Even though Major League Baseball's free-agent period has been open for a few weeks already, the annual winter meetings mark the unofficial beginning for teams to make their big moves for the upcoming season.
The 2017 Winter Meetings, which begin on Dec. 10, will come with their share of drama and intrigue of potential free-agent signings and blockbuster trades.
There have likely already been some discussions between teams and agents for free agents at the general managers meetings that took place in Orlando two weeks ago. Both sides can pick up where they left off from those discussions and start new talks with different parties at the winter meetings.
2017 Winter Meetings Schedule
Dates: Dec. 10-14
Location: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (Orlando, FL)
Where Will Shohei Ohtani End Up?
The most intriguing free agent is one who has never played an MLB game in his career. Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani will be posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters for all 30 teams to make a bid with the winner being able to negotiate a contract with him.
Per MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, under the negotiated posting system that was agreed to on Nov. 21, the maximum posting fee that can be awarded to the Fighters is $20 million.
That does help smaller market teams interested, knowing they don't have to make a bid of $50-plus million like the Texas Rangers did for the right to negotiate with Yu Darvish prior to the 2012 season.
On Nov. 28, Morosi ran down a list of perceived favorites for Ohtani that includes the Rangers, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are also listed as contenders, though the Cubs and Dodgers are limited to just $300,000 in international money after going over their spending budgets during the previous international signing period.
At 23 years old, Ohtani is also significantly younger than a typical free agent. For example, first baseman Eric Hosmer is 28 years old.
As for what Ohtani is such an attractive option for any team, one international scouting director had this to say about his abilities to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo:
"I saw Griffey in the Minor Leagues and A-Rod as an amateur. The buzz about Ohtani is similar to those guys and guys like Strasburg. Compared to Griffey and A-Rod, he isn't as polished a hitter and probably doesn't have the same upside. But he does have the chance to be a Strasburg. What is unique is that he does both."
One scouting director told Mayo he prefers Ohtani as a pitcher because he's got the stuff to be a "top-end-of-rotation guy."
Whatever position Ohtani ends up playing in MLB, he's got a unique skill set that makes him so fascinating to follow throughout this process.
Morosi did note Ohtani's posting period will last 21 days after he's posted, which happened on Friday, making Dec. 22 the earliest date he can sign.
It does take some of the drama away from the winter meetings but adds intrigue to see how teams approach the market with the most exciting talent not able to command the kind of contract a player of his talent would get if he were a traditional free agent.
The Giancarlo Stanton Sweepstakes
There is already a lot of information known about where things stand with Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.
Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported on Oct. 30 the Marlins will try to trade Stanton as part of their effort to bring payroll down to $90 million in 2018.
Since teams know the Marlins want to deal Stanton; the next step is finding clubs interested in making an offer for him.
Morosi and Ben Weinrib reported on Nov. 21 that the St. Louis Cardinals made a formal offer to the Marlins for Stanton.
SiriusXM radio host Craig Mish reported the San Francisco Giants also made an offer to the Marlins that included multiple players from both sides:
Both the Giants and Cardinals have met with representatives for Stanton in the past few days to gauge his interest in playing for them and his willingness to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a trade.
Morosi added that Stanton's team has given the Marlins a list of teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, that he would waive his full no-trade clause for.
The biggest issue in trying to trade Stanton for the Marlins, who have a new ownership group trying to implement their philosophy into the organization, is his contract. Having a no-trade clause gives him all the power in this situation.
There's also the issue of Stanton still being owed $295 million over the next 10 years, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Even with Stanton's stock spiking after being named 2017 National League MVP thanks to hitting 59 home runs, how many teams can afford to add a player under a long-term contract who has missed at least 39 games four times in the last six seasons?
It will be in the Marlins' best interest to make a deal before teams start handing out free-agent contracts, making it more difficult for potential suitors to add Stanton's contract and why the front office will be busy in Orlando.
Because of Stanton's ability to control where he goes, the Dodgers look like the sneaky contender in this negotiation. He's from the Los Angeles area and will be able to return home and play for a team that has an endless supply of money and was one win away from winning the World Series last season.
Prediction: Stanton gets traded to the Dodgers.
How Much Will Eric Hosmer Receive?
The free-agent case for Hosmer is another fascinating storyline to follow, thanks in no small part to agent Scott Boras.
Boras is the best in the business at getting the deal he wants for his clients, especially the marquee players. He waited out the market until the end of January in 2012 to get Prince Fielder a $214 million contract from the Detroit Tigers at a point in the offseason when that kind of deal seemed impossible.
Per Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star, one NL executive speculated Boras will push for an eight-year, $200 million deal for Hosmer.
When trying to determine Hosmer's worth as a free agent, let's use Fielder, who was 27 when he hit the market after the 2011 season, as a point of comparison.
Even though contracts pay players for future performance, their past influences how comfortable teams are giving up a substantial amount of money.
In six full seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2006-11, Fielder averaged 38 home runs, 108 RBI with a .282/.391/.541 slash line. He finished in the top four of NL MVP voting three different times (2007, 2009, 2011).
From 2011-17 with the Kansas City Royals, Hosmer averaged 18 home runs and 81 RBI with a .284/.342/.439 slash line. He never finished higher than 14th in AL MVP voting.
Per FanGraphs, Hosmer's 9.9 career wins above replacement is lower than Fielder's two best combined seasons with the Brewers in 2007 and 2009 (10.6).
It also doesn't help Hosmer's chances to receive $200-plus million that this is a good market for teams buying a first baseman. Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison and Yonder Alonso are all available and won't command anything close to what Boras might seek for Hosmer.
Given Hosmer's age, some team could talk itself into giving him a nine-figure deal over eight or nine years. Anything approaching $200 million will end up turning into a disastrous albatross because he's not a superstar player.
Prediction: Hosmer signs for less than $200 million.