Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/13/13
The Hot Stove quickly cooled from a scalding first week of December to a lukewarm second week, despite the occurrence of the annual winter meetings. In fact, in the age of modern telecommunication, offseason activity may even slow down with everyone under the same roof. "Everybody just holds their cards when it's face to face," one major league executive told SI's Ben Reiter. There's another slowdown in the marketplace, and that is the uncertain professional fate of Masahiro Tanaka, the ace of Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles. The righthander, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season, would be the best available starting pitcher on the major league market if he were to be posted, but the new agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball caps posting fees at $20 million. The Golden Eagles are balking at that figure, meaning Tanaka's fate hangs in the balance -- as do the fates of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and more, as clubs don't want to settle on a starter until they know everyone who's available. The free-agent market is a bit clearer, albeit bleaker, at most other positions as one can plainly see in this roundup of the best available free agents by position. Catcher: John Buck A solid batch of free-agent catchers has already come off the board, including Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Teams looking for a backstop with some pop in his bat should pursue Buck (he averaged 16 home runs the last four seasons), while those eyeing a more defensive-minded catcher can target Kurt Suzuki. Both, however, are better suited to be platoon partners or backups. First base: James Loney The lefthanded Loney, who will turn 30 in May, had a resurgent year with the Rays in 2013, batting .299 with 13 homers and a .778 OPS -- improvements of 50 BA points, seven home runs and nearly 150 OPS points over the previous year split between the Dodgers and Red Sox. Can he sustain it or will he be another one-year wonder in Tampa Bay, a la Casey Kotchmann? A pair of part-time 2013 Yankees, Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis, are the honorable mentions here.
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