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Los Angeles Dodgers Sign OF Jason Heyward to One-Year Contract: Analysis and Expectations

Image credit: © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Translated by Pepe Latorre

Los Angeles Dodgers sign OF Jason Heyward for one year, $9 million.
The Dodgers make the most of their players. It’s what they do and what they’ve been known for throughout the Friedman era. Players come to Los Angeles to revitalize their careers, continuing the long tradition of frail Victorian children who went to sea for their health. Heyward came to the Dodgers in what would have been the final year of the eight-year contract he signed with the Cubs as a free agent in 2015, when he was 25 years old. The Cubs released him and ate up the last $22 million of what ended up being a very bad contract. That meant Heyward was only going to get a minimum contract of $720,000, but it’s an open question whether he would have made much more than that in a completely open market.

The 1,250% increase in Heyward’s salary in his second year in Los Angeles is as good an indication as any of his rebound with the Dodgers, who played to his strengths: He only hit left-handed 28 times all year, compared with 349 opportunities against rights. Perhaps that factored into a 41.5% ground ball rate, the best of his career by a comfortable margin. He also posted his best fly ball percentage since 2012, and also managed to quadruple a minuscule 4.5% HR/FB rate from 2022. He had his best ISO (.204) in over a decade and his best strikeout rate in five years thanks to once again achieving a contact rate of 79%. He was, ultimately, a good hitter, something that hadn’t been true in a 162-game season since at least 2018. His DRC+ of 110 was his best since his debut in 2012.

While he was once known for his defensive talent, which helped him generate value even in his worst moments of offensive stagnation, Heyward is no longer a difference-making defender. A DRP (Deserved Runs Prevented3.8 was the worst of his career, the only real result from his final year in Chicago. Those numbers are made worse by his continued presence in center field, where he no longer belongs and where he is nothing more than a contingency solution. Although he was also negative on the right, where he recorded the most appearances of him last year, and where he was worse in fewer appearances:

Inputs as CF DRP as CF Inputs as RF DRP as RF 2022 182 -2.0 166.1 -1.4 2023 120 -2.1 624 -1.6

However, this production should not be seen as something clearly negative. By backing up James Outman in center and Mookie Betts in right field, Heyward gave Betts the opportunity to log almost as many innings in the middle infield as he did in the outfield. and stay completely off center. Given that Betts has expressed interest in moving to second base full-time as a way to put less stress on his body after age 30, the Dodgers probably aren’t regretting the runs given up by Heyward’s glove.

The biggest question as Heyward approaches age 34 is whether he can maintain his improvements from last year. The Dodgers are known for these types of dramatic changes (see Andrew Heaney in 2022). But given the tendencies of other teams to try to leverage those upgrades for their own benefits, it’s less common to see the bargains discovered by Los Angeles come at discounted prices. Max Muncy is an obvious name that will stick around long-term and make his improvements as concrete as his presence, but other names that fit the mold, especially on the offensive end, are few and far between. Justin Turner also fits into this camp, and Chris Taylor, a version, perhaps, more in line with Heyward’s talents. What comes next could be revealing.

The Dodgers’ outfield outlook is still wide open for 2024, particularly if Betts’ transition to the infield is completed, but Heyward believes he will be able to enjoy another 400 plate appearances if he is healthy. Since Outman has earned a regular spot in center field, it can be assumed that Heyward will slot in at either corner and that Chris Taylor will continue to fill in for him on left-handed pitching days (he had a .795 OPS against lefties last year against a mark of .712 against righties). However, the departure of David Peralta means the other corner is open. Heyward’s presence, however, should give Los Angeles room to plug that and most important hole they have in the rotation.

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2023-11-29 11:14:14
#Transaction #Analysis #Making #Heyward #Sheaf

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