MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Ready, set, Stove! Big moves on front burner?

December often when big-ticket dominoes begin to fall

Ready, set, Stove! Big moves on front burner?

This is that time in the offseason when things start to get done. That's what the first week or so after the Thanksgiving holiday has represented to baseball in past years -- a sort of reset button.

In that way, the offseason has a rhythm. In the first month after the World Series, teams attempt to gauge the market for trades and free agents. Once the dominoes begin to fall, they fall quickly.

In the first seven days of last December alone, the three biggest free-agent signings of the offseason -- David Price, Zack Greinke and Jason Heyward -- happened. That was part of a three-week period in which Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jeff Samardzija also came off the board.

In that time, Mark Trumbo, Matt Kemp and Dansby Swanson were among the significant players traded. So as we prepare for this next chapter, here's where we stand:

Hot Stove Tracker

FREE AGENCY
The Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Nationals have attempted to envision the impact Yoenis Cespedes would have on their lineup. The Yankees, Astros and Rangers have played the same game with Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Beltran.

Finally, there's Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. Maybe a dozen teams believe they have a realistic chance of signing one of them.

Here's what we know: The Red Sox and Yankees intend to be active, which changes the dynamics for every team.

Once the wave of major signings starts, Jansen and Chapman may be among the first two or three big-ticket players to come off the board.

TRADES
The Tigers and White Sox are the teams to keep an eye on. Both have expressed a willingness to listen on some of their biggest stars: Chicago's Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and Detroit's Ian Kinsler and J.D. Martinez.

The Astros, Rangers, Braves, Dodgers and Red Sox are among the teams with the prospects to tempt the White Sox to make a deal. The Dodgers have the young players to land Kinsler.

The Angels are shopping for a second baseman but may not have the pieces to get Kinsler. Likewise, the Giants and Martinez.

Angels after a second baseman

KEEP AN EYE ON …
Yankees -- General manager Brian Cashman has arguably the deepest farm system in baseball, and while he has done a nice job constructing a great foundation, he's also looking for immediate help. He has the prospects to get Sale and the money to sign Encarnacion.

Nationals -- General manager Mike Rizzo and team ownership are thinking big. Having won the second-most regular-season games in the Majors the past five seasons, Washington is looking to get over the hump in October. The Nationals could end up making two big moves, say, for both a closer (Chapman) and a middle-of-the-order bat (Cespedes).

Giants -- The Giants have holes to fill and money to spend. History says they will make a splash this offseason. Cespedes would make sense. Likewise, Chapman or Jansen.

Astros -- General manager Jeff Luhnow has acquired Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Charlie Morton. Now he's focused on another bat (Beltran?) and a top-of-the-rotation starter (Chris Archer? Jake Odorizzi?).

Rangers -- General manager Jon Daniels has a farm system deep enough to make a run at one of the White Sox starters or perhaps Oakland's Sonny Gray. Daniels is also seeking more offense, perhaps by making a run at Encarnacion.

LABOR
Some of the more aggressive teams -- Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Nationals -- are reluctant to sign big-ticket free agents until there's a new labor agreement in place. And those deals are the ones that often lead to trades and the smaller signings.

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday, and there probably won't be a lot of action until the players and owners sign off on a new one.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has steadfastly remained optimistic that a deal will get done. While the game has never been healthier, the two sides do have differences.

How they find some middle ground on discussions that include an international Draft, luxury-tax threshold and compensatory Draft picks is what the two sides are attempting to do in these final days.

In other words, it's about to become a really Hot Stove; that is, if players and owners put all these possibilities on ice.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.