MLB.com Columnist

Mark Feinsand

Who will be this offseason's 'mystery team?'

Who will be this offseason's 'mystery team?'

The Hot Stove is simmering on a low boil right now, but with the General Managers Meetings set to start next Monday in Orlando, Fla., things figure to heat up as teams begin to put their offseason plans in motion.

• Hot Stove Tracker

It's a given that the Royals have a lot of work to do this offseason as they look to retain or replace a number of key players, while teams including the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals and Giants should be active, as well.

But what about the rest of the league? Every offseason, teams inevitably come out of nowhere to make a big move or two, turning the league upside down. Zack Greinke signing with the D-backs, the Mariners signing Robinson Cano and the Blue Jays trading for Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle from the Marlins come to mind, for instance.

Who will be the surprise teams this offseason?

An informal poll of executives and agents produced a variety of guesses, with the Phillies coming up more often than any other team.

"They say they aren't doing anything, but I have a feeling they will go after someone big," one executive said.

There is a feeling within the industry that Philadelphia GM Matt Klentak is biding his time with an eye toward next offseason's mega free-agent class. But making a signing such as Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn would give the Phils a solid rotation piece on which to build a year from now, either with a top-of-the-rotation ace (Dallas Keuchel ? Clayton Kershaw?) or a middle-of-the-lineup slugger (Bryce Harper ? Manny Machado?).

Other potential surprise teams mentioned included the Twins, Brewers, Mariners, D-backs and Braves, though it should be noted that Atlanta has yet to hire a new GM following John Coppolella's forced resignation last month.

Making their pitch
It's widely accepted that Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the top two starting pitchers available on this year's free-agent market, but who do teams see as the top target?

Darvish is entering his age-31 season, while Arrieta will be 32 in March. But Darvish is less than two years removed from Tommy John surgery and made a poor final impression with his less-than-memorable World Series performance, one that likely takes the Dodgers out of the mix for his services.

Where will Darvish land?

Arrieta has been solid for the past two years, though he's declined in each season since his 2015 National League Cy Young Award-winning campaign that saw him go 22-6 with a miniscule 1.77 ERA.

Five out of six industry experts I spoke to predicted Arrieta would land a bigger deal than Darvish, though one believed Darvish would get more total dollars and Arrieta a higher average annual value.

Big bats, big deals
Two of the biggest outfield bats on the market are J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce, and according to reports from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, both are looking for serious contracts this offseason.

Martinez, who recently hired agent Scott Boras, is reportedly seeking a deal in the $200 million range, though many believe the 30-year-old won't get close to that.

"He can look for anything he wants," one industry source said.

There's no denying how spectacular Martinez was in 2017, hitting 45 home runs with 104 RBIs and a .303/.376/.690 slash line with the Tigers and D-backs despite missing nearly six weeks to start the season.

A better comp for Martinez is probably Yoenis Cespedes, who got four years and $110 million a year ago, and that seems more in line with what Martinez can expect. He's a year younger than Cespedes was, so perhaps he will be able to get a fifth -- or even sixth -- year at a similar annual value.

Who will sign J.D. Martinez?

Given Martinez's success in Arizona, the D-backs will likely explore the possibility of bringing him back, while other teams such as the Giants and Cardinals are expected to be in on him.

As for Bruce, Crasnick reported that the veteran outfielder is looking for a five-year deal. Bruce hit a career-high 36 home runs this year, and he was a key cog in Cleveland's 22-game win streak after a midseason trade from the Mets. The Indians could try re-sign him, though teams such as the Blue Jays, Royals, Rockies, Giants and Cardinals could also be potential suitors.

Miami moves
A report by Susan Slusser in the San Francisco Chronicle indicated the Athletics are seeking an outfielder, with both Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna of the Marlins drawing Oakland's interest.

Miami is said to be looking to rebuild under a new ownership group led by Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman, and while dealing Ozuna makes some sense, getting rid of Yelich seems counterproductive.

The Marlins -- who will be in the news all offseason as they look for a trade partner willing to assume Giancarlo Stanton's massive contract -- aren't expected to contend for the next two or three years if they decide to rebuild. Ozuna is arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason, meaning he has two years of team control remaining before he hits free agency after the 2019 season.

What are Marlins' future plans?

Getting prospects back for Ozuna seems like a logical move, especially fresh off back-to-back All-Star seasons. Yelich, on the other hand, is signed for $43.25 million over the next four seasons with a $15 million team option for 2022, giving the Marlins control of the outfielder for the next five seasons. Unless they're planning a rebuild that takes more than five years, Yelich makes sense as a long-term piece in Miami.

Of course, if the Marlins are unable to move Stanton, they may be in position to move whatever salary they can, including Yelich.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.