Now that we have a labor peace, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, we can restart the Hot Stove. And just in time -- the baseball world will convene for the next five days in Maryland for the Winter Meetings.
As usual, we should expect a flurry of trades and signings, in addition to the barrage of rumors, reports and speculation.
Here is every team’s first order of business during the meetings -- in one sentence:
Second base was a black hole in 2016 -- the Angels’ .620 OPS at the position was 28th in the majors -- making a guy like Chase Utley a nice fit.
Getty ImagesSean M. Haffey
Houston is the annoying holiday shopper who's finished before anyone else begins (Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, Charlie Morton) -- but perhaps there’s still room in the budget for another starting pitcher to slot in behind Dallas Keuchel.
Starting pitching is in ridiculously high demand, and the rebuilding A’s have one of the most valuable trade chips in Sonny Gray -- so let’s make a deal.
They have to replace two huge bats in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, so they should make yet another run at the Mets’ Jay Bruce.
Add an ace – perhaps Chris Sale or Chris Archer -- to the collection of Nos. 3-5 starter types (Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, R.A. Dickey) they’ve collected thus far this offseason.
Getty ImagesKevin C. Cox
Auction right fielder Ryan Braun -- the franchise leader in home runs -- to the highest bidder and put the final touch on a painful rebuild.
Sign Dexter Fowler to play center field and use the Cubs’ formula from last offseason: strengthen your squad while weakening your biggest rival’s.
Resist the urge to trade Kyle Schwarber and focus on fine-tuning the bullpen, whether it’s pursuing a closer or (more likely) acquiring setup help for Hector Rondon.
After parting with some valuable relievers prior to the deadline this past summer, a reunion with one of them (Brad Ziegler) would be a welcome addition for a depleted unit.
Because they face the possibility of losing multiple free agents (Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Rich Hill, Chase Utley, Joe Blanton), a blockbuster trade makes sense -- perhaps involving Yasiel Puig and prospects.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Sign or acquire a closer -- whether it’s Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson or someone else -- to anchor a bullpen that must be rebuilt.
The biggest potential loss for the AL champs is free agent Mike Napoli, who was the heart and soul of the 2016 team and should be brought back.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY SportsKen Blaze
Like AL West rival Houston, Seattle has been busy all offseason, though it needs to add another starter after dealing Taijuan Walker to the D-backs.
Their reported interest in closer Kenley Jansen is intriguing, but the rotation remains the much more pressing need after the tragic death of Jose Fernandez -- even after the addition of Edinson Volquez.
Deal from their outfield surplus that includes Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto -- with a Bruce deal being the preference.
Find a top-of-the-rotation starter to pair with Max Scherzer -- then try to re-sign Mark Melancon, and if there are any prospects/dollars left, then consider a luxury like Andrew McCutchen.
Getty ImagesDenis Poroy
A corner outfielder (or two), a frontline starter and a DH would be nice, but first comes the void behind the plate created by Matt Wieters’ free agency.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
After trades, injuries and non-tenders (Tyson Ross), there’s not much left, especially in the rotation, which must get the majority of the attention.
Even after adding Howie Kendrick, another veteran outfielder would be ideal for leadership and insurance in a very young lineup.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
Swallow hard, hope for the fans’ forgiveness and trade franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen -- it’s the unfortunate and harsh reality a small-market team faces when trying to plan for the future.
Bringing back center fielder Ian Desmond would be great, but the focus first must be on the middle/back end of the rotation behind Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.
Getty ImagesSean M. Haffey
Bid a fond farewell to Chris Archer and hope he returns a few players capable of helping the franchise emerge from the AL East cellar once again.
Trust Big Papi’s advice and buck up for Edwin Encarnacion to provide and powerful and veteran presence in a young lineup.
After their relievers allowed a major league-record 103 homers this past season, it’s imperative that the Reds bolster their bullpen and save manager Bryan Price from these ulcer-inducing mound visits.
They need a first baseman and don’t want to spend a ton -- making a reunion with Matt Holliday seem like a sensible move.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY SportsScott Rovak
Resist the urge to sell, make one more run at a championship before free agency rips the team apart, and find a front-end starter to bolster the rotation.
Peddle J.D. Martinez -- a free agent after the 2017 season -- to the countless contenders seeking a power-hitting outfielder.
Cash in on Brian Dozier’s career year (42 homers, 99 RBI, .886 OPS) by shopping the second baseman to every interested team.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
Get the rebuild officially underway by trading Chris Sale, and then listen seriously to offers for everyone else (Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, etc.).
Come full circle and acquire Aroldis Chapman for the second time in less than a calendar year, and then chase a big bat and a starting pitcher.