A longtime evaluator once offered a perfect description of how the market for free agents and trades evolves over the course of the winter. Teams start to think seriously in September and October about forthcoming changes. In November, after the World Series, there is a flurry of activity, with free-agent signings and trade conversations spurred by the GM meetings -- and this year, the Astros are a perfect example of that, with their moves for Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran.
The deals continue through early December, with the offseason feeding frenzy reaching a peak at the winter meetings, the evaluator explained, like a scientist talking about the habits of a feasting bear.
Then sometime between the winter meetings and Christmas, the evaluator said, it's as if layers of ice begin to cover the markets, freezing everything in place. Club officials begin to look ahead to spring training, and mostly or even wholly satisfied with what they've accomplished, they focus on the holidays, on vacations. They're close to being settled on the team they will take to spring training. Some executives begin paying back some of the time they've been away from home to family. They're spending more time away from the office, and they're not making as many calls as they were in November.
And if they do have holes, well, at this stage they might simply be waiting for prices on free agents and trade targets to fully bottom out.