MLB fans of every team witnessed big moves during this past year in the form of signings, firings, contract extensions and trades. Expect more of the same in 2013.
This list identifies inevitable player and management decisions. Some could be completed on New Year's Day, while others involving the upcoming free-agent crop won't occur until after the World Series.
Whatever your allegiance, there's something to look forward to.
If the Arizona Diamondbacks weren't already comfortable with their outfield depth, signing Cody Ross to a three-year deal definitely gave them a surplus.
Justin Upton's name has been on the trading block for several seasons and it's impossible to imagine him staying put after this latest addition.
Most likely, he'll draw interest as the summer progresses. Potential buyers want to see him rebound from an uninspiring 2012 campaign.
Atlanta can't let Prado run away in free agency.
Players like Martin Prado do not come along often.
Where else can the Atlanta Braves find a versatile defensive player with elite offensive skills in the prime of his career?
The Tampa Bay Rays have one like him—infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist. Wisely, though, they gave him long-term security at the first sign of brilliance.
Prado's price could exceed $15 million per year, but ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Braves will attempt to keep him from reaching free agency:
The Braves are going to try to sign Martin Prado to a multi-year deal, given his current standing as heir to Chipper Jones's spot at third.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 17, 2012
Matt Wieters has quietly grown into one of the American League's elite catchers. He's a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner with 20-homer power.
Though the 26-year-old is advised by Scott Boras, several other clients—Elvis Andrus and Jered Weaver, for example—accepted team-friendly contract extensions.
The Baltimore Orioles gave outfielder Nick Markakis long-term security at a similar phase of his career.
Pedroia has been Boston's second baseman since August 2006.
After seven MLB seasons, the Boston Red Sox trust Dustin Pedroia. He's a terrific all-around middle infielder with all the positive intangibles a player could have.
League sources tell Joe McDonald of ESPNBoston.com that the team expects to approach Pedroia this winter about an extension.
His current deal lasts through 2014 with an affordable option for 2015, but it's clear why Boston wants to get this done now. Robinson Cano will become a free agent after the World Series and set a new standard for second basemen.
Josh Johnson could be the best pitcher in next winter's free-agent class if he gets through 2013 without suffering from injury.
The Chicago Cubs will have the resources and motivation to sign him. Starting rotation candidates Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza all come off the books at that time. Moreover, the organization only has three players signed beyond 2014.
Expect Chicago to win the bidding war for his services during the winter meetings.
Danny Knobler of CBS Sports plays matchmaker, tweeting that the Chicago White Sox want a left-handed batter and would be willing to trade Gavin Floyd. Reputable offensive players are vanishing from the free-agent market, so the team can more easily find reinforcements on another roster.
The White Sox exercised Floyd's $9.5 million club option earlier this offseason. That's a bargain for somebody so consistent.
They could fill the vacated rotation spot internally or by signing a cheap, veteran free agent.
The MLB Trade Rumors Extension Tracker doesn't lie—Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty loves giving his players long-term contract extensions. In just the past couple years, he has drawn up eight deals of at least three years.
Mat Latos is the next deserving player.
In his debut season with the Reds, he performed like an elite No. 2 starter behind Johnny Cueto. Past durability and a steady strikeout-to-walk ratio make him a safe bet to sustain or even improve on the mound.
Ace Johnny Cueto signed a team-friendly deal when he became arbitration eligible for the first time. Latos should get the same treatment.
The Cleveland Indians aren't ready to contend yet and Asdrubal Cabrera is only signed through 2014. Considering the scarcity of available shortstops around the league, he could certainly fetch the Tribe a large package in return.
For talented and controllable starting pitchers, why not peddle him to the Seattle Mariners or St. Louis Cardinals?
The Colorado Rockies have failed to develop consistent pitchers, particularly in recent years.
To contend, the Rockies will need to acquire proven MLB arms, either through free agency or trade. Most of them will avoid the high altitude if given the choice, so the latter is the more likely possibility.
MLB Trade Rumors reminds us that the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners both spoke with Colorado about a Dexter Fowler package earlier this offseason. With their center fielders—Shin-Soo Choo and Franklin Gutierrez, respectively—approaching free agency, either could strike a deal for Fowler in November or December 2013.
This offseason has taught us that Major League Baseball is wealthier than ever.
If platoon players and LOOGYs can get multi-year deals and Anibal Sanchez signs for $80 million, what is the game's best pitcher worth?
