The St. Louis Cardinals have won the National League Central three straight years, but the competition is at an all-time high in the division, as both the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates won 97-plus games as well.
Frankly, the Cardinals don't have to do much of anything to be a contender again in 2016, but if they want to win their fourth straight NL Central title, they'll need to keep the pedal to the metal this offseason and keep building.
Here's what's next for the Cardinals:
Objective 1: Re-sign free agent Jason Heyward
The Cardinals traded four years of control of starting pitcher Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for one year from right fielder Heyward in hopes they could win a championship or sign him long-term. Neither has happened. Heyward will enter free agency as the best defensive right fielder in baseball, and his offensive WAR has improved each of the past two seasons with perhaps the best yet to come.
The 26-year-old will have a considerable market via free agency, but he has enjoyed his time in St. Louis and will strongly consider returning with the right offer. This puts the ball in the Cardinals' court: Do they offer the type of money it would take to bring back Heyward or have their young outfielders -- Stephen Piscotty, Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk -- take his place at non-arbitration-eligible salaries?
I personally think his defense, left-handed bat and hard-nosed approach fits the Cardinals' mantra perfectly, and they should do their best to re-sign him.