What will make the difference in the offseason?

After Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs snapped the 108-curse via a blown 3-1 by the Cleveland Indians, we expect the Major League Baseball offseason to be filled with surprises. Indeed, baseball winter has been far from quiet, and we aren’t even close to the end. We recap the top five offseason tidbits so far that we think will play a huge role in separating the contenders from the pretenders in 2017.

#5: Dodgers resign heroes

The biggest move that reigning NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers have made this offseason has been to stick with the base of their success in 2016. The reacquisition of 3B Justin Turner, who had a breakout year with an appearance in the top 10 of the NL MVP voting, along with the rise of reigning Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, may create one of the most dangerous middle-order hitting groups in baseball. The return of defending NL Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen coupled with the talents of the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, keeps the pitching staff of the Dodgers ripe.

The 2017 Dodgers, as is, will need some help in the bullpen as the season ages, but they are essentially a repeat of the successful 2016 Dodgers, with more experience and growth behind them. For the Dodgers to make it to the playoffs is almost a gimme, as they are projected be one of the most dominant teams in MLB again.

#4: AL East sluggers on the move

It’s 2017 and the top two players to decline a qualifying offer from their 2016 team, outfielders Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo, are still free agents. Most of the rumors around the two right-handed hitters have revolved around the AL East division itself.

Most recently, it seems like the Baltimore Orioles, who hit more home runs than any other team in the major leagues in 2016, will not land either of the sluggers, while the Toronto Blue Jays are in contention to land one or both of them. While the picture with Bautista and Trumbo still remains hazy, it would be interesting to see them take their offensive talents to any team.

#3: Dozier the Dodger?

Word has been going around all offseason that Brian Dozier has drawn interest from multiple teams, but primarily from the Dodgers. The second baseman for the Minnesota Twins who tore up the baseball in the second half of 2016 finished in the top 15 in the AL MVP voting after finishing the season with a flabbergasting 42 home runs.

The World Series-contending Dodgers have taken notice and have reportedly made a solid effort at landing Dozier to fill their void at second base. It remains to be seen if the Minnesota Twins will be happy with the Dodgers’ final offer, which will most likely include 2015 minor league strikeout leader RHP Jose De Leon.

#2: The Parrot joins the Tribe

When a team finishes the season second in offense (runs scored) and pitching (ERA) in their league, it’s highly likely they win the pennant. That’s exactly what the Cleveland Indians did in 2016.

The Indians will retain the entirety of their pitching staff and have recently added one of the most coveted free agents of the year, slugger and MVP candidate Edwin Encarnacion. The “parrot” will most likely bat cleanup and play designated hitter and first base for Terry Francona’s squad.

If Encarnacion’s glorious career with the Reds and Blue Jays is any indication of his ability to hit for power, he will thrive in Progressive Field — the best hitting park in the American League. In a division with few unfavorable pitching matchups, he can lead the Tribe to that elusive World Series title — well, as long as their nickname is still the “Tribe.”

#1: Blockbuster Sale

One of the most active baseball executives in history, Dave Dombrowski was at it again, this time making several moves in one day for the Boston Red Sox. However, it was one move that made the biggest splash of the offseason — one of the best pitchers in baseball, lefty Chris Sale, changed Sox. Dealin’ Dave shocked the world as he traded two of the top three Red Sox prospects as part of a five-player deal that landed Sale to Beantown.

The trade included the #1 overall prospect in baseball and Futures All-Star Game MVP, IF Yoan Moncada. The reigning AL East champions have squeezed a lot from their farm system but don’t expect anybody to be complaining if it lands them with a World Series.

The Red Sox, who had the best offense in Major League Baseball, now possess arguably the best starting rotation in baseball, headlined by former Cy Young winners David Price and Rick Porcello and a Cy Young prospective in Sale. It’s just a bonus for Boston fans that their newest acquisition possesses the best ERA in the history of baseball against the rival New York Yankees, whose GM Brian Cashman admitted that he sees the Red Sox as a superteam, much like the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.

Meanwhile, the future looks bright in Chicago as the two big prospects in this deal are now their top two prospects.