty of reasons, including the two opt-out clauses, but in recent years players (such as Jon Lester) have taken less money to sign with Chicago in order to help them break their World Series drought.
The Cubs' front office is doing everything in its power to try and bring the team to success.
Heyward is the third major free agent that Chicago signed this offseason. They agreed to terms with both Ben Zobrist and John Lackey already this offseason, to play second base and help in the rotation, respectively. They want to win; they want to win soon. By having such a big offseason, they showed this urgency.
Over the course of his career, Heyward has hit .268/.353/.431 with 97 home runs and 352 RBIs over 3,429 plate appearances. Between the Braves and Cardinals, Heyward has accumulated 27.8 career fWAR. Now, he heads to Chicago to try and go deep into the postseason and win the World Series.