World Series dreams are alive and well for eight MLB teams following the two Wild Card Games, but the rest of the league already has its attention on the upcoming offseason.
The offseason means player movement, as squads look for the next marquee free agent to ensure they will be the ones playing in October in 2018 and the years to come. While the hot stove is only simmering at this point with plenty of rumors to come down the line, there are already some notable names being thrown around.
With that in mind, here is a look at the latest buzz surrounding Eric Hosmer, Zack Cozart and Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano.
Royals Interested in Keeping Hosmer
Hosmer has been a Kansas City Royal his entire career and developed into a fan favorite, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported "all signs suggest" the only team he has ever known will attempt to re-sign him "even if it won't be easy."
Heyman noted Kansas City is "willing to make a serious offer (presumably $100 million plus)" but acknowledged big-market teams such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will make their pushes as well.
It is no mystery why the American League East teams or others would want the 27-year-old. The 2016 All-Star slashed .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI this season, and the power numbers continued a pattern from last year when he set career-highs with 25 long balls and 104 RBI.
While Hosmer represents a steady presence in the lineup, he is also a notable fielder, considering he is a three-time Gold Glove first baseman.
He used his formidable bat and glove to help the Royals reach the World Series in 2014 and win it in 2015. The Red Sox and Yankees make sense as potential destinations given Hosmer's postseason prowess, which was particularly clear in 2014 when he slashed .351/.439/.544 with two home runs in 15 games.
Still, Heyman's report made it clear Hosmer is a priority in this critical offseason for the Royals, as Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas are also set to be free agents.
Prediction: Hosmer has been a Royals centerpiece his entire career, and they will make sure it stays that way with their offer. He remains with Kansas City.
Nationals Could Eye Cozart
Cozart is one of the more interesting case studies this offseason because he is coming off an impressive season, but he's on the wrong side of 30 years old and failed to generate significant interest as a trade piece in 2017.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted the Cincinnati Reds "had trouble trading him at the deadline" and may not make Cozart a qualifying offer at $18.2 million. "If not, the Nationals have shown interest in him in the past, and they may want to move Trea Turner to center," Cafardo wrote.
From the Reds' perspective, Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote in August the qualifying offer would represent 150 percent more money than Cozart has made in his career. That, as well as the suggestion a lackluster trade market could mean a lackluster free agency market, indicates there isn't much "to dissuade Cozart from accepting the qualifying offer."
However, Jose Peraza is the shortstop of the future for the Reds at just 23 years old. This is a rebuilding club that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2013 and is coming off a third straight season with less than 70 wins. Cozart is 32 and figures to be past his prime when Cincinnati is ready to compete, even though he reached his first All-Star Game this past season.
He slashed .297/.385/.548 with 24 home runs and 63 RBI and has been a steady presence at shortstop his entire career as well, tallying positive defensive runs saved above average every season, per FanGraphs.
His head-turning 19 runs saved from 2014 dropped to just two this year, but he is still a reliable option with a proven track record.
Prediction: The Nationals are in the middle of a win-now window as they prepare for this year's playoffs and will look to bolster their offense with the addition of the veteran Cozart. The Reds will give Peraza playing time and experience in 2018 and elect not to extend Cozart the qualifying offer. He will be on Washington in 2018.
Cardinals Looking to Japan for Bullpen Help
The St. Louis Cardinals missed the playoffs for the second year in a row after a stretch of five straight appearances and figure to make a number of changes this offseason to revamp the club.
Along those lines, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported they are interested in Hirano, who played for Orix and is "free of any bonus limits or posting fee" as an international free agent.
Goold noted the Cardinals have previously scouted Hirano, who could step in at the back of the bullpen after it was revealed in August Trevor Rosenthal needed Tommy John surgery.
The St. Louis bullpen finished a middling 16th in the league in batting average against this season, per ESPN.com, and the question marks extend beyond Rosenthal's absence. According to Goold, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley will not return in 2018 as the Cardinals "veer toward a more modern approach to starter usage and bullpen deployment."
What's more, Juan Nicasio—whom they acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in September—is set for free agency after posting a 1.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in nine games for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals need to solidify the bullpen, and Hirano would help them do just that after two impressive seasons. According to Baseball-Reference, he finished with a 2.56 ERA in 2017 and 1.92 ERA in 2016 and has also toned down his home runs allowed, which plagued him early in his career. He allowed 12 in 2006, 18 in 2007 and 14 in 2009 but just five this year and two last year.
Prediction: St. Louis is eyeing an improved bullpen as it chases the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central in 2018, and Hirano would be an ideal addition. It will sign him as he shifts his career to the United States.