October baseball seems to already be winding down, and for the 26 MLB teams not playing for the World Series, the hard work has begun.
Every team has targets in mind for the offseason, but given the sparsity of All-Star talent in the free-agency pool this year, teams will have to cut to the chase and sign the players they want quickly.
Who will win the big fish?
Who will be the one to tender a nonsense contract to an overvalued player?
Who will doom their team before the players even show up for spring training?
These are just a few of the questions that will soon be answered, and as fans, all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.
Without further ado, here are power rankings for who will be the most active club in the offseason.
The entire Dodger nation went through Frank McCourt's divorce this season, and as his owner status dwindles, so does the status of the Dodgers in the offseason.
Offseason acquisitions seem to be one of the last things on the mind of the Dodgers front office.
It's a far cry to hope that L.A. would be in on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes, and with the Cardinals inching closer to a World Series, it's uncertain whether Albert Pujols will even be available to the lineup of teams waiting to contend an offer to him.
Logan White, the assistant GM in L.A., has a keen eye for pitching talent, but there isn't much of it to pick from in the free-agency pool this season.
Don't expect the Dodgers to make a big splash in the offseason this year.
The Diamondbacks are the true Cinderella story of 2011.
Predicted by many to be in the basement of the entire major leagues, Arizona surprised just about everyone when it made the postseason.
The good news for the D-Backs is that they aren't losing any of their core players from this year's campaign.
Aaron Hill, the second-base acquisition from the Blue Jays, is eligible for free agency after the season but has an option for 2012.
There is some talent in free agency this year at second base, but Hill improved his production markedly when he made the move to the desert, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Arizona pick up the option.
Cleveland enjoyed a great start to its 2011 season, only to have it come to an abrupt halt at the midpoint.
With their midseason acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez and the return of a healthy (hopefully) Grady Sizemore, whose 2012 option will likely be picked up, the Tribe will try to take the same team that dominated the majors in the early months of 2011 into 2012.
They may aim to pick up a starter for the middle of their rotation this winter, but they won't be too immersed in the free-agent feeding frenzy.
There is only one thing on the mind of the Texas Rangers this winter, and that is the acquisition of prized international pitcher Yu Darvish.
Texas is perceived as the front-runner for the supposed future All-Star, according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi, and it will pursue him very aggressively, as it will be one of many clubs trying to land the hurler.
They will need him too if they have any hope at all to replace ace C.J. Wilson.
Expect to see virtually the exact same squad on the field in 2012 for the Rangers.
In spite of the late-season collapse by the Braves, GM Frank Wren doesn't plan on making any drastic changes this offseason.
Chipper Jones is becoming more and more injury prone, and he's climbing up the ladder of life at breakneck speeds (no pun intended).
He likely won't be able to play on a day-to-day basis in 2012, meaning the Braves will want to look at a third baseman who can play around the field.
Michael Cuddyer could be a viable option this offseason, and if the Braves re-sign Michael Bourn (as they should), they will be poised for a National League East division title next year.
Don't expect to see Atlanta's name on many offseason transactions this winter.
After taking on the beefy contract of the increasingly useless Vernon Wells last year, I don't see the Angels going buck wild this offseason.
It's beside the point, anyway.
The Halos are loaded with young talent, and the top of their rotation pitches with the best of 'em.
Areas of interest for Los Angeles are late-inning relief and backstop depth.
Jose Molina is a defensively and offensively talented catcher and could be a good fit in the Angels lineup.
Jordan Walden was great for L.A. in 2011, racking up 32 saves. With Scott Downs departing at the end of the season, Walden could be optioned to the setup role, making room for a big-time closer. Heath Bell perhaps?
Either way, I don't see the Angels being key players in this year's offseason.
Detroit only has two mainstay players eligible for free agency this winter.
One of them, Jose Valverde, is a lock to be re-signed, whereas the other, Magglio Ordonez, likely won't receive a new contract.
This means Detroit will need to fill a hole in the outfield, a short order given the depth of talent in the free agency and the lack of talent demonstrated last season from Ordonez.
