Jason Heyward is 26 years old and coming off a year in which he hit .293/.359/.439 while playing his usual stellar defense in right field. Considering his age -- very few players hit the market that young -- pedigree and the fact that he might be the best defensive right fielder in the game, he might end up signing the largest contract of any position-player free agent this winter.
But as is the case with every free agent, it takes a club that has a need and the money to strike a deal. These four clubs are the likeliest to sign him.
Last winter, the Cardinals traded two promising, cost-controlled pitchers (Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins) for one year of Heyward (and right-hander Jordan Walden), a strong indication they think highly of his talent, and Heyward did nothing this season that would make them think any less.
Heyward is an incredibly well-rounded player who showed he can thrive in St. Louis, and though the Cardinals have rarely competed with the top of the free-agent crop (they let Albert Pujols walk, after all), Heyward's youth could change their behavior.
The Angels have two things going for them in their pursuit of Heyward: a glaring hole in a corner outfield spot and a track record of spending big on free agents.
Right now, the Angels don't have a left fielder that a contender can feel good about, so bringing Heyward in to play right and moving Kole Calhoun to left would be an enormous (albeit costly) upgrade. And with that outfield alignment and the newly acquired Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, the Angels would instantly become one the best defensive teams in the game.
Further, the Angels' two best hitters -- Mike Trout and Pujols -- both hit from the right side, and Heyward would help balance out the lineup in the way Josh Hamilton was supposed to.
With Trout, Calhoun, Simmons and Heyward, manager Mike Scioscia would again have the kind of multidimensional players he loves, and the Angels would again have one of the more dynamic lineups in the game.
Though this might seem like a curious fit with a team that already has a lot of outfielders, I wouldn't count the Dodgers out on any free agent of this caliber.
With an outfield of Heyward, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers would transform themselves from a station-to-station club to one with speed and athleticism. Los Angeles would need to trade Andre Ethier in such a scenario, but considering the club's ability to eat some of the $35.5 million he is owed over the next two seasons (as well as the .294/.366/.486 line he put up in 2015), he will have suitors.
The loss of Nick Markakis is something the Orioles felt the entire year. He was a solid leadoff hitter, an excellent defender and a smart baserunner. He's a big reason the O's couldn't repeat as American League East champs. Well, Heyward is a lot like Markakis, but better across the board and has a cleaner medical history.
Heyward also has an offensive ceiling he hasn't reached, and no manager is better than Buck Showalter at getting players to fulfill their potential, with Chris Davis, a player who might leave as a free agent, being a perfect example. Whether Davis stays or goes, Heyward remains a great fit in Baltimore.
Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.