The Cardinals and Jason Heyward have yet to engage in any “substantive talks” about a contract extension, the outfielder tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cards also haven’t applied any particular pressure to delve into negotiations, which is just how Heyward likes it:
“At this point, I think both sides are OK with that, OK with where things are right now. Both sides want to make sure everybody is happy. That’s really what they’ve been asking me about the whole time. ‘Hey, you like it here? Hey, you comfortable?’ They want to make sure I feel at home, make sure I can be myself, and that’s been their focus. They’ve allowed me the time to fit in. That has meant a lot.”
It could be argued that the Cardinals haven’t pursued negotiations since Heyward isn’t in their future plans, though Goold writes that both the Cards’ ownership and front office is interested in a long-term deal. While St. Louis hasn’t hesitated to let notable names such as Albert Pujols or Carlos Beltran leave in free agency over the years, the club has also moved to lock up other key players either just prior to free agency (e.g. Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright) or once they’ve actually hit the open market (i.e. Matt Holliday).
Goold cites the Holliday signing as similar to Heyward’s situation — a trade acquisition the Cards “wanted…to get to know the club first.” It wouldn’t make much sense for Heyward to sign an extension this close to free agency, but he seems impressed enough by the Cardinals that he could lean towards re-signing this winter.
In his latest 2016 free agent power rankings, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes rated Heyward as the player with the second-most earning potential on the open market this offseason (behind only David Price). While Heyward hasn’t developed into the star slugger many projected he would become, his still-solid bat, elite defense and youth (he turned 26 yesterday) could put him in line for an eight-year contract, which Dierkes estimates could be in the $180MM range. That would easily be the most expensive contract in Cardinals history, far eclipsing Holliday’s seven-year, $120MM guaranteed deal from the 2009-10 offseason.