The Tigers have also been recognized as one of the players in the CC Sabathia sweepstakes if—and that's a big if—Sabathia opts out of the remaining time on his contract.
This is unlikely, though, so don't expect Detroit to be very busy after its postseason run.
Kansas City has the top-rated farm system in the majors, meaning technically it could make due with going relatively inactive in the offseason.
However, according to general manager Dayton Moore, the club will entertain trade proposals that would take some of their prospective talent in return for an established starting pitcher.
This being said, dealing prospects is always a little more complex than it seems.
The Royals won't be giving up any young talent unless they get exactly what they want in return, which you can never guarantee will happen in the trade market.
I'm curious to see how Moore handles the offseason.
The Milwaukee Brewers seemingly have one last chance with Prince Fielder in their uniform to win a World Series, and they look prepared to do it.
While it is still uncertain whether or not Milwaukee will be able to keep its superstar slugger, it seems unlikely that it will happen.
This could change if they win it all this year, though.
A World Series could be incentive enough for Fielder to stay where his career began, in which case Milwaukee will have little ground to cover in the offseason.
For the purposes of this article, though, let's assume Fielder tries his hand at free agency.
In this case, the Brew Crew will need to fill a massive hole at first base, a position not well inhabited in free agency.
Yuniesky Betancourt will also be eligible for free agency this winter.
Whether they choose to renegotiate a new contract with the shortstop or not will determine how much activity we see from the Brewers after the season ends.
In any case, it'll be interesting to see how the rest of the postseason plays out, as it will have huge implications for Milwaukee's offseason.
It's tough to imagine the Yankees not making some noise in the offseason, but after last year's conservative approach to roster management in the winter, don't be surprised to see another year of uncharacteristically minimal activity in the free-agency or trade market.
There are a lot of questions circling the Yankees' current roster after being eliminated from the playoffs with the best regular season record in the majors.
Brian Cashman will certainly look to extend ace CC Sabathia's contract, and as he expresses is "always" the club's offseason focus, he will look to further bolster the rotation for 2012.
While the Yankees cannot be ruled out of the conversation, don't expect them to tender any offers to Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder when October concludes.
According to executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the Rays have a lineup that sets them up for success in 2012.
This suggests minimal changes in the batting order we saw in 2011.
However, they will look to improve the bullpen from last season by adding a couple arms either in the form of free-agency signings or trade packages.
With James Shields potentially on the trading block and a collection of relief men in free agency, Tampa Bay will have ample opportunities to fill this need in the bullpen.
The fate of Jose Reyes will determine how active the New York Mets are in the offseason.
It is still quite uncertain whether the team will reach an agreement with the superstar for a new multi-year contract or if he will opt to reel in a monster contract in free agency.
If the Mets lose Reyes, they will need a replacement shortstop.
Easier said than done, because there really aren't any options on the market this year that would fill the position the way Reyes did.
Regardless of what the perennial All-Star decides to do with the future of his career, New York will need late-inning relief help, and it will need it badly.
After losing Francisco Rodriguez to a trade before the deadline, the eighth and ninth innings haven't been claimed by any of the Mets bullpen arms.
They could target Heath Bell, but the likelihood of him leaving the place he loves for the cold climate of New York is slim.
In any case, free agency has some talent in the area of relief, and you can be sure the Metropolitans will have their hand in on any of the big-ticket hurlers in that category.
According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, the Nats will look to add a starting pitcher and an outfielder to the roster in 2012.
Luckily for them, there is a wealth of outfield talent in the free agency this year.
I personally like Coco Crisp as an option, as he affords the club an opportunity to use him as a leadoff hitter, a position it was considerably weak at in 2011.
There are seven players eligible for arbitration this winter, and by avoiding arbitration to certain players and unloading them to other teams, Washington could shift its focus to the acquisition of C.J. Wilson.
The Nationals have the resources to do it, and as they are one of the most noticeably improving teams of the last couple years, I would expect them to pursue Wilson aggressively if they decide to tender an offer.
