Count on a busy time for free agents and a whole lot more this offseason

One of the great misnomers in baseball is the offseason -- because there is no such thing.

The fall and winter will bring signings and trades and rule changes, with barely a pause for Christmas. The baseball season ended late this year, which means slightly less time to get everything done. But it always does, and things will look far different when spring arrives.

Here are 10 storylines for the offseason:

10. The Chase Utley slide

Utley was suspended for two games in the National League Division Series for a hard, late slide that broke the leg of New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

Utley appealed the suspension and was allowed to continue playing, but his case will be heard soon. Even if Utley wins his appeal, look for Major League Baseball to modify the rule regarding hard slides at second base, much as it did with home plate collisions. The modification will be made to protect middle infielders by making the runner slide more toward the bag and less targeting a fielder.

It will be extremely difficult on umpires to enforce such a rule change, and there will be plenty of unhappy players over it. Utley's slide was late, but legal. When April arrives, it likely will be seen as late and illegal.

9. Fan safety

A long look is going to be taken at the safety of the game for fans given the rash of injuries in 2015, most of them from foul balls. I sit in the press box, and I don't pay hundreds of dollars for seats built for an unobstructed view, but it's time to seriously consider the use of netting to protect more than just the fans who sit behind home plate.

At the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, nets extend down each foul line, all the way to the outfield fences. MLB might not go that far, but in some ballparks, such as Fenway Park, even a glove and great reactions can't save someone from a scorching line drive.

8. Pete Rose

Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to rule on Rose's fate before the end of the calendar year. Rose is one of the greatest players of all time -- no one played the game harder -- but from all indications, he will not be reinstated by Manfred in part because Rose has not reconfigured his life to satisfy MLB, sources say. Manfred is going by the book on this one, and there's no way he is going to go against the rulings of previous commissioners.

Without reinstatement, Rose likely will not be placed on any Hall of Fame ballot either. So, the wait continues.

7. New York Mets

They won the National League pennant. They've got this great young starting staff poised for great things over 162 games in 2016, especially when Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery in June.

Things aren't so certain about the rest of the team. Second baseman Daniel Murphy will be a free agent. He had a historic postseason until the World Series, then went 3-for-20 and made a crucial error in Game 4. Chances are he will not be back with the Mets, at least not if he's going to command $15 million per year for four years. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes will be a free agent as well. The Mets wouldn't have even made the playoffs without his massive production after being acquired on July 31, but in the World Series, he drove in one run, made two questionable defensive plays and made a baserunning mistake at the end of Game 4.

Cespedes will get a lot of money, but it doesn't appear it will be from the Mets.

6. Managers

With the World Series now over, the Washington Nationals have tabbed Dusty Baker as their new manager (and not Bud Black, as previously expected). The Miami Marlins officially announced the hiring of Don Mattingly, leaving only the Los Angeles Dodgers without a manager.

The Dodgers plan to have someone in place by the winter meetings (Dec. 6-10), and they will be thorough in their search. Gabe Kapler appears to be a leading candidate because he's a former player, a fiery guy and a young guy who embraces the sabermetric revolution. The Dodgers are looking for someone who is open to new ideas. Kapler is that person.

5. Kansas City Royals

They are the world champions. They also are a relatively small-market team that -- despite great wealth from ownership -- won't just throw money at free agents, even their own.

Left fielder Alex Gordon, the first of the Royals' great young prospects to arrive in 2007, will be a free agent. He is a team leader, the best defensive left fielder in the game and a good hitter. If he gets to free agency, all sorts of teams will be interested, including the Boston Red Sox, Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles. But if the Royals are going to maintain this great run, signing Gordon must be their first priority.

They also have pitcher Johnny Cueto and second baseman Ben Zobrist eligible for free agency. Each will get considerable interest from several teams, especially Zobrist, given his versatility, his ability to hit good pitching and the professional manner in which he approaches all parts of the game. They may lose Cueto, Zobrist and Gordon, but their best chance is with Gordon, who has been there longer than any other player on the team.

4. Chicago Cubs

They made a huge, and largely unexpected, step forward in 2015 by winning 97 games, then beating their archrival, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the NLDS. But the Cubs were swept out of the NL Championship Series by the Mets, they struck out too much, their outfield defense was lacking and, most important, they needed another high-quality starting pitcher.

The Cubs have money, and from all indications, they will get that starting pitcher in the free-agent market, and place him next to Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Jordan Zimmermann will be a free agent. So will Cueto. So will David Price, who pitched for Cubs manager Joe Maddon when they were both in Tampa. And so might Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

The Cubs will likely get one of those pitchers. Less likely, they might trade one of their good young players (Javier Baez?) in a package for a top starting pitcher. It will be interesting to see if the Chicago White Sox even consider trading Chris Sale, or if the Oakland A's will listen to offers for Sonny Gray.

3. Zack Greinke

Sources are guaranteeing that he will opt out of his contract, much as Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia have in the past, and each got even more money. Greinke had a historic 2015 season; he will either win the NL Cy Young or finish a close second to Arrieta.

Greinke reportedly has enjoyed his years in L.A. and calls the Dodgers the best organization in baseball, but this is business, and he might consider opting out the best business move. It might net him $30 million per year.

If the Dodgers were to lose him, they likely would need to add not one, but two good starting pitchers if they plan on winning their fourth straight division title. They certainly have the money to do whatever they want.

2. Free-agent hitters

Gordon, Cespedes and Zobrist will be a part of it, with Murphy, to a lesser degree. Justin Upton also can be a free agent, he is only 28 years old, but it's going to cost around $100 million, it would seem, to sign him.

It's going to cost a similar amount to sign Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who led the majors with 47 home runs this season. Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward will get more than perhaps any free agent non-pitcher given his age (26) and his defense.

There will be many other interesting free agents, including shortstop Ian Desmond, catcher Matt Wieters, second baseman Howie Kendrick and center fielders Denard Span and Dexter Fowler.

1. Free-agent pitchers

They are everywhere: Price, Greinke, Cueto and Zimmermann will lead the way. Most important, the teams that really need a starting pitcher have a lot of money to spend, including the Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers. It is going to be a bidding war for the biggest stars.

The second-line starting pitchers, including Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir and Doug Fister, among many others, are going to get paid, but maybe not as much as they'd like.

Then there's Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Ian Kennedy, Mike Leake, Tim Lincecum, John Lackey and some others.

As for relievers, Darren O'Day stands to create a lot of interest.

It's going to be a busy offseason for free agents. And it will all start very soon.