We enter each January as agents of change, armed with our New Year's resolutions and ready to make a difference in ourselves or the world around us.
Usually, though, we evolve into, simply, agents -- negotiating, haggling, sometimes settling. "Six days a week at the gym? Eh, how about two and I'll do a few situps at home before dessert?"
While most resolutions are made to be broken or modified, some are simply less negotiable. And it is in that vein that we present these 10 musts from the Majors.
1. Yasiel Puig must resolve to build on his Oklahoma City experience.
Does any player better represent the Sisyphean struggle that is the New Year's resolution better than Puig? It seems every year we convince ourselves this will be the year Puig lives up to that MVP-type talent he possesses, but it never comes together. In 2016, it was more injury (hamstrings), more plate discipline problems and, eventually, a demotion to Triple-A.
The Dodgers liked what they saw from Puig at Triple-A (.348/.400/.594 slash line), and they like the progress he's made with his offseason nutritional program. All that's missing is a, "We really mean it this time!" The bottom line is that this club needs to drastically improve its performance against left-handed pitching, and that makes Puig really important to them.
2. The Red Sox must resolve to be all right with a lefty rotation.
Three teams have had four lefties make 20 starts in a season. That's it. Three. And two of them were White Sox teams featuring -- you guessed it -- Chris Sale.
So what the Red Sox are potentially doing with Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz is rare to everybody involved except the new guy himself. The question is whether this rarity will work in a home park that has typically been unkind to southpaws, as Price, who surrendered a career-high 30 homers in 2016, can attest.
Of course, if Price and Sale are on-point from a strikeout standpoint, it's a moot point. And that's what Boston's betting on.
The .814 OPS and 116 OPS+ marks from 2016 aren't abjectly terrible on their own. But they were a steep, steep step down from Harper's 1.109 and 198 marks in his National League Most Valuable Player Award-winning season of 2015, and the latter numbers are much more in line with the reported $400 million starting price Harper will be looking for in just two years' time, when he's eligible for free agency.
Harper's free-agent timetable adds to the impetus on the Nats, who just sold off a significant chunk of their farm system in the Adam Eaton swap, to go deep into October. There were reports in 2016 about Harper playing through shoulder discomfort, though Harper and the team denied it. If an injury does explain the drop in production, well, that only adds to the concern that the 24-year-old Harper is simply injury prone. And if an injury wasn't the issue, well, what was?
This will be a fascinating bounce-back bid on a high-profile team for one of the game's most magnetizing talents.
4. The Indians must resolve to make like the 2015 Royals.
It's a three-year guarantee with Edwin Encarnacion, but it's hard to overstate just how much emphasis is placed upon the 2017 portion of that new deal.
The Tribe came a win away from ending what is now a 69-year title drought, and the Encarnacion pact was designed to get them back to that spot and over the last remaining hump. Every year, we talk about the difficulty of repeating as a pennant-winner, specifically how October takes a toll on arms. But the 2015 Royals had a marvelous and unshakable belief in their ability to get back to the big stage, and they lived up to it. The Indians must enter '17 with the same hunger and leave it with the same outcome.
This roster looks like a juggernaut on paper, with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar presumably rejoining the rotation and some hope that Michael Brantley can re-emerge as a lineup presence after two shoulder surgeries. Who knows what the future holds? Carlos Santana is a free agent after 2017, and Corey Kluber, Carrasco, Jason Kipnis and Brantley (if he's healthy and productive enough for his '18 option to even be exercised) are due big raises that will make the payroll picture more challenging.
As the Royals demonstrated, these windows of opportunity to go the distance can be tricky to extend for teams in markets this size. So for the Indians, there's no time like the present.
5. The White Sox must resolve to be totally blown away in a Jose Quintana trade -- or keep him.
Quintana, of course, is the biggest remaining trade chip in Chicago's rebuild, but this is not necessarily a must-sell situation. That, combined with the barren starting market, gives the South Siders the upper hand in Quintana talks.
