With a wild World Series in the rearview, it's time to turn our attention to the wealth of player movement that's going to take place in the next few months.
Some of these predictions are a little out there, and others are a bit more realistic, but these 10 "educated" guesses as to what the free-agent and trade markets might bear should create some fun debate as we wait for the Hot Stove to really get cooking.
1. Giancarlo Stanton stays with the Marlins
Stanton has 10 years and $295 million (if he doesn't opt out after 2020) left on his contract. That's eye-popping, but if he were a free agent today, he'd quite likely command a similar deal on the open market. But if the Marlins are going to try to shed that salary and get viable prospect pieces back, things get trickier. Teams put significant value on the six years of big league control of their most prized prospects, and that complicates a Stanton deal. The list of teams with both the prospects and the payroll flexibility (remember, the luxury tax threshold does not see significant rises during this collective bargaining agreement) figures to be a short one. The division-rival Phillies might make the most sense, but they must also be mindful of the open-market possibilities in next year's loaded free-agent class that is set to include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson, among many others.
2. Jacob Arrieta signs with the Brewers
This would be akin to the D-backs signing Zack Greinke two years ago, catching big-market clubs off guard and pilfering from a division rival. The Brewers need to continue their forward momentum after 2017's surprise contention bid, and Jimmy Nelson's shoulder surgery amplifies the need for help in the starting rotation. The Brewers carried payrolls north of $100 million in 2014 and '15 before scaling back the past two seasons, and with Matt Garza off the books and very few finite financial commitments beyond '18, the club can afford to take a splurge on one of the top starters in the open market.
3. J.D. Martinez signs with the Cardinals
The Cards have a stash of young starters that could make for an intriguing rotation in 2018, but if they don't get a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, it's hard to see their string of two straight seasons outside October snapping. All of the Marlins' available outfielders (Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich) will be targets, but Martinez is a free-agent bat that can potentially vault them past the Cubs, and acquiring him is obviously just a matter of money, not prospects. The Cardinals made bold but unfulfilled plays for David Price and Jason Heyward in the recent past. They can afford the 30-year-old Martinez, and they need him. This would also further free them up to move Stephen Piscotty, perhaps for some pitching depth.
4. Mike Moustakas signs with the Angels
Justin Upton is staying on board with a five-year deal, but the Angels still have the need -- and thanks to the finally expired Josh Hamilton contract, the financial flexibility -- to get another bat. Both offensively and defensively, Moustakas -- who went to high school 60 miles from Anaheim in Chatsworth -- would ably fill what was a void for the Angels in 2017. Keep Upton, sign Moose and get better health from the starting staff, and you'd have to take Michael Trout's team much more seriously as a contender.
5. Eric Hosmer stays with the Royals
Yes, this would be pretty surprising. But with most teams set at first base (and first base a relatively easy position to fill in a crowded market), I think it would be equally surprising to see Hosmer, even at age 28, get the megadeal he might be hoping for. This is a bet on the one team that has an emotional incentive to go hard after him eventually getting it done.
6. Rangers bring back Yu Darvish
The comfort level Darvish has with the Rangers -- the team that gave him his first stateside opportunity -- is something that shouldn't be overlooked. When people were running with the narrative that the Dodgers had changed Darvish for the better, he was quick to defend the Rangers' coaching staff. Even after his poor World Series showing, Darvish is going to be in high demand, and the Rangers might not be willing to be the highest bidder. That said, team president Jon Daniels has been pretty clear that he's not in rebuild mode, and there will be temptation to bring Darvish back into the fold.
7. Yankees and Tigers swap Jacoby Ellsbury and Jordan Zimmermann
Bad contract trades are surprisingly … good? At the least, they are an opportunity for players to reset and hope lightning strikes. Honestly, I don't know how much this swap would necessarily improve either club, but the Yankees need starting depth and the Tigers clearly need another outfielder named Jacoby (to go with JaCoby Jones). At the least, the money pretty much matches up, with Ellsbury owed $74 million guaranteed over the next three seasons and Zimmermann owed $68.4 million in the same span. Zimmermann could still be a functional starter or swingman, perhaps with a more breaking ball-heavy repertoire.
8. Wade Davis signs with the Astros
This really isn't all that bold. Somebody's going to be the one to bite the bullet and pony up for the market's best "proven closer," despite some rising peripherals and, of course, advancing age. And it's hard not to identify the Astros as the team with the most incentive to get this deal done given their struggles to get the final outs in October. That said, it would be interesting if a team like the Twins, who were a bullpen shy of surprisingly advancing to the American League Division Series this year, were to go down this road.
9. Indians send Danny Salazar to Cubs for Ian Happ
The Cubs acknowledge they might have to trade from their position-player depth to significantly upgrade their pitching staff. Salazar, under contractual control another three years, has missed his fair share of time the past couple years with nonstructural elbow and shoulder issues, but his stuff is supreme and he's had stretches of pure dominance. There's no such thing as "excess starting pitching" in this game, but the Indians would still have a strong rotation with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin, and Happ's versatile switch-hitting skillset is a perfect fit on a Terry Francona club and might give the Tribe more leeway to explore a Jason Kipnis trade. Come to think of it, perhaps he could be involved in this deal somehow.
10. Shohei Ohtani lands with the Rays
Ohtani's unusual posting circumstances -- he's subject to the international amateur spending pools -- mean that the big-market ballclubs don't necessarily have an advantage in the bidding, and the Rays (who drafted two-way player Brendan McKay fourth overall in the 2017 Draft) would be a particularly open-minded organization when it comes to letting Ohtani both pitch and hit, which is what the vast majority of us are hoping happens, right? Right.