The St. Louis Cardinals made their biggest offseason move to date when they completed a trade with the Atlanta Braves that brought outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis.
Largely quiet since that transaction, Heyward attended the club’s annual fan event, Winter Warm-Up, and spoke with the media while he was there. The media and the fans have been anxious to speak with the young man.
There are numerous questions that linger around the upcoming season and his relationship with the team. Heyward enters 2015 on the last year of his contract, after which he will be able to test the market as a free agent. As far as his value is concerned, he has found himself in the middle of the lineup as well as at the top.
Will he extend his contract? Where would he prefer to hit in the lineup? What are his early impressions of St. Louis?
Manager Mike Matheny spoke with Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch just before the new year about various topics, including where Heyward might hit in the lineup. Matheny shared with Hummelthat his early feeling is that Heyward will hit second behind leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter.
Hitting second may be a good compromise between the player and the team. Heyward stressed that he would hit where the team felt he was the best fit. However, he also took time to note that he has trained to be a run-producer far more than a table-setter. Whitener shared Heyward‘s thoughts on the subject:
I don’t know yet because I haven’t been in the lineup, but I was developed as a guy in the middle of the lineup. I made it to the Major Leagues with some success in the area as well, but I have been asked to do some different things at certain times, but I am a team player so I will fit right in where I am asked to be.
Heyward has had success in the second spot in the order in Atlanta, as Hummel pointed out. It allows the outfielder to approach an at-bat with a run-producing mindset while still placing importance on reaching base in front of the middle of the lineup. In St. Louis,Heyward would find himself hitting behind a very productive leadoff hitter in Carpenter and a consistent run-producer in Matt Holliday, a spot many players would welcome.
During the conversation with the media, Heyward also shared his early thoughts on St. Louis and how that can come into play when looking at his soon-to-expire contract. The Cardinals have been down that path before, bringing players like Mark McGwire, Larry Walker and even Holliday to the team and allowing them to experience the environment firsthand. It has worked well in the past and could again, as Heyward noted:
I can’t say how it is going play out right now, I am just looking forward to getting settled in with my teammates and fitting in. I think the goal for me and everybody involved is to be playing in October and going for a World Series, so if all of that takes care of itself a lot of good things will come from it and no negatives.
I hope I love it so much I don’t want to leave. I feel like if I love it that much it is a good fit.
It’s a very politically correct statement. Heyward won’t commit to working out an extension right away. He says all the right things that fans want to hear. He wants to experience playing in St. Louis and wants to focus on the task at hand. Those are all respectable comments that let fans know that he is open to a contract extension even if it is not his focus right now.
The team likely feels the same way. They traded for him with an eye on 2015 and the possibility of something longer. However, the team wants to “fall in love with” the player as much as he wants to fall for the city.
A productive year for Jason Heyward could answer a lot of questions for both the team and the player. A season with poor results may cause the team and player to part after only one season.
Heyward is saying all the right things to the media. Soon it will be time for his play on the field to do the majority of the talking.