Unfinished offseason business


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Free agency is largely about chasing dollars, but the emotional component can't be discounted. Baseball players, like all athletes, crave certainty, and nothing puts the entire family on edge more than an uncertain job situation after the holidays.

"Even agents admit there's a mental hurdle for a player to go past Christmas," said Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. "That's coming up fairly soon, and, because of that, I think there'll be a greater sense of urgency over the next couple of weeks for players to get signed."

If there's a run on talent between now and the holidays, it's likely to revolve around pitching. That's pretty much all that's left.

Although Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and the other marquee hitters not named Shin-Soo Choo or Nelson Cruz are off the board, starting pitchers of all talent levels and price tags are still available through trade or free agency. So, what hot stove storylines should we keep an eye on between now and New Year's Day? Here's a handy checklist:

The Masahiro Tanaka watch

The posting process continues to proceed at a leisurely pace. Even when Nippon Baseball and the 30 MLB clubs officially agree on the new rules, the system will be subject to approval by MLB's executive committee and the corresponding governing body in Japan. Assuming the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles make Tanaka available, MLB teams will bid a $20 million fee for the right to talk to him, and he'll have a 30-day negotiating window to pick a club. (Only the club that ultimately signs him will pay the $20 million posting fee.)

That means Tanaka probably isn't going to sign any earlier than late January. The Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays are among the potential bidders, and that number could swell to double figures. They're still waiting for definitive word from the commissioner's office, and trying to determine whether they want to fill a need now and punt on Tanaka or hold off on other business until Tanaka becomes available.

"I have no idea [what's happening], which makes us just like 29 other teams," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said Thursday. "He's a great pitcher, and he's had a fantastic career. But we don't know if he's coming to the United States or if he's available for MLB teams. We'll remain patient and abide by the rules, and, if and when he comes over, I'm sure there'll be a lot of conversation about it."

The trade guys

Yes, David Price and Jeff Samardzija are still out there. But Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman is taking a very deliberate approach with talks involving Price, and the Cubs apparently didn't make much headway on Samardzija trade discussions here at the winter meetings. The Cubs continue to explore the idea of a long-term contract extension for Samardzija, but the odds still favor them trading him before he hits the open market in November 2015.

The consensus is that the Dodgers, Rangers and Mariners are the best fits for Price, with Atlanta also a possibility. The Diamondbacks and Braves are among the teams monitoring Samardzija. Until further notice, the Cubs are declaring a moratorium on comments about Samardzija and his future with the organization.

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