Heyward was entering his age-26 season when the deal was signed. Because he entered the league so young, Heyward hit free agency early. In theory, the Cubs were paying for not just the production Heyward had provided over his first six big league seasons. They thought that Heyward’s prime was still to come, thus explaining the length and dollars they were willing to cough up for a career .268/.353/.431 hitter to that point. It made sense.
Of course, nobody could have expected Heyward’s huge collapse over the next couple seasons, making the contract pretty much a sunk cost for Chicago, at least offensively. Heyward remains among the best defensive outfielders in the league, but that’s harder to see as tangible value for the deal. By most standards, the deal did not pan out.
Like Heyward, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will be entering their age-26 seasons when they are free agents this offseason. Carlos Correa will be entering his age-27 season when he’s a free agent in 2021. Corey Seager will be 28 when he hits free agency, as will Francisco Lindor, Byron Buxton and other young exciting talents. Mike Trout will be entering his age-29 season, more on the cusp of being a “young free agent.”
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