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How high will Cardinals go to keep Heyward?

How far will the St. Louis Cardinals go to re-sign free agent outfielder Jason Heyward?

CBS Sports writer Jon Heyman says the St. Louis front office is willing to go “a bit beyond” the record-setting $120 million contract the team awarded to Matt Holliday. What that means, of course, is up to interpretation.

Does that mean 25 percent more, or about $150 million for seven years? Because that’s probably the floor of Heyward’s market at this time.

Heyman said Heyward’s camp wants AT LEAST the $153 million that Jacoby Ellsbury got from the Yankees. But they’d really like to threaten the $200 million mark.

At the time he was signed, a lot of St. Louis folks bemoaned the Holliday deal as a waste of money. But Holliday’s contract has turned out to be a great value for the Cardinals with the slugging left fielder delivering strong results and durability in every season except 2015.

If the Redbirds truly want to re-sign their right fielder, they need to be aggressive early and sign him before the market goes nuts.

Make a fair and reasonable offer Heyward can feel good about and accept before the Players Association gets involved and tries to pressure him to take the highest dollar, no matter the other factors that will affect the 26-year-old fly chaser’s decision.

Either the Cardinals believe Heyward is the real deal or they don’t. And if they do, they ought to buck up an extra $10-15 million to get the deal done. Yeah, that’s a lot of money to us common folks. But we’re talking about $1.5-$2 million a year for a team that ought to be able to easily afford a $150 million payroll with a lucrative new television deal committed to paper.

Besides, Holliday’s deal will be up after next season which would give the Cardinals lots of wiggle room to sign a guy who could be a next generation franchise cornerstone.