Another star free agent told the Nationals “no thank you” Friday, as 26-year-old outfielder Jason Heyward chose the Cubs over the Nationals and Cardinals, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. CBS Sports reported that the Nationals, hunting left-handed power for their largely right-handed lineup, had legitimate interest in Heyward.
Heyward has as much star power as any player on this year’s position-playing free agent market, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner with speed and what many scouts believe is more power than he’s shown so far. When Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart mentioned at this week’s Winter Meetings that Heyward was seeking $200 million, it seemed to price the Nationals out of his market — though with Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor and Bryce Harper locked up, they seemed unlikely to have much interest. But Harper may be gone to free agency after the 2018 season, and Werth has been injury-prone lately. Plus, Heyward was the most defensively useful left-handed bat available after Ben Zobrist was taken. The Nationals went after Zobrist, but lost him to the Cubs, too.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the Nationals offered around $200 million to Heyward, though the Post has not been able to confirm that number. Regardless, the Nationals must now look elsewhere — the trade market, probably — to balance their lineup. A person familiar with the situation indicated the Nationals checked in on Rockies’ right-fielder Carlos Gonzalez, but found the asking price too high. If the report of $200 million is accurate, the Nationals offered competitive deals to the prizes of this year’s free agent market — Zobrist and Heyward — but lost out on both.
— James Wagner contributed