The most common thought of the week—I know because I've said it, wrote it, texted it and tweeted it myself—is that there won't be much left for MLB teams to do at next week's winter meetings because everything has already happened.
That, of course, isn't true. It just seems that way after 25 free agents signed major league contracts this week while eight trades were made involving 23 players, according to MLBDepthCharts.com's Transaction Tracker.
In reality, there is still plenty that could occur, and several teams haven't even made their first move yet. Others that have been busy aren't anywhere near finished making over their roster. And in a setting where general managers can meet face-to-face with fellow general managers, free-agent players and their agents, things tend to happen at a much more rapid pace.
That setting is Orlando, Fla., home of this year's winter meetings. Beginning on Monday, December 9, all 30 organizations will be represented heavily by front-office personnel and anyone else involved in making key decisions. By Thursday, most will head out of town, and several players will have changed teams.
Here are five teams to keep an eye on, either because they're likely to be one of the most active in pursuing impact talent and/or because they have impact talent to trade.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks (Buyer)
General manager Kevin Towers has yet to add any talent to his big league roster this offseason, but he did clear up some space in a crowded bullpen and free up $5 million from his payroll when he traded Heath Bell to the Rays. He could be gearing up to make a splash next week in Orlando.
Towers is reportedly shopping for a power bat—Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the D-Backs were in discussions with the A's on a potential deal that would've landed them Yoenis Cespedes; Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic wrote that they made a strong push for Carlos Beltran before he signed with the Yankees—and/or an ace starter, as reported by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. It would be a surprise if Arizona went home empty-handed.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (Buyer/Seller)
The Dodgers have been quiet, making just two notable roster moves thus far. Bringing back veteran reliever Brian Wilson to set up for closer Kenley Jansen and adding Dan Haren to fill out the back of the rotation has cost the Dodgers a total of $20 million (each is guaranteed $10 million for 2014).
They're capable of much more, although general manager Ned Colletti could be more focused on trading one of his outfielders.
Next week could be his best chance to gauge interest in his trio of available outfielders—Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported last month that the Dodgers were willing to listen to offers on all three.
Kemp would be the biggest catch, and his agent, former big league pitcher Dave Stewart, told Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston that he has a "strong feeling something could happen" involving his client in Orlando next week. Nick Cafardo wrote last month that the Red Sox had inquired on Kemp as a possible replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury, who signed with the Yankees.
With Carlos Beltran, Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson all coming off the free-agent board in recent days, teams could be more focused on adding outfield help through trades. If Shin-Soo Choo signs over the weekend or early next week, Colletti might be the most popular man around the hotel lobby for the remainder of the meetings.
3. New York Yankees (Buyer)
Carlos Beltran. Jacoby Ellsbury. Hiroki Kuroda. Brian McCann. What an amazing start to the offseason for the Yankees! But they're not done. At least they better not be. They still have an infield spot to fill, as well as a starting pitcher and at least one late-inning reliever to add before we can declare them playoff contenders once again.
Free agency is still the likely route for general manager Brian Cashman, although the addition of Beltran and Ellsbury could make Brett Gardner expendable.
They could also wait for Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka to be posted, although there is no guarantee that his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, will make him available this year, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Instead, they could focus their attention on one of the top three free-agent starters, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, all of whom are still available.
4. Seattle Mariners (Buyer)
The Mariners made a huge statement when they agreed to sign star second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal early Friday—the news was first reported by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes. But they weren't one superstar player away from being legitimate contenders in the AL West.
General manager Jack Zduriencik knows that, which is why the M's are still expected to make news this offseason in free agency, the trade market or both. Acquiring ace starter David Price would be another step in the right direction, and the M's think they have the package of players to make a deal happen, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.
Even if they don't land Price, the fact that he's on their radar shows that the M's aren't close to being finished in their quest to build a contender for 2014.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (Buyer/Seller)
The Rays would very likely trade ace David Price in the right deal, and 17 of 21 front-office personnel surveyed by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick last month think he'll be traded. Whether it happens or not, expect this to be the No. 1 topic next week in Orlando.
The Rays are also shopping for a first baseman, and they're interested in re-signing James Loney, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. They could also acquire their next first baseman in a deal for Price or in a smaller deal involving one of a handful of players around the league that could be available, including Ike Davis, Mitch Moreland or Logan Morrison, who the Marlins are willing to listen to offers on, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
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