Major League Baseball’s Most Intriguing 2012-13 Off-Season Stories

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Josh Hamilton

Josh Hamilton
Kevin Jairaj -- US PRESSWIRE

When small towns had general stores and the game was called Base Ball, men in winter would draw chairs around coal stoves and discuss the just completed season, and what they thought they'd see in the next one.

The Hot Stove League is among the game's oldest traditions, and the upcoming winter offers no shortage of baseball intrigue.

Josh Hamilton is the jewel in this year's free agent crop. The Texas Rangers' fall from first place was historically loud. Will the Rangers re-sign him, or let him walk and bolster their bullpen?

It's hard to believe that a team with Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo in its infield can lose 101 games, but the Chicago Cubs did. Can Theo Epstein, in his second winter as GM, make the necessary additions and subtractions needed to get the Cubs back to respectability?

Great things were expected in south Florida, where the Miami Marlins opened in a new stadium, with Ozzie Guillen running the on-field show. The Fish finished last, and Oz made more headlines than the players. Will the mercurial Guillen return, or become a one-and-done skipper?

B.J. Upton had a fine year, but the Tampa Bay Rays had the American League's 12th best offense. He's 27, in his baseball prime, and unsigned for 2013. Is he headed elsewhere for a package of prospects? Is there really crying in baseball?

The Boston Red Sox, being the Red Sox, always attract off-season attention. They've blown it up and are starting all over again, a new manager priority number one. Will Sox GM Ben Cherington go with a familiar face, or find his own Robin Ventura?

Everyone would like to have Zack Greinke in their rotation next year, including his current team, the Los Angeles Angels. He's the kind of guy who likes to keep moving, though. Have fastball, will travel; this year's most costly rental. Will his baseball career path finally take him from Kansas City to New York, New York?

Melky Cabrera became baseball's most notorious cheater. The San Francisco Giants aren't playing him in the National League Division Series even though his 50 game suspension has expired. Will the Giants bring him back? Will he ever play in the major leagues again?

Today's environmentally conscious fans who've scrapped the coal stove might consider a name change, to the Solar Panel League.

This off season promises enough headline material to keep the fan checking baseball web sites every day. As is their duty, old school or new, fossil fuel or green.

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Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro
Chris Humphreys -- US PRESSWIRE

Starlin Castro leads the Chicago Cubs in their effort to avoid a second straight 100 loss season in 2013.

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Ozzie Guillen

Ozzie Guillen
Steve Mitchell -- US PRESSWIRE

Ozzie was Ozzie in his debut Miami Marlins season, but will be be Ozzie for the Fish again, or for someone else?

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B.J. Upton

B.J. Upton
Jeff Griffith --US PRESSWIRE

Will the pitching-rich but hitting-thin Tampa Bay Rays trade B.J. Upton for prospects this off-season?

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Torey Lovullo

Tory Lovullo
Jerome Miron -- US PRESSWIRE

Will Toronto Blue Jays' base coach Torey Lovullo get his dream job, that of Boston Red Sox manager?

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Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke
Gary A. Vasquez -- US PRESSWIRE

Is Los Angeles Angels' ace Zack Greinke headed for New York?

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Melky Cabrera

Melky Cabrera
Chris Humphreys -- US PRESSWIRE

Will Melky Cabrera ever play for the San Francisco Giants again? Or for anyone? And what will happen to the Melk Maids?