There isn't really such thing as a perfect offseason. A front office can dream of all the right moves to fill holes with the players at the top of its most wanted list. You might even have an owner with an open checkbook. But things rarely line up in exactly the right way. Maybe the prized free agent simply wants to play somewhere else. Maybe you wait for Plan A, and in the meantime Plans B and C sign elsewhere, so you go to Plan D, and then the fans wonder why you didn't sign B or C. It's a game of musical chairs.

Here are five of the most interesting teams to watch as this offseason finally kicks into high gear, those that will help drive much of the action. We didn't include the New York Yankees, although if Aaron Judge leaves, they could have the most frantic offseason of all. For each team we offer our view of a perfect offseason (within reason, of course).

All free agent contract estimates are courtesy of Kiley McDaniel's free agency rankings and projections, while payroll information is from FanGraphs' Roster Resource and Cot's Contracts.

 

New York Mets

Key free agents: RHP Jacob deGrom, OF Brandon Nimmo, RHP Chris Bassitt, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Seth Lugo, RHP Adam Ottavino

Current estimated payroll: $246.5 million

Highest payroll: $288 million (2022)

Biggest needs: Starting pitching, relief pitching, center field

We start with the Mets, because the Mets have a lot of work to do to replace or re-sign all those free agents -- and that's after they managed to re-sign closer Edwin Diaz before he hit free agency. The question here is simple: How high is owner Steve Cohen willing to run the payroll? The Mets are already over the luxury tax threshold, so to go toe-to-toe again with the Atlanta Braves, the Mets are likely going to need to blow past $300 million and set a new payroll record (the Los Angeles Dodgers would have been just over $300 million last season if not for the Trevor Bauer suspension).

Those six free agents listed above were worth a combined 15.3 WAR in 2022, so the Mets do need to replace a significant amount of that value to remain a 100-win team. They might get a little help from the farm system in catcher Francisco Alvarez and third baseman Brett Baty, but the Mets' system doesn't appear to have much at the upper levels to help fill the pitching holes.

New York probably doesn't want to trade any of those young guys either, because it needs some players on inexpensive contracts moving forward -- and Alvarez obviously has star potential, although it's not clear just yet if he's ready to handle the defensive chores of the starting catcher for a team aiming for the World Series. He could spend a lot of time at DH in 2023.

The biggest upcoming salary relief is Robinson Cano finally coming off the payroll after 2023. The Mets will be paying him $20.25 million one last time this coming season. Carlos Carrasco, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar could all be free agents after 2023 and will make a combined $35 million this season. Max Scherzer is making $43.3 million each of the next two seasons and James McCann $12.15 million. Still, with a weak farm system, it's clear the Mets are going to have to run huge payrolls in the short term. That's fine; they can afford it.