The Polar Vortex reappeared recently and once more cut a wide swath across the U.S.

The severe cold it brought affected even those of us in South Florida.

When its frigid fringes swept deep into The Sunshine State, temps dropped all the way down into the bone-chilling (for us) mid-50s F.


Why, a man can't even wear his flip-flops in that kind of weather.

And lotsa luck finding earmuffs down here in Gator Country.

The arrival of this swooping cold snap got MAS thinking.

No, not that Global Warming might be a crock.

Rather, it reminded him that Hot Stove League time is here.

The harsh weather (aka The Arctic Blast) must make MLB fans in more northern environs wish they really did have an old time wood fire crackling nearby while they engage in traditional offseason fat-chewing about trades, free agent moves and managerial hires — and their impact.

Chomp on these adipose tissue topics, then, if you will — and don't hog the heat.

In the blockbuster trade department, Atlanta has already dealt its talented young outfielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis for a potential staff ace in 22-year-old hurler Shelby Miller (25 wins last two seasons).

The Cards, with the tragic car-crash death of potential star Oscar Tavares, desired a five-tool outfielder and the Braves wanted an exceptional, if frustratingly inconsistent, young hurler, what with all their recent pitching injuries.

This swap should rekindle that old debate about which is more valuable: a standout hurler who pitches once every four days or a productive everyday contributor.

Meanwhile, Oakland, rebuilding after last season's late collapse and postseason failures, sent All-Star third sacker Josh Donaldson to Toronto for a pair of pitching prospects, a minor league shortstop and third baseman Brett Lawrie.

Switching gears, when MAS looks at this winter's free agent class, he doesn't see any "franchise flippers" — guys who can almost single-handedly turn a ball club's fortunes around.

Available instead are a bunch of solid, if not spectacular, types who will end up being way overpaid because they're all that's out there right now.

The Boston Red Sox got the ball rolling by landing both ex-San Francisco third sacker Pablo Sandoval ($95 million over five years) and Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop/outfielder (four years, $88 mil.).

Each was inked because the BoSox have run out of patience with youngsters they were hoping would be more advanced by now (see infielder Xander Bogaerts and outfielders Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Mookie Betts).

Another notable overpriced free agent snapped up early was steady Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin, coming off a career best .291 batting average.

But is he worth the $82 million over four years that he will be paid by Toronto to play in his native land?

Another significant high-price signing saw aging (35-year-old) first baseman-DH Victor Martinez re-up with Detroit for $68 million for four season's work.

Still on the market, though, is this year's free agent headliner: hard-throwing Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer, now 30 and coming off really only two outstanding seasons.

Still, he's sure to get more than the $144 million, six-year deal he nixed from the Tigers last offseason in a huge career gamble that had many people wondering who was crazier — Scherzer for turning down that sum or the Tigers for offering it.

Lefty Jon Lester, who split last season between Boston and Oakland is the next best hurler available.

Lester's 2.46 ERA last season (a full run below his career ERA) couldn't have come at a better time.

Rumor has it the deep-pocketed Chicago Cubs would like to snag both Scherzer and Lester to give them much-needed starting pitching to complement their promising young position players.

MAS sees only one free agent who is a major weapon offensively: Nelson Cruz, the Baltimore outfielder who led MLB in home runs last season with 40 and drove in 108 runs.

The only drawback: he's 34.

Cruz reportedly has agreed to a 4-year, $58 million deal with Seattle (he must pass a physical before it becomes official). Cruz would provide the Mariners with some needed right-handed thump and could possibly push them into contender status.

Among the slightly less popular free agents, MAS has always liked infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, most recently with Washington and formerly a Cleveland Indian.

The 29-year-old Cabrera's consistency with both the bat AND glove make him an excellent fit at shortstop for a team in need of a good one — like the Yankees who must replace Derek Whatzisface at that position.

Then there's pitcher "Big Game James" Shields, a workhorse (31 starts, 200 innings plus for eight straight seasons) who helped bring a winning attitude from Tampa Bay to Kansas City over the past two campaigns. He might try to make it three straight underdogs turned into winners by inking with Houston.

The slowly-but-surely building Astros are in need of a pitching stalwart and are flush with cash after three years of having one of MLB's lowest payrolls while allowing inexpensive youngsters to develop.

Outfielder Melky Cabrera is not going to be the slugger he was on PEDs, but with Toronto last season he proved his worth as a hitter for average (.301) with moderate power (16 HRs, 73 RBIs).

Look for the New York Mets, who need pasture help, to try to reel him in. These days, most teams are reluctant to shell out big bucks for a closer. But if a ball club decides to buck that trend, the Yankees' David Robertson is available.

Robertson made Mariano Ramirez's absence much less conspicuous in 2014 — his 39 saves in 43 opportunities last season matched Mariano's career save percentage.

Look for the deep-pocketed Yankees to not take any chances and re-sign him.

The big managerial splash was super-successful Joe Maddon, signing on with the Chicago Cubs after stepping down as Tampa Bay's skipper.

If the Maddon-managed Cubs can make the playoffs next season (as he predicted they would) then MAS will finally believe that big league skippers actually DO play a big part in how well or poorly the teams their teams play.

Additional trade bait this winter?

Philadelphia's Cole Hamels is the best pitcher that might still be on the block.

If the Phillies decide to rebuild, they might take a package of near-surefire youngsters in exchange for their staff ace.

The Dodgers are reportedly in talks with San Diego about a deal for Matt Kemp, who found his form while losing the attitude for L.A. in 2014.

This surprises MAS, who thought that Andre Ethier (.249, 4 HRs and 42 RBIs) would be the odd man out in an overcrowded Dodger outfield.

Perhaps no one is willing to take on Ethier's five-year, $85 million contract which runs through 2017.

That, my friends, buys a lot of earmuffs.

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