​One of the most sought-after offseason pieces in ​Major League Baseball isn't a free agent: he's an All-Star catcher hitting the top of his prime. And though ​a significant handful of teams would love to take their best shot at wresting JT Realmuto away from the Miami Marlins, two teams from Southern California are currently at the head of the pack, reports insider Jon Heyman.

The San Diego Padres ​are also considered sneaky candidates to ink Manny Machado -- most recently of the Dodgers -- in free agency. But at the moment, they're neck and neck with LA in the hunt for Realmuto, far and away the best catcher considered available this winter.


The Dodgers may have already agreed to bring back Russell Martin, but even nostalgia can't outweigh what the notorious JTR would mean to their franchise, particularly if and when Machado officially leaves town.

The Padres have no shortage of assets to offer Miami, as their farm system is among the very best in baseball. They are potentially at risk of cutting a corner in their systematic rebuild by splurging on a major trade, but if they really can get something locked in with the Marlins, they simply can't pass it up.