NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jason Heyward's immediate future was the foremost topic of discussion Thursday as Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings adjourned.
Talks between teams and Heyward's representatives at Excel Sports Management have progressed to the point that an agreement could be reached within the next several days, sources told Ken Rosenthal and me.
The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals are among the finalists to sign Heyward, sources say.
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Here's a look at the circumstances surrounding each of those suitors:
Cubs: Even after signing Ben Zobrist and trading Starlin Castro, the Cubs may be only midway through their major offseason moves.
The Cubs retain much of the spending capacity they enjoyed when the offseason began, as the $40 million they saved by dealing Castro to the Yankees will offset about three-quarters of their expenditure on Zobrist. So with the clear need for an everyday outfielder, coupled with the anticipated expansion of revenue streams linked to the Wrigley Field renovation, the Cubs have had steady involvement in the Heyward marketplace.
Certainly, part of the Cubs' motivation could be to bid up the price for a free agent who spent the 2016 season with the rival Cardinals. But apart from that, the Cubs' analytical department is said to look favorably upon Heyward's defensive ability, baserunning, on-base percentage and youth.
If the Cubs sign Heyward -- or another prominent free-agent outfielder -- they could package right fielder Jorge Soler with additional players in an offer to the Cleveland Indians for one of their hard-throwing right-handed starters, Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco.
Cardinals: The Cardinals need to add a major bat after scoring only 647 runs this season, their second-lowest output in the last 20 years. And they have the resources to do it, thanks to robust attendance and a new, lucrative contract with FOX Sports Midwest.
Heyward fits the Cardinals roster, even with the ascendancies of young outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Matt Holliday is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and former outfield mainstays Peter Bourjos (Phillies) and Jon Jay (Padres) already are elsewhere.
If the Cardinals fail to sign Heyward, they could pursue power-hitting free agent Chris Davis with the idea that he'd play the corner infield and outfield positions, depending on the lineup around him.
Nationals: The Nationals' involvement with Heyward was a revelation Thursday, first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and subsequently confirmed by a major-league source.
Like the Cubs, the Nationals apparently believe Heyward can play center field at least part of the time; Washington already has Jayson Werth in left field and superstar Bryce Harper in right.
While the Nationals' ability to spend big on free agents was questioned earlier this offseason, they could backload a Heyward contract in order to afford the deal. Washington general manager Mike Rizzo is helped by the fact that Werth's contract comes off the books after the 2017 season. (The Nationals also saved $7 million on their 2016 payroll Thursday by trading infielder Yunel Escobar to the Angels.)
Werth earns a base salary of $21 million in each of the next two years, according to Baseball-Reference.com. That's near the average annual value many observers believe Heyward will receive. In that sense, Heyward is a natural fit for the Nationals' long-term payroll outlook.