The Detroit Tigers must extend Justin Verlander before the Los Angeles Dodgers reach an agreement with Clayton Kershaw. Waiting until L.A. sets a new ceiling might 1) make them pay Verlander tens of millions of dollars more, or 2) convince him to explore free agency after 2014 because they cannot match the Kershaw deal.
Rather, Detroit ought to lock up its living legend ASAP.
Yes, this qualifies as a "big move" for the bottom-feeding Houston Astros.
Brett Myers brought consistency to their pitching staff in 2010 and 2011 while in the National League. He gained experience against designated hitters when the Astros dealt him to the Chicago White Sox last July.
After a season in the bullpen, Myers wants to start again. With a projected rotation that includes Phil Humber and Alex White, Houston can surely make room.
If the Kansas City Royals want several shots at a World Series title, they'll ought to retain their new workhorse.
James Shields has averaged 223 innings pitched per season since 2008 (fifth in MLB). That durability makes him a great role model for young pitchers in the organization.
Vernon Wells will be seldom used as a reserve if he remains with the Los Angeles Angels.
The New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies have at least checked in on the 34-year-old. Both could use a right-handed outfielder and guarantee him a couple hundred plate appearances.
In any trade, the Halos would need to cover most of the $42 remaining on his contract.
The Dodgers will sign Clayton Kershaw before he hits free agency.
Clayton Kershaw is the best starting pitcher in the National League and only entering his age-25 season!
Los Angeles Dodgers rotation mate Zack Greinke just signed a record-breaking deal. Being younger, left-handed and even more consistent, Kershaw won't have any problems eclipsing him in terms of guaranteed money.
A-Rod might waive his no-trade clause to play in Miami.
The New York Yankees certainly aren't satisfied with how Alex Rodriguez has declined since signing a 10-year, $275 million contract. He's losing power, often on the disabled list and with the exception of 2009, a liability in the postseason.
ESPNNewYork.com reported in October that team president Randy Levine and Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spoke jokingly about an A-Rod trade. Coming off major hip surgery, the Fish would be able to acquire him without surrendering a top prospect.
The three-time American League MVP is under contract through 2017.
Impending free agent Corey Hart will get a multi-year deal elsewhere and prospect Hunter Morris hasn't played above Double-A yet.
The Milwaukee Brewers need a stopgap at first base and Paul Konerko could be the perfect fit.
Konerko told Chuck Garfein of CSNChicago.com last February that he would be taking his career one year at a time once his current contract expired. Milwaukee could woo him with a lucrative offer for 2014.
Gardenhire is entering the final year of his contract.
Ron Gardenhire led six of his first nine Minnesota Twins teams to the playoffs.
After consecutive last-place finishes, however, general manager Terry Ryan tells Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN that a contract extension "doesn't make sense."
The Twins will certainly retain Gardenhire through the 2013 season. With that said, re-signing him despite another summer in the cellar will be impossible to justify.
That's where the franchise is headed. Minnesota can't keep up in the much-improved AL Central.
The New York Mets really have two first basemen in their projected 2013 lineup: Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. A bounce-back year from the latter will lead them to move Davis, probably around the non-waiver trade deadline.
Duda provided negative value last season—according to Baseball-Reference.com—because his weak outfield defense cancelled out his ordinary offense. That would never be the case if he were back at his natural position.
Because of his high ceiling and enviable athleticism, Davis would be worth several promising prospects with whom the Mets could use to rebuild.
Perennial MVP contenders aren't readily available, so the New York Yankees won't make the same financial excuses they did with Russell Martin and Nick Swisher.
Scott Boras clients like Robinson Cano famously don't sign contract extensions during their walk years. The Yankees have a policy against making those kind of deals, anyway.
Without a clear successor coming up through the farm system, the team will offer Cano the lifetime deal he deserves.
Vinnie Pestano is a potential closer.
Despite all the skepticism, the Oakland Athletics won the 2012 AL West title.
It didn't come easily, of course. They leaned heavily on their bullpen down the stretch to pass the Texas Rangers in Game 162. Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle were particularly taxed and it would not be surprising if one of them regressed next season.
Whether it's for Vinnie Pestano of the Cleveland Indians or Bobby Parnell of the New York Mets, the A's will move an excess starting pitcher during the summer to tighten up their relief corps.
The Philadelphia Phillies will be contending so long as their three elite starters—Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee—maintain themselves.
But last season, the right-hander was very unimpressive. A shoulder strain limited him to 25 outings and a 4.49 earned run average was his worst since 2000.
