Major League Baseball’s hot-stove season is supposed to be heating up, but unfortunately, the looming specter of a lockout if a new collective bargaining agreement can’t be reached before the current one expires on December 1 has given the offseason a sense of dread. 

While no one wants a lockout, the good news is that even if one happens now, there will be three months to get a labor agreement done before teams report to spring training in February. 

The downside is the lockout could make teams and players reluctant to conduct business until they know what any changes to the salary structure might look like. There’s been nothing to suggest any kind of significant change, but negotiations are difficult to predict. 

Since there are still rumblings about teams wanting to do things, let’s look at what some of their plans look like with winter meetings set to start on December 4. 


J.D. Martinez’s Future

The Detroit Tigers might be the most fascinating team to watch this offseason because general manager Al Avila said earlier this offseason that the “organization has been working way above its means for some time,” per’s Jason Beck

There have been diminishing returns for the Tigers since reaching the playoffs in 2014, though they were in wild-card contention this season until the final day. 

Per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Tigers have $179 million committed to 11 players next season. This is not a smart or effective use of resources, making Avila’s desire to cut back on spending necessary so they avoid completely bottoming out in the next year or two. 

Trades become a problem for the Tigers because while players like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are terrific right now, they are signed through 2023 and 2019, respectively. Cabrera will be 39 in the final guaranteed year of his deal, while Verlander will be 36. 

J.D. Martinez is easily Detroit’s most valuable trade asset because he’s young (29) and signed to an affordable contract that runs for only one more season. 

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted that the New York Mets had some interest in Martinez as a backup plan if they couldn’t work out a deal with Yoenis Cespedes

On Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that Cespedes was returning to the Mets. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that Cespedes‘ new deal is for $110 million over four years. 

That leaves Martinez’s trade status once again up in the air, though Heyman also noted that the San Francisco Giants have been linked to him and that a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers could be a fit. 

Martinez had an outstanding 2016 season with a .307/.373/.535 slash line. The only downside was that he missed 42 games with a fractured elbow.

In a free-agent market with few power hitters of substance—Mark Trumbo has 40-homer power, but his .316 on-base percentage last season isn’t inspiring—Martinez’s trade value will likely never be higher. 

Even though the Tigers aren’t yet at a point where they need to tear the whole thing down and start over, they can’t afford to wait much longer to start making deals. 

Martinez should be the first big domino to fall for the Tigers at some point this winter to help restock the farm system. 


Pirates Listening on Josh Harrison

When trade discussions about the Pittsburgh Pirates come up this offseason, they typically involve what the team will do with Andrew McCutchen.

But Rosenthal reported that versatile utility player Josh Harrison is another player the Pirates will listen to offers for this winter.

There were no concrete scenarios listed in which the Pirates would deal Harrison. It’s just a case of the team being open to anything and everything. 

Harrison has been a solid performer over the past three seasons, posting a .296/.329/.426 slash line and 8.9 wins above replacement, per

The Pirates could run into some problems trying to trade Harrison, with Rosenthal noting that other teams would likely prefer Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers or Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins if they are going to deal for a second baseman. 

The Pirates spent a franchise-record $99 million on payroll in 2016, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, but managed only 78 wins because of a combination of injuries and poor performances from key contributors like McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. 

There is still hope for next season because Jameson Taillon looked effective as a rookie. Gregory Polanco turned in a strong year, and Starling Marte continues to be one of the best all-around players in MLB. 

The National League Central figures to be controlled by the Chicago Cubs for a long time, but if Cole and McCutchen return to form in 2017, the Pirates could challenge for a wild-card spot. 

Harrison is under control through at least 2018, with two team options in 2019 and 2020. Pittsburgh doesn’t need to actively pursue moving him at this point, but as a small-market franchise, it can’t dismiss anything at any point. 


Arizona’s Pitching Surplus

New Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen is wasting no time in reshaping the roster after acquiring Taijuan Walker as part of a five-player deal with the Seattle Mariners. 

After the team added Walker to the starting rotation, Rosenthal reported that the Diamondbacks anticipate plenty of trade discussions with other teams involving their young crop of arms. 

Walker, Archie Bradley, Patrick Corbin, Shelby Miller and Robbie Ray certainly possess youth. Corbin is the oldest in that group at 27 years old, and he won’t hit free agency until after the 2018 season. 

Finding the right deal becomes the key for the Diamondbacks, though no one knows exactly how Hazen views any of those players. Trading Miller when his value has never been lower wouldn’t make sense unless the new regime believes he can’t succeed there and needs a change of scenery. 

Corbin had the worst season of his career in 2016 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Bradley is only two years removed from being one of MLB’s top 10 prospects, though his inability to consistently throw strikes (89 walks in 177.1 career innings) isn’t inspiring confidence. 

The Diamondbacks still have plenty of talent to believe they can challenge for a playoff spot next season if things fall into place.

Zack Greinke might be a more sensible trade option for the team by virtue of his $34 million salary, per, but there aren’t many clubs that can afford to take on that much money. 

A full, healthy year from A.J. Pollock gives the Diamondbacks more depth in the lineup to put with Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury

Given the state of things in Arizona thanks to the previous regime, Hazen is in the difficult position of trying to assess where his team is at right now and how quickly it can be fixed.

Hazen came from a situation with the Boston Red Sox where money was rarely an object, but the team always seemed to churn out stars from the farm system, especially in the last few years with players like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi

A lot of mistakes were made in the desert under Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa. Hazen may not always make the biggest splash, but he knows how to help construct a team that can challenge for the playoffs. 

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