According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Washington Nationals have jumped into the bidding war for free-agent right fielder Jason Heyward. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals also remain in on Heyward.
Nats are in on jason heyward. Mystery team has been solved. Washington joins cubs, cards in JH derby.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 10, 2015
Heyman also adds that Heyward does have a $200 million offer in hand, but it is unclear which team has made the offer. Heyman does speculate that the $200 million offer is from the Nationals. Washington is no stranger to $200 million deals, having signed Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal just last winter.
At first glance, Heyward does not seem to fill an extremely pressing need for the Nationals, who already have Michael Taylor, Jayson Werth, and NL MVP Bryce Harper. If signed, Heyward may be used in center field, as it is unlikely the Nationals would feel comfortable exposing Harper to the rigors of center field yet again.
Taylor could become trade bait. Following the trade of Yunel Escobar, the Nationals may make a run at Cincinnati Reds All-Star Todd Frazier. Taylor is one of the few MLB-ready young talents on Washington’s roster, and could be attractive to the Reds as a more offensively-minded alternate to Billy Hamilton. The Nationals also have a nice supply of pitching prospects to offer the Reds.
Coming off a disappointing season, the Nationals were not expected to be extremely aggressive in the free-agent market given their already high payroll. That notion was quickly dismissed, as the team was in hot pursuit of Ben Zobrist and was also connected to Aroldis Chapman in trade talks. Heyward would represent an upgrade over Taylor in center. As the Nationals attempt to contend with their current core group, waiting for Taylor to develop into a complete, finished product may not work with the timeline.
In his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, the 26-year-old Heyward batted a career-high .293 with a .797 OPS, 33 doubles, 13 home runs, and 23 steals. The three-time Gold Glover offers a rare blend of speed, defense, on-base ability, and power potential. Pairing Heyward next to Bryce Harper could finally unlock the 30-homer potential scouts and front office types have seen in the outfielder since his debut at the age of 20.
With all the offers on the table, expect Heyward to come to a decision shortly. His decision could ultimately set the ball rolling on the rest of the free-agent market. Big name hitters Justin Upton, Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon remain unsigned, and are probably waiting on Heyward.