Jason Heyward was one of the top players in baseball early in his career, with a Hall of Fame trajectory over his first six seasons with Atlanta and St. Louis. Through age 25, his 29.8 career WAR was among the baseball legends to start a career, surrounded by guys like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Barry Bonds.
Things immediately went downhill when he signed an eight-year deal with the Cubs prior to the 2016 season. He had been 14 percent better than league average offensively with elite outfield defense in his first six years; in his seven years in Chicago, he was 14 percent worse than average and merely good defensively, leading the Cubs to release him with a year left on his contract.
The Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal last week, and in an interview with Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times, Heyward talked about why he chose L.A. over some of the other teams that courted him.
“They have a reputation for doing things in a special way, getting the most out of everyone involved,” Heyward said by phone this week in his first interview since signing with the team. “For them to reach out to me, and want me to have an opportunity to be part of that process, that made it that much easier. …
“I want to be the best version of myself,” he said. “And the Dodgers, I feel like, give me a really, really great opportunity to do that.”
After having what looked like a bounce-back season in the pandemic-shortened 2020, Heyward has struggled with injuries the last two years. The Dodgers are hoping a clean bill of health, combined with a lot of hard with with L.A.’s hitting team, will help Heyward become a productive player again.
That hard work started this week at Dodger Stadium and will continue throughout the offseason. If the Jason Heyward Experiment doesn’t work out, it won’t be because of a lack of effort.
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