MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

5 teams that will dictate the Winter Meetings

5 teams that will dictate the Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We're looking for a team with a sense of urgency and an abundance of quality prospects. For instance, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals have spent cautiously and constructed their teams smartly. Now this might be the offseason when long-term thinking delivers a short-term payoff. Unwilling to match the Red Sox's $217 million offer for David Price in free agency, the Cards will attempt to acquire a veteran starting pitcher via the trade market.

The Cardinals are one of the few teams that has enough enough prospects to be able discuss even the most untouchable of untouchables -- Sonny Gray, Chris Sale or maybe even Chris Archer.

Unlikely? Absolutely.

Impossible? Nope.

The Cards are perfectly positioned to dictate the tone, if not the pace, of the 2015 Winter Meetings, which begin Monday at the Opryland Hotel. There are other teams to keep an eye on, teams that, like St. Louis, have the ingredients -- and desire -- to make a splash.

Hot Stove Tracker

No matter how many times we survey the landscape at this point in the offseason, it's impossible to know how much will actually get done at the Winter Meetings. Trade discussions sometimes ramp up as teams make decisions about what they can and can't do in free agency.

Sometimes, it's a matter of having one general manager in a deal-making frame of mind. Forty years ago this month, White Sox owner Bill Veeck and his general manager, Roland Hemond, set up shop in the lobby of a South Florida hotel and posted an "Open for business" sign.

In a span of three days, Veeck and Hemond made six trades involving 22 players. No one expects a repeat of that, but there are teams that could get things going, including:

1. Cardinals
Even with Lance Lynn having just undergone Tommy John surgery, the Cards still have a quality rotation. At the moment, it's Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia and either Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney or Marco Gonzales.

Plenty of teams would love to have that kind of quality and depth. Beyond Wainwright, though, there are six pitchers with either a lack of experience or some injury history, not to mention the sting of seeing John Lackey, who was one of the team's most valuable players in 2015, agree to terms with the Cubs on Friday. So general manager John Mozeliak is focused on adding at least one more veteran starter, preferably someone he could count on to pitch 200-plus innings at a high level.

Those aren't the type of guys who get traded very often, but Mozeliak has enough Minor League depth to interest almost any general manager. Perhaps his most fascinating discussions would be with Atlanta regarding Shelby Miller, the 25-year-old right-hander he dealt a year ago in the Jason Heyward trade. Mozeliak would also like to re-sign Heyward, who is a free agent, but pitching is his top priority.

Where does Heyward fit best?

Bottom line: In a division with the Cubs and Pirates, Mozeliak would like more certainty, and it would be a surprise if he didn't pull off something significant.

2. Athletics
President of baseball operations Billy Beane and general manager David Forst have begun the remake of their 94-loss team by acquiring first baseman Yonder Alonso, infielder Jed Lowrie and four pitchers -- relievers Liam Hendriks Marc Rzepczynski and Ryan Madson, as well as swingman Rich Hill.

If the A's aren't decimated by injuries again this season, they're poised to take a huge step forward, though they're still in the market for a big bat.

Lee on A's Winter Meetings plans

Beane has historically been willing to discuss any player on his roster. In this case, that player is Gray, the 26-year-old ace. He's the kind of player that could land Oakland an impact offensive player and perhaps even a young starter. So far, Beane has resisted such a deal, but he's never afraid do something bold.

3. Braves
Miller might be the most sought-after player on the trade market. He's 25 years old, three seasons from free agency and coming off a season in which he pitched 205 1/3 innings with a 3.02 ERA.

Braves general manager John Coppolella has said he's not motivated to move Miller, but that he'll listen to whatever offers teams toss at him. As the top free-agent pitchers disappear from the market, Coppolella has set a high price for Miller and is waiting to see if there's a team out there willing to meet it.

Bowman on odds of dealing Miller

If Coppolella doesn't get an offer he's comfortable with now, there'll be more action leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It'll be interesting to see how tempted Coppolella, a rookie GM, is to deal now.

4. Yankees
The Yanks have held firm on their promise to avoid any additional wild free-agent spending. As Hal Steinbrenner said, "I don't think I should have to have a $200 million payroll to win a World Series."

The Yankees are still in a good spot to do something via the trade market. Their farm system is better than it has been in years. And they're on the verge of getting out from under some of their biggest contracts: Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran after next season and Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia in 2017.

Yankees' Winter Meetings preview

The Yanks are shopping hard for a starting pitcher and could be willing to part with reliever Andrew Miller and/or outfielder Brett Gardner, though those talks have quieted down a bit. General manager Brian Cashman's larger temptation may be in resisting dealing any of his top prospects -- outfielder Aaron Judge (No. 1 prospect), catcher Gary Sanchez (No. 5), etc. -- to land immediate help. Indications are that those kinds of players are untouchable. But with the Red Sox having added Price and Craig Kimbrel, Cashman may have enough depth to do something for 2016 without sacrificing the larger goal.

5. Dodgers
Zack Greinke's departure creates a significant hole in the rotation. On the eve of the Winter Meetings, the Dodgers reportedly signed veteran Hisashi Iwakuma to a three-year deal, but they may not be finished, with Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake also on their radar. To get a more impactful arm -- Gray, Sale or Miller -- the Dodgers would have to give up some of the Minor League depth they're attempting to hold onto. It comes down to thinking big picture or focusing on 2016.

Dodgers miss out on Greinke

What makes their situation interesting is that, unlike a lot of teams, they do have the kind of Minor League depth to pull off a deal for almost anyone. Sure enough, it's was reported early Monday that the Dodgers and Reds agreed on a deal that will send flame-throwing reliever Aroldis Chapman to Los Angeles.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.