The Nats have fairly busy in recent offseasons, and the trend doesn't seem to be slowing in 2012.
The Chicago White Sox will be in a rebuilding stage in 2012.
This means they won't be going too crazy in the offseason.
However, they could look to unload some of their aging players in trades to acquire some younger talent.
It's tough to say what they will do in free agency, but in rebuilding the team, the lineup will need to be shaken up a bit, so expect there to be activity. That said, don't expect the Sox to be in on any big transactions this winter.
There isn't much Philly can do this offseason that would improve its chances at a World Series.
The best bet for the club is to try to retain as many of the "core" players that led it to the playoffs in 2011as possible.
Even though Ryan Howard's injury puts an uncomfortable feeling in Philadelphia's stomach, the biggest question is at shortstop.
Longtime Philly favorite Jimmy Rollins is eligible for free agency and is looking for a multi-year deal in the five-year neighborhood.
The Phillies will have a decision to make.
If they lose Rollins, the hole at shortstop will be too big to fill adequately through free agency.
The club will likely also need to target a closer, as Ryan Madson will be looking for a hefty contract.
The City of Brotherly Love is going to be under a great deal of pressure this winter after coming up short in the playoffs and will owe it to the fans to make amends in 2012.
Cincinnati will consider offers for star slugger Joey Votto this winter, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
I personally don't think he's going anywhere, but anything is possible, I suppose.
Aside from this, the Reds will have their hands full with the future of Brandon Phillips and Francisco Cordero.
They will also look to make amends for failing to land the prize of the trade deadline, Hunter Pence.
They will have plenty of talent in the outfield to choose from.
It's tough to say how active the Bucs will be in the offseason this year.
After losing Kevin Correia to injury and receiving little production from Lyle Overbay in 2011, general manager Neal Huntington says he is unhappy about his offseason moves of 2010.
This could mean one of two things for the Pirates.
Either Huntington is more timid in the offseason, making him less active in pursuing players, or he will look to make amends for last year's offseason activity and make a splash in free agency.
Either way, the team will have to decide what it wants to do with first baseman Derrek Lee, as well as Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder, so it will be active at least within its own organization.
Losing any of these players opens up a hole at their respective positions, so unless all are retained, look for Pittsburgh to target a catcher, first baseman or bullpen arm.
Colorado will need to make a few additions this winter.
Believe it or not, pitching isn't one of them.
According to Rockies co-owner Dick Monfort, the Rockies' top priorities are third base, the outfield and a right-handed bat.
There won't be much to choose from in free agency, but re-signing Kevin Kouzmanoff isn't an option, so the club will have to either make due with what it can get in free agency or test out the trade market.
The BoSox will be active in the offseason on the field and in the front office.
It looks like Theo Epstein's days in Boston are finished, and with the recent termination of Terry Francona, the club will have to sort out the front office and managerial situation before it can concern itself with on-field acquisitions.
With regards to the roster, David Ortiz will be eligible for free agency, as will Tim Wakefield and Mike Cameron.
If Wakefield's option for 2012 isn't picked up, there is always the possibility he'll retire.
This could be incentive for the Sox to keep him in the rotation for one more year and hope he can give them one more good season.
In the case where Big Papi walks, Boston will have to scour free agency for a reliable replacement.
While no one can offer the value at DH that Ortiz could, there are some attractive options for the club to fill the hole.
A utility player like Michael Cuddyer would be a good fit, as he would actively fill the hole left by Mike Cameron as well.
The Oakland A's are about to lose a lot of offensive production.
With Hideki Matsui and Coco Crisp set to leave after season's end, Oakland will need to replace them if it has any hopes for even moderate success in the AL West next season.
If you've read the book or seen the new movie, you know how Moneyball works.
Billy Beane will replace these sluggers—that is, if he is unable to keep any of them—with likely less talented players.
While none of the Athletics' moves this offseason will knock you off your feet, expect there to be several changes in the lineup before spring training rolls around.
Alex Anthopoulos is making a name for himself as one of the more active general managers in the majors.
He is determined to put a contending Blue Jays squad on the field, and his time to do that is running out.
With a talented pitching staff and a handful of adequate starters in the farm system, the blue birds have some leverage in the trade market on any team that is looking for a starter, especially given the sparsity of starters in free agency this year.
Not to imply that Anthopoulos is willing to part with any of his starting arms, but if he can assess the need in the bullpen for late-inning relief and, more specifically, a reliable closer, he certainly has the trading pieces to do so.
Toronto will also be looking to fill the void at second base, as Kelly Johnson will likely be heading to free agency after the season.
The expectations on Anthopoulos are huge, and you can be sure he will not disappoint this winter.
San Diego has a lot to consider this offseason.
There are 13 players eligible for arbitration after this season's end, and while they won't cost an obscene amount of money to retain, the Padres will have to assess where improvement is needed for next year and whether or not these players will yield those improvements.
A Padres official has also noted to writer Tom Krasovic that it is well within the realm of possibility that the club would pursue a trade for soon to be Red Sox outcast John Lackey.
This trade would likely send a player like Orlando Hudson to Beantown in exchange for Lackey and at least one young big leaguer or minor leaguer.
Baltimore is coming off yet another unsuccessful year in the AL East.
Hopefully for the Orioles faithful, they make some noise like they are expected to this winter.
The O's have been connected to Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols since the beginning of time (not actually, but it sure seems like it).
Whether or not they will make a move or, more specifically, shell out the mammoth contract either player will require remains to be seen.
One thing's for sure, though: Derrek Lee wasn't the man for the job.
Baltimore needs to fill holes at first base, DH and the outfield, as well as strengthen its rotation.
It's about time for Baltimore to start making a case for itself in the AL East again, and with close to $50 million coming off the books this winter, it will have ample opportunity to put a winning team together.
We're still some years away from a Baltimore playoff appearance, but with two big fish on the market in 2011, a big step can be taken in that direction.
Don't shoot me.
I realize what this looks like, and I assure you I am not implying that the Astros will target Jose Reyes.
However, if I could play devil's advocate for a minute, I am going to entertain the idea.
I have the Astros at this position for a number of reasons, including a little bit of intuition.
With owner Jim Crane set to take the reins in Houston, he'll hopefully look to start his term with a bang.
Houston unloaded its most talented position players in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn before the trade deadline, leaving little talent in the 'Stros lineup.
With a rebuilding phase in action, Houston has a need at just about every position.
Either way Crane decides to play the offseason should mean lots of activity for Houston.
Should he target Reyes and throw the big bucks at him, he could have the centerpiece for the Astros' future.
Should he take a more timid stance, Crane can add a number of pieces from free agency to his lineup.
I find it hard to believe a new owner wouldn't use his resources to their fullest extent when his team needs the investment most, so I expect Houston to be quite busy after October's conclusion.
Similar to the Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals are about to lose a superstar first baseman to free agency.
Not similar to the Brewers, the Cards have a handful of other key players who are free-agency eligible after the season concludes.
Yadier Molina, Nick Punto, Ryan Franklin, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright all could leave St. Louis after 2011.
It is likely that the Cards will push to re-sign Carpenter, Wainwright and Molina, as they have been critical pieces to their run of success over the past few years.
If Pujols leaves in free agency, which is the likeliest possibility, St. Louis will need to find the best replacement possible to make the loss of talent as minimal as it can.
Whether through the trade market or free agency, the Cardinals are going to be very busy keeping as much of the team together as possible, while hoping to find an adequate replacement for Pujols.
Brian Sabean has noted that the Giants will look to keep the pitching staff intact before they shift their focus to position players.
With Matt Cain eligible for free agency in 2013, San Francisco is going to put his contract negotiations at the top of its priorities.
Barry Zito's health is now becoming a regular concern, giving the Giants a chance to work on tendering a contract to starter Jonathan Sanchez.
Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran will also hit free agency this winter.
Sabean has the money to negotiate a contract with Beltran. The Giants will have the opportunity and resources to keep their outfield intact, but the resources will only be allocated to the outfield once the prized pitching staff is taken care of.
A lot will need to be done in San Francisco to keep the winning formula intact.
The Cubs are in need of just about everything this offseason.
As they search for a new GM to replace Jim Hendry, many openings are visible in the roster.
With the likely departure of third baseman Aramis Ramirez at the end of the season, as well as Carlos Pena on the opposite corner, Chicago loses two of its top offensive producers.
The Cubbies also lose three pitchers from their bullpen, leaving a gaping hole in that area as well.
With money to spend, they have the opportunity to take the offseason by storm.
Signing Albert Pujols has been on their minds since early 2011, and unloading Carlos Zambrano offers the potential to bring in a talented third baseman from any team willing to put up with Big Z's antics.
Chicago is hungry for some success, and with the team's landscape set to make a pretty drastic change, look for a completely revamped Cubs roster in 2012.
Seattle is in shambles.
Well, at least its depth chart is.
The M's will be extremely busy this offseason as they try to fill holes at almost every position on the field.
After losing Doug Fister and Erik Bedard to trades earlier in the season, Seattle is going to need to strengthen the bottom of its staff.
Additionally, it will need to put some priority on bullpen depth, even with the returns of Brandon League and Shawn Kelley.
A need also presents itself at shortstop, where Brendan Ryan has been anything but useful.
The bottom line for Seattle is offense.
General manager Jack Zduriencik has a lot on his plate this offseason, and he'll need to use his resources wisely in picking the right offensive producers for the lineup, while still maintaining a rotation that performed very well for the club in 2011.
With the Diamondbacks setting the new standard for comeback seasons, Seattle would love to be the next team to follow in Arizona's footsteps.
We are about to witness the end of an era in Marlins baseball.
The soon-to-be Miami Marlins are going to be more active this offseason than ever before.
Owner Jeff Loria is usually known for being rather stingy with his money and how he supports the team's payroll.
2012 will be different, though.
According to Joe Capozzi of The Palm Beach Post, payroll for the Marlins in 2012 could hit $100 million for the first time in franchise history.
If this is the case, Miami will seek rotation depth and an offensive spark.
At this point in time, with the Marlins' offseason outlook looking bright, don't discount the Fish entering bidding on any free agents.
That's right. If Miami chooses to trade some young talent for a more "win now" friendly package of players to fill the center field and third base holes, payroll could be spent on one of the big fish (no pun intended) in the free-agent pool.
However, a trade for offensively gifted position players would require Miami to part with the talents of Gaby Sanchez and the young Logan Morrison, two of the club's most productive young players.
In the case where the team would like to fill in those positions from the free agency, options like Aramis Ramirez and Coco Crisp present themselves.
This would give some security for third base and center field and give the club a chance to seek starting pitchers in the trade market.
There are a number of needs that the team will need to address in the offseason and a number of ways to fill them with the new allowance of resources.
Regardless of how they satisfy these needs, the Marlins are certain to be one of the most exciting teams to watch this offseason.
You might even want to pre-order bandwagon tickets.
It is in the best interest of the Minnesota Twins to be No. 1 on this list.
After its worst finish in over 10 years, Minnesota needs to assess many areas of its lineup.
The Twins will likely need to sign a starting pitcher, backup catcher and at least one solid arm for the bullpen if they want to bounce back from an embarrassing 2011, not to mention a position player to compensate for the loss of outfielder Delmon Young.
Minnesota should have the money to spend this year, meaning it could target one of the only big-ticket pitchers in free agency, C.J. Wilson, who will absolutely look to test the waters if Texas is eliminated from the postseason again.
Jose Molina and Rod Barajas will also be affordable options for the club as a secondary backstop, and relief and outfield options are plentiful in this year's free agency.
No one likes to be a laughingstock. Usually perennial postseason contenders in the AL Central, the Twins would like to regain that label in 2012.