The 2019 MLB winter meetings will get underway Monday, which should coincide with the true heating up of the hot stove.
There have been a few notable signings and trades this offseason, but a vast majority of the big names remain on the market. While there's a good idea of which teams are ready to back up the Brinks truck for the likes of Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the trade winds are harder to figure out.
Here's what we know about two of the biggest names that could potentially be on the move.
Mookie Betts Staying Put?
It's no secret the Boston Red Sox want to avoid the luxury tax in 2020. Whereas the rival Yankees have apparently grown so frustrated with falling short in October that they're ready to bury Gerrit Cole in cash, the Red Sox are only a year removed from a World Series and are a little wary about investing more money in last season's disappointing bunch.
That sound you hear is an entire group of Boston fans scrunching their faces in horror because they know where this is headed.
The fall guy in this scenario appears, strangely enough, to be Mookie Betts. The All-Star outfielder appears to be the exact type of player the Red Sox would want to invest in for the foreseeable future. He's a four-time All-Star, one-time MVP, four-time Gold Glove winner and three-time Silver Slugger recipient at age 27. Mike Trout is the only position player who has more wins above replacement than Betts over the last five seasons, per FanGraphs.
Given the market set by Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado last offseason, it would stand to reason that the Red Sox should be lavishing him with a contract approaching $400 million. That's not been the case. Instead, Betts has been the subject of trade speculation dating back to the regular season—a source of mass frustration with the fanbase, given Red Sox ownership is flush with cash.
The good news: Betts is unlikely to be on the move. For now.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported it's "unlikely" the Red Sox trade Betts this offseason because teams are not willing to meet the asking price. Betts can become an unrestricted free agent next winter, and teams are apparently satisfied with waiting until then rather than potentially seeing him walk without compensation a year from now.
That's a smart strategy on their part and also why the Red Sox need to refocus their efforts on retention. It frankly should have never gotten to this point. Betts is a franchise cornerstone who deserves the respect of the biggest contract in Red Sox history. Hand-wringing over the financials when you're the Boston Red Sox is an awful look for the front office.
Pirates Want Catching Prospects for Marte
Speaking of alienated fanbases, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter this offseason with little hope of contending anytime soon. Their fun run near the top of the NL Central from the middle part of the decade is over, with three losing seasons in their last four. Pittsburgh's 69 wins last season were the club's fewest since 2010.
The downturn could spell the end of Starling Marte's time in the Steel City. The 31-year-old is the Pirate with the most value to opposing clubs, and he's old enough that it's unlikely he'd still be in his prime when they're contending for a playoff spot again.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported the Pirates have yet to find "traction" on a trade market for Marte, but they desire a catching prospect in talks. Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield of ESPN suggested the Diamondbacks as a potential trade partner. Arizona has catching prospect Daulton Varsho, though it's unclear if they'd be willing to move him in a deal.
Marte is the type of player who doesn't necessarily command an elite, top-level prospect but should return two mid-level guys and another young, high-upside prospect. He's under team control through the 2021 season, with a no-brainer club option for $12 million that season.
That affordability makes it possible the Pirates will keep him into the season with the hopes that a better offer will come available in July.