Hot Stove Talk: Free agency begins

Note: Starting Wednesday, we'll be taking a look at specific players and discuss why they may or may not make sense for the Texas Rangers as part of our annual "Hot Stove Talk" series.

Free agency is now upon us. Teams have decided which players they wanted to make qualifying offers to and those players have until Monday to decide whether to take those offers.

So as free agency gets going, some quick notes:

* Teams are now factoring in what these qualifying offers mean to players they'd potentially attempt to acquire in free agency. For example, Brian McCann, certainly a likely target for the Rangers in terms of filling the hole at catcher, was tendered an offer. It means that the team that signs him would have to give up a first-round pick. Don't shrug your shoulders at those first-round picks. They are important and will continue to be important, especially with the limits in international signings. For McCann, all teams understand that's part of the price. But it still has to be factored in.

* We know the Rangers gave Nelson Cruz a qualifying offer knowing that if he doesn't take it and signs elsewhere, they'd get draft-pick compensation. But other teams know that if they sign Cruz, that means giving up that first-round pick. Will that keep some teams from attempting to sign Cruz? Maybe. And that can only help the Rangers in their efforts to re-sign him.

* Other players of interest that were offered one-year, $14.1 million deals: Curtis Granderson, Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales and Carlos Beltran. By the way, former Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was not offered a deal by the Red Sox. We'll be profiling these players in the coming weeks, but Choo caught my eye. He makes sense for the Rangers in terms of need -- he hit .285 with 21 homers and 54 RBIs in 151 games. He was on base a ton (his .423 on-base percentage was second-most in the NL). But to get him, the club would have to surrender a pick.

* One pitcher I was particularly curious about yesterday was Josh Johnson. Why? Because for years when Johnson was in Miami and pitching well, the Rangers would constantly ask about him in conversations with Marlins' front office personnel. Johnson had two stints on the disabled list with the Blue Jays in 2013 (triceps tightness and a forearm injury). The latter led to surgery, but Johnson is supposed to be ready for spring training. MLB Trade Rumors' Tim Dierkes (who is good at predicting these things) has Johnson earning a one-year, $8 million deal with $5 million in incentives. But Toronto wasn't willing to give him a $14.1 million qualifying offer. The Rangers love to take chances on players coming off recent injuries or surgeries. Sometimes they work out (Joe Nathan) and sometimes they don't (Lance Berkman). Keep an eye on Johnson.

* Everyone circles the Winter Meetings in December as the critical offseason week, but don't forget about the GM meetings. Those are in Orlando next week (Monday through Wednesday) and it's a chance for all of the GMs to get together (and some agents, too) and to begin to set the foundation on potential trades. We could see some deals happen next week, but in most cases it's a chance to get some serious dialogue started.

* It didn't take long for the "we're not trading Giancarlo Stanton" talk to begin in Miami. Marlins GM told SiriusXM's "The Front Office," where ESPN.com's Jim Bowden is a co-host, that Stanton is not on the market.

"Mr. Stanton is not available," Jennings told the show, as reported by MLB.com here. "He is going to be in right field at Marlins Park, and [we're] looking forward to having a big year with him. We're excited. We think it's going to be a lot of fun building around him, and what he can mean to this ballclub and that city."

That should not keep the Rangers from dialing Jennings and making an effort to entice him. Stanton is a young player who would fit in nicely in the middle of the Rangers order (or any order for that matter).