Royals general manager Dayton Moore prefers a simple analogy for free agency: Musical chairs.
There are participants and music and there are a limited number of chairs. There is also a time constraint, and at some point, the music will stop.
The children's game metaphor glosses over the realities of the market, the competition between teams, the levers of supply and demand that dictate the process. But one thing is true: In more than a decade in Kansas City, Moore has never entered an offseason with so many of his players looking for new chairs.
The Royals had nine players become free agents this month, including stars Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. All three will be among the most coveted players on the market this winter.
Kansas City is expected to be active in retaining its homegrown players. Yet the process depends on a set of unknowns: Which teams will be interested in Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain? How will their markets take shape? Will the price, as it did for Alex Gordon two years ago, fall back into the Royals' neighborhood?
"You just never really know," Moore said.
The market is expected to heat up next week when officials from all 30 teams convene in Orlando, Fla., for the annual general managers meetings. The rumor mill will churn. Agents and representatives will talk with individual clubs. The event will not offer total clarity. But markets will start to develop.
For now, let's look at teams that might emerge as possible destinations for Hosmer, Moustakas and Cain. We'll start with Hosmer, a 28-year-old first baseman projected as one of the top available position players this winter.
His position could limit his possible suitors. A survey of big-market clubs reveals many with long-term answers at the spot. The Dodgers have Cody Bellinger; the Cubs are set with Anthony Rizzo; the Braves have Freddie Freeman, while the Nationals can move forward with former third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. The Giants have Brandon Belt signed to a long-term contract, while the Toronto Blue Jays found a breakout star in Justin Smoak. The Phillies believe they have a star in Rhys Hoskins, while the Yankees have a young and cheap option in Greg Bird and a desire to stay under the game's luxury-tax threshold.
Here's a look at some teams that could be possible fits: