We're at that point in the offseason where things have gotten interesting. Dominoes are falling, the free-agent market is thawing and teams have some clarity about what is and isn't possible.Not just Shohei Ohtani, either, although his decision Friday to sign with the Angels is by far the most important
We're at that point in the offseason where things have gotten interesting. Dominoes are falling, the free-agent market is thawing and teams have some clarity about what is and isn't possible.
Not just Shohei Ohtani, either, although his decision Friday to sign with the Angels is by far the most important deal of this offseason. All of which makes this a perfect time for the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Some years, the Winter Meetings aren't much more than a chance for team executives and agents to catch up on gossip, have some laughs and maybe even find time to poke around for a deal or two.
This year won't be like that. Too many teams have pressing needs. Too many prominent free agents remain unsigned.
With the Hot Stove finally heating up, here are 10 teams to keep an eye on at the Winter Meetings:
1. Cardinals -- Giancarlo Stanton informed the Cardinals he will not approve a trade to St. Louis, which opens the door for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to pursue another power hitter. Missing the playoffs -- and finishing behind the Cubs -- in back-to-back seasons has made the Cardinals motivated buyers. Mozeliak will also look to add a closer through either free agency (Greg Holland, Wade Davis) or possibly a trade (Alex Colome.
• Giants, Cards out on Stanton
2. Giants -- The Giants are also in a win-now mode, and after a 98-loss season (and scoring the second-fewest runs in the majors), they have a long shopping list. They went hard for both Ohtani and Stanton, but now it's time to move on. Lorenzo Cain is a nice fit, but so is J.D. Martinez. Actually, the Giants may need both to get back into contention. As for third base, Todd Frazier is a name to watch. If the Rays make Evan Longoria available, the Giants will be first in line.
3. Marlins --Trading Dee Gordon to the Mariners could be a signal that Marlins CEO Derek Jeter has had a change of heart about waiting on the Stanton situation to play out before listening on his other players. If Miami makes outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna available, the bidding is likely to be intense. They could bring an assortment of prospects and speed the rebuilding process nicely along.
4. Rays --This might be the most intriguing club right now. Is Rays general manager Erik Neander collecting information, or is he lining things up for a major rebuild? Plenty of clubs are wondering as Neander checks the market for Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Colome and others. Archer and Colome would bring a bounty of prospects. If they're traded, would Longoria decide the time had come to move on?
5. Phillies --Is now the time? If it is, this free-agent market is going to look way different. Having spent the last two seasons giving all those young players a chance to play, the Phillies have to decide to give it one more year or make a move now. With only center fielder Odubel Herrera under a long-term contract, the Phillies could spend big on pitching and bring the light at the end of tunnel more into focus.
• Hot Stove Tracker
6. Mariners -- You didn't think we'd leave Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto off this list, did you? He was unable to land Ohtani, but will go hard for another starting pitcher. Yu Darvish? Jacob Arrieta? Stay tuned.
7. Red Sox -- President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski isn't doing quantity this offseason. He just needs one home run hitter. Stanton? No, he's reportedly headed to the Yankees. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas? Yes, yes, yes. Here's where Dombrowski can really shake things up. He's not a patient man. Instead, he focuses on the player he wants and then goes and gets the guy. With the free-agent market stalled, Dombrowski is the guy who could shake the dominoes loose.
8. Brewers -- Likewise, Brewers general manager David Stearns will wait only so long in his search for pitching. He may not begin the market run on pitching, but when there's some clarity about the prices, he's going to add at least one starter and at least one reliever.
9. Angels -- The Angels believe they're good enough to make up huge ground on the Astros in the AL West if they can just keep their rotation healthy. And that was before snagging Ohtani off the market. General manager Billy Eppler had already re-signed outfielder Justin Upton and acquired reliever Jim Johnson. Now with Ohtani in the fold, his priority is to acquire a second baseman.
10. Yankees -- The Yankees seem to be one starting pitcher away from positioning themselves to win the AL East. General manager Brian Cashman could go for either Darvish or Alex Cobb. Or he could return Carsten Sabathia to the fold on a short-term contract. Will Stanton reportedly ending up with the Yankees impact Cashman's thinking? This week could bring clarity.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.