The Rundown: Jason Heyward 2020 Report Card, Financial Difficulties Will Challenge Epstein Again, Rays Even Up World Series

I think people forget that Jason Heyward is only 31 years old because it seems he’s been around forever and he carries the aura of an elder statesman, something not as prevalent since the game started skewing younger.  Regardless, the right fielder has been a refreshing revelation the past few seasons. As he’s matured, he’s also improved at the plate.

Heyward has always been a defense-first right fielder who could mix in a little offense now and then, but this year he led the regulars in hitting and OBP, and slugged .456 to boot. With a 129 OPS+, he had his best season as a Cub to date. That contract he signed is still a little hefty, but no longer feels like the albatross it once was because Heyward, scaled to a full season, produced to the tune of 4.86 fWAR this year. J-Hey is owed $65 million over the next three seasons, which only sounds expensive given the team’s current financial state.

His defense slipped a little, but by no means is Heyward ready to be subbed out for a better defensive player in late innings. In fact, he is at his best when the front office pairs him with a platoon, so perhaps the Cubs can re-sign Cameron Maybin as Heyward’s right-handed counterpart. Heyward’s leadership is not lost in the clubhouse, and because of that alone, he’s worth the cost to carry his contract.

If the Cubs are truly in dire straits financially and have to find a way to move him, and if they are willing to eat some of that contract, Heyward could actually be a valuable trade chip. The Cubs could save a little pocket change by possibly pairing Maybin or someone like Yasiel Puig or Kevin Pillar with a cheap, left-handed hitting outfielder like Josh Reddick. It would be a shame if it comes to that.

  • Final Stats: .265/.392/.456, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 2SB, 130 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR
  • Final Grade: A

Cubs News & Notes

  • If you caught The Rant Live yesterday, Jon Ferlise hypothesized a situation to Evan Altman where Epstein would be given a directive to trim the team’s 2021 payroll to $150 million “no matter how he does it.” Evan replied that he’d hand Tom Ricketts his two-week notice in that situation. I actually think Epstein needs a challenge like that, and though I’d never side with ownership on something so laughable, the president of baseball operations is at his best when he has to look at things from a fresh perspective.
  • If the Cubs are offseason shopping this season, a bona fide designated hitter should be on their wish list.
  • Should the Cubs decide to trade Kyle Schwarber, which teams might be most interested in acquiring the slugging outfielder? Off the top of my head I’d say the Angels, Indians, Yankees, A’s, and White Sox.
  • Under the odd circumstances of health and safety protocols, and playing nightly in front of 41,000 empty seats, David Ross did a remarkable job of keeping his players unified and focused.

Apropos of Nothing

This blues duet by Duane Allman and Boz Scaggs is mind blowing if you are into guitar-based blues. The title of the song, “Loan Me a Dime,” could be Epstein’s mantra this winter.

Odds & Sods

Speaking of needing a dime or two, ESPN is going to get you to pay up one way or another.

“Sources said that breaking news and investigative pieces will remain outside the paywall on, but writers who focus on insight and analysis will now primarily be available only to ESPN+ subscribers. For example, if baseball insider Jeff Passan has a feature, it would be on ESPN+, but if he were to break a big signing, it would remain outside the paywall.”

Postseason Potables

The Dodgers used seven pitchers last night in losing Game 2 of the World Series to the Rays, and those pitchers combined to allow six earned runs. Dustin May allowed the most damage, but no pitcher lasted more than two innings. Brandon Lowe was the hero for Tampa Bay, slugging two home runs in the 6-4 win. The teams get a break today before resuming play Friday evening, when Los Angeles will start Walker Buehler and the Rays will counter with Charlie Morton.

How About That!

Tony La Russa is now being viewed as the “top candidate” for the open managerial position on the South Side.

The A’s Instructional League facility has been shut down after somebody tested positive for COVID-19.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio could throw a wrench in Steve Cohen’s attempt to purchase the Mets. No wonder Álex Rodríguez seemed extra exuberant on FOX last night.

Former Astros GM Jeffrey Luhnow continues to deny he had any role in the team’s 2019 cheating scandal.

Dr. Anthony Fauci may seek to redeem himself by throwing another opening pitch, this time at Citi Field. Maybe he should just ask Brad Pitt to be his stand-in.

Extra Innings

I watched this last night and it’s well worth your time if you’d like to do the same.

They Said It

  • “Baseball is an exercise in which we know we don’t have anywhere close to all the answers. We only understand a fraction of what goes on on the field in enough detail to be able to quantify it or predict it. So if you’re in a field where you know you’re gonna be wrong then you should embrace it and work really hard to chip away at finding a few things that you might better understand just a little bit, enough to give you an advantage that might manifest once or twice over the course of a season.” – Theo Epstein
  • “A lot of times as athletes, people just talk about what we do, and they watch us on TV. They don’t see what goes into our lives when we leave here.” – Jason Heyward

Thursday Walk Up Song

Hide in Your Shell by Supertramp – By lowering the boom financially, Tom Ricketts could be signaling that the dark cloud that hangs over the Cubs may severely impact Epstein’s 2021 baseball budget. It’s not wrong to think we could be re-entering those dark years before Theo took over.

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