Halladay can become a free agent next offseason, though the Phillies won't let him once its clear that he has returned to dominance.
Neal Huntington's Pittsburgh Pirates have tortured fans the past couple summers, abruptly collapsing after strong starts. Overall, the franchise hasn't finished above .500 in two decades.
What do the Pirates have to show for the trades completed early in his tenure? The prospects they received for Jason Bay, Adam LaRoche, Nate McLouth and Jack Wilson aren't blossoming into MLB regulars.
Though Huntington must make do with a limited budget, many of his free agents have been liabilities (e.g. Rod Barajas, Kevin Correia, etc). That's not acceptable.
He will be terminated during the 2013 season or shortly thereafter.
The San Diego Padres need a top-of-the-rotation starter if they plan on returning to relevance.
Kyle Lohse is a risky acquisition for American League teams and others with hitter-friendly ballparks. San Diego, meanwhile, can be confident that he'll continue producing great results at Petco Park.
A multi-year deal will be finalized sometime in January.
Under general manager Brian Sabean, we've seen the San Francisco Giants protect their homegrown players. This chart courtesy of MLBDepthCharts shows that 22 members of their current 40-man roster are former amateur draft picks or international free agents.
Tim Lincecum frustrated everybody in 2012 when a tweaked delivery led to inconsistency. But the fact is he remains one of baseball's top strikeout artists and a very popular player in the Bay Area.
Sabean has set the franchise back in the past by signing unfamiliar free agents like Dave Roberts, Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito.
Re-signing Lincecum—even to a nine-figure deal—might be wiser than adding a mystery man to the starting rotation.
Coming off another noncompetitive campaign, the Seattle Mariners failed to attract big-name free-agent bats.
That won't be the case next offseason.
Safeco Field's dimensions are shrinking in 2013 with the most significant changes affecting left and left-center field, writes Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times.
Every foot matters to first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart. He ranked among the NL leaders with 11 "just enough" home runs last season, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker. As you can see from his scatter plot, Hart is a pull hitter.
He'll be persuaded to sign with the M's if this information is brought to his attention.
Adam Wainwright pitched much better than his 2012 stats suggest and improvement is inevitable in his second year removed from Tommy John surgery.
The St. Louis Cardinals shed several large contracts next offseason, so they can afford to pay top dollar for Wainwright, but why should they? Until he establishes himself as an NL Cy Young candidate again, the team has leverage.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that "both have expressed an interest" and plan to engage in serious talks during spring training.
David Price won the 2012 AL Cy Young Award.
It would be fiscally irresponsible for the Tampa Bay Rays to retain their ace.
Though he's deserving of an Evan Longoria-type contract extension, the team doesn't have the resources to give him one.
ESPN's Buster Olney wrote an Insider-only column about how a trade looks "inevitable":
"Some rival executives are convinced he's going to be traded by the Rays sometime in the next 13 months because the salary math is just about impossible for Tampa Bay. The Rays know it, and just about everybody else knows it, too."
Following a fantastic year, David Price should earn approximately $9.5 million in arbitration (via Matt Swartz, MLB Trade Rumors).
Perhaps more than any other team, the Texas Rangers are obsessed with their own prospects. They specifically have declined to part with Mike Olt or Jurickson Profar via trade, even for Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks!
Texas needs a great outfielder to keep pace with the Los Angeles Angels. If the team won't exchange young talent, that leaves free agency as the only alternative and Michael Bourn as the best player available.
A center fielder must cover a lot of ground at Rangers Ballpark, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old is up the challenge. Since 2009, Bourn leads all MLB outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating (via FanGraphs).
The Toronto Blue Jays have addressed nearly every position during the past two months, including manager, shortstop and the starting rotation.
However, the bullpen is a potential weakness. Toronto could be even more vulnerable in the later innings if Darren Oliver retires, which MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm identifies as a strong possibility.
The 42-year-old will be guaranteed $3 million if he pitches in 2013. If he steps away, though, the Blue Jays could give that money to Brian Wilson as a base salary in his comeback year from Tommy John surgery.
After spending freely to upgrade everywhere else, they shouldn't hesitate to complete one more major league deal.
These drawn-out negotiations are finally "inching" toward a close, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
Adam LaRoche has been linked to draft pick compensation since he declined a qualifying offer from the Washington Nationals. Other suitors would be willing to make him a three-year offer if that wasn't the case, but instead, the first baseman needs to settle for what his former team has on the table.
With this signing (and one more of a lefty reliever), the Nationals can enter 2013 as a legitimate championship threat.