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The teams set to make big moves in 2018

Nine of the best free-agents are still available this winter

As Butch said to Sundance, who are those guys, anyway?

Why have the executives who run your favorite baseball teams turned into the most patient, methodical decision-makers on the planet?

When November turned into December without much activity, we were sure it meant the Winter Meetings would be wild. When Disney World came and went with the top free agents still unsigned, we were sure it would mean an unusually active time around the holidays.

But now we're moving into the New Year and still the Hot Stove has generated dozens of questions for every answer. Perhaps Wade Davis' signing with the Rockies will get the ball rolling, as we head into January with several holes waiting to be filled, either through trades or big-ticket signings.

With only about six weeks to go before players head to camp, here are a half-dozen teams to keep your eyes on:

1. Boston Red Sox

So let's list who Boston has added since it was knocked out by Houston in the American League Division Series.

That would be, well, give me a second.

As it turns out, the Red Sox haven't made one external addition to the 40-man roster that thinned out when eight players declared for free agency.

They did re-sign first baseman Mitch Moreland (one of the eight free agents) and sign Esteban Quiroz to a Minor League contract as a possible place-holder while Dustin Pedroia recovers from knee surgery, but that's it. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski seems locked in a staredown with agent Scott Boras over the price for J.D. Martinez, and nothing's happening until that's resolved.

There's been some interest in Martinez elsewhere (D-backs and Giants, with the White Sox as a "surprise team" monitoring his continuing availability) but Boston makes the most sense, especially with Giancarlo Stanton in New York. A Martinez signing would probably mean Andrew Benintendi moves to center, prompting a Jackie Bradley Jr. trade (Giants or Rangers?).

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Mike Matheny must love what president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and general manager Mike Girsch have done, especially the creation of an outfield that will include two of the best two-way corner men going in Marcell Ozuna and Tommy Pham. The front office has addressed the pitching staff, too, with Miles Mikolas returning from Japan on a two-year deal and Luke Gregerson also netting a two-year contract to add experience to the bullpen.

But catching the Cubs will probably require another big move -- something along the lines of signing Mike Moustakas or Martinez. Imagine the depth either of those moves would make, allowing Matt Carpenter to become a part-time first baseman and super utility player or turning Dexter Fowler into a highly paid fourth outfielder.

The Cardinals also still could add a closer. They have a lot of parts to trade, with an outfield surplus that persists even after dealing Stephen Piscotty to Oakland. They showed their aggressive nature by trying to trade for Stanton, so don't be surprised by anything they do. First baseman Eric Hosmer could be an option. The only thing that seems certain is they haven't finished their roster upgrade.

3. Chicago Cubs

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are always busy. Believe it or not, they've added eight pitchers to their 40-man roster through signings and waiver claims, with Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Drew Smyly (unlikely to pitch before August due to Tommy John surgery) the most prominent.

But they haven't reliably replaced Jake Arrieta or Davis (who signed with the Rockies for the highest per-year salary ever for a reliever). They seem to have the financial flexibility to sign Yu Darvish or re-sign Arrieta (seemingly a longshot), as well as the trade pieces to deal for controllable arms. They're going to do something major soon; they always do.

4. Houston Astros

The World Series champs would seem to have made their big move when they traded for Justin Verlander seconds before the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason eligibility. But owner Jim Crane sees a chance to push past the Cubs, Dodgers and Indians to become the strongest of the super teams and is somewhat playing on house money with Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa under team control for nine seasons combined (the first concern being Altuve hitting free agency after 2019).

The Astros are interested in Darvish (even though they pounded him twice in the World Series) and could become a landing place for Arrieta or a closer like Greg Holland). While the Astros have signed Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, a back-of-the-bullpen arm probably makes the most sense.

5. San Francisco Giants

Like the Cardinals, they showed their ambition early by pursuing Stanton. They made a major move in trading for Evan Longoria, but the Giants haven't addressed an outfield that has become a serious liability.

A healthy Hunter Pence would help in 2018, but the best bet here is that the Opening Day center and left fielders aren't yet on the roster. Lorenzo Cain is an obvious target and Martinez remains in play (although not as likely as you might think given the Giants' internal mandate to become strong defensively across the outfield).

A first-base addition became likely after Nick Hundley re-signed, which makes it easier to use Buster Posey at first against lefties. San Francisco could match up well with Pittsburgh for a major trade if Bucs general manager Neal Huntington decides this is the time to rebuild, but so far the indications are he's hanging onto Gerrit Cole, Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. (As an aside, imagine the line of interested teams if the Pirates made closer Felipe Rivero available.)

6. Toronto Blue Jays

Would Toronto deal Josh Donaldson if Boston acquired Martinez? That's an intriguing question for a team that thus far has done nothing more significant this offseason than trade for Aledmys Diaz and Gift Ngoepe.

If the Blue Jays are going to try to ride Donaldson's bat to one more postseason before losing him to free agency, they need to make a major move of their own. Keep an eye on them as a late option for Martinez, who would look awfully good blasting home runs alongside Justin Smoak and Donaldson.

If they decide to trade Donaldson, they could make closer Roberto Osuna available. They could also look to deal Marco Estrada (signed to a one-year extension in September) or J.A. Happ, but it's tough to imagine Marcus Stroman going anywhere.

MLB.com | By Phil Rogers

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