Jason Heyward not expected to take the field with the Cubs again

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said he doesn’t expect Heyward will return from the IL this year or play out the last year of his contract with the Cubs.

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Outfielder Jason Heyward’s tenure with the Cubs is all but over.

Outfielder Jason Heyward’s tenure with the Cubs is all but over.

David Zalubowski/AP

Jason Heyward’s time on the field with the Cubs is likely over. 

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said Monday that he doesn’t expect Heyward to return from the injured list this season and that he won’t play out the last year of his contract with the Cubs. 

“We want to give him the full offseason to be able to go out and find an opportunity,” Hoyer said. “And for us, given where we are as a group and where we’re going to likely be in the corner outfield next year with Seiya [Suzuki] and Ian [Happ], we’re going to move in a different direction.”  

Heyward has been on the 15-day injured list with inflammation in his right knee, according to the Cubs, since late June. Hoyer said Heyward is “not bouncing back that well,” and the Cubs would have put him on the 60-day injured list if their 40-man roster was full.

“For this year, I love having him around,” Hoyer said. “He provides real leadership. He’s a great sounding board for the guys. But Jason and I have talked a lot about where things are going in the future.”

Heyward is owed $22 million in 2023, the last year of the eight-year contract he signed with the Cubs ahead of the 2016 season.

That future includes releasing Heyward from the final year of his deal and finding out what promising young players Christopher Morel and Nelson Velazquez — and likely top prospect Brennen Davis after he returns from back surgery — can do with regular playing time.

“Jason, he’s a fantastic human being,” Hoyer said. “I think he doesn’t like it but certainly understands where we are. I think it’s been a bit frustrating the last year and a half. A lot of the guys that were a big part of why he signed here have been traded away. And so I think it made sense for both of us.”

Heyward won two of his five Gold Gloves with the Cubs. At the plate, his production fluctuated from year to year. Heyward hit .230 in his first season in Chicago, but his rain-delay speech became a central piece of World Series lore. Heyward’s batting average steadily improved the next two seasons, peaking at .270 in 2018. His last two seasons have been the worst of his career. 

“Great teammate, he’s a great defender,” Hoyer said when asked how Heyward’s tenure should be remembered. “Someone that, even when he was struggling, tried his absolute hardest every day, every offseason. That’s what I’ll remember.

“He certainly had his good moments here, but he had a lot of struggles, as well. And when he had those struggles, he never blamed anyone. He never stopped working. He was always the guy that showed up in the best shape coming into every season. He was always the guy that was in the cages trying to get better.”

Heyward also poured time and resources into local charities. Notably, on a long list of philanthropic endeavors, Heyward is in the process of launching the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy as part of a sports, education and wellness facility in the North Austin neighborhood.

Though recently the split has seemed inevitable, the Cubs have been able to avoid an unceremonious midseason release of a player who has meant so much to the organization and the city he has come to call home.

“Having that guy around in any capacity, you’re really fortunate,” said manager David Ross, who played with Heyward in Chicago and Atlanta. “He cares about others. He never passes blame. He’s always accountable. He’s a worker. He’s a good human. He talks about the right things. He’s about winning; he’s a winning player. Same attitude, he makes other people better, lifts others up, understands troubles that people may be going through and talks through that.”

Hoyer said he has talked with Heyward about rejoining the organization in some capacity after his playing career is over.

“I always tell people, make sure you know you’re retired, make sure you know you’re done,” Hoyer said, “and I think he’s definitely not there.”

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