Is Quintana worth a package comparable to what the White Sox got for Sale (Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz)? Possibly. Though Sale is simply a bit better than Quintana (131 ERA+ over the past four years to Quintana's 118 mark), Quintana comes with an added year of ridiculously affordable team control -- four years total. So Chicago has every right to hold out for the moon and stars.
And if the White Sox don't move Quintana, that's not a bad thing, even though they are now knee-deep in a rebuild. The Royals, Tigers and Twins are all either in or about to undergo major transitions and we just discussed the Indians' post-2017 situation. So Chicago, who added near-ready Major League talent in the Sale and Eaton trades, could have a path to genuine contention in this division as soon as '18 or, at the latest, '19. Because a quality rotation is not easily built and Quintana is so affordable for so long, he could function as a piece to build around about as easily as he does a piece to build with.
6. The Angels must resolve to stay healthy.
True of every team, of course. But for whatever it's worth (not much, I know), FanGraphs currently projects the Angels to be an 85-win team -- which would be good enough, according to their model, for an American League Wild Card spot. Los Angeles had a solid offense last season, yet its lack of depth really showed when the injury bug bit the pitching staff hard.
Commissioner Rob Manfred has compared the pace of game issue to "dandelions in your yard," because it keeps cropping up every time the league starts to feel it has a handle on it. Average time of game dropped six minutes -- to 2 hours and 56 minutes -- from 2014 to '15, but then rose eight minutes in '16. It's cool when Game 7 of the World Series goes four hours and 28 minutes, because none of us wanted that game to end. But there's no reason for average regular-season length to extend past the three-hour mark.
Thankfully, the new CBA didn't expand rosters to 26, which would have only deepened bullpens and prompted more pitching changes. But pace of play wasn't specifically addressed in the agreement. That doesn't mean big-picture ideas, like a pitch clock, can't be discussed midterm. But in the meantime, it would be nice if batters and umpires would do a better job adhering to and enforcing the "one foot in the box" rule instituted in 2015, if the instant replay process could be streamlined and if more pitchers would follow the Sale model of "grip it and rip it."
A great deal of Quintana's trade value is tied to the fact that this year's free-agent starting pitching group was the weakest in recent memory. But barring injury or dramatic downturn, next year looks to provide a rousing recovery in that particular marketplace.
Arrieta has ample incentive to shake off his post-NL Cy Young Award statistical slide in his walk year with the defending World Series champion Cubs, while Darvish -- nearing two full years removed from Tommy John surgery -- should be in line for a significant jump in innings for the Rangers. Cueto and Tanaka are signed beyond 2017 by the Giants and Yankees, respectively, but both have opt-out clauses in their deals after their upcoming season, so their performance merits monitoring.
One other intriguing arm to keep an eye on is Danny Duffy, who made gigantic strides in the Royals' rotation in 2016 and he could be primed to capitalize after '17.
9. Ian Desmond must resolve to prove everybody wrong ... again.
Last year, Desmond, having withered in free agency to the point of moving from shortstop to the outfield with the Rangers, turned out to be greatly underpriced, leaving many clubs kicking themselves for not giving him the opportunity. But now, with a five-year, $70 million deal with the Rockies and yet another position switch -- this time to first base -- there is widespread industry assumption that Desmond is overpriced, that whatever value he presents is wasted at first, etc.
The Rox look like a potentially frisky team if their young rotation holds up (and I wouldn't count them out of the Quintana market, by the way), but right now their decision to commit so much so soon to Desmond in a market that was loaded with power first-base bats is being questioned. Desmond can answer those questions not only with a strong offensive season but a seamless move to a position where the Rockies struggled mightily on the defensive end last year.
As Sara Bareilles once sang, "I want to see you be brave." Specifically this Brave. Approach 2017 the way the 43-year-old Colon approaches his winter workouts, and you'll do your small part to make the world a better place in the New Year.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.