The hot stove hasn’t just been lit, it is en fuego.
In stark contrast to last year’s offseason, free agents are being signed earlier and players are being moved, but several big fish remain on the pond.
This year’s winter meetings will take place between Dec. 10 and Dec. 13 in Paradise, Nev. Here are some of the bigger storylines as we march toward winter:
The Eastern front
The NL East has been, by far, the most fun division to watch this offseason.
The Braves started it all by bringing in Josh Donaldson on a one-year deal, and with holes in the outfield, they’re likely not done.
Meanwhile, the Nationals nabbed Patrick Corbin, the Mets picked up Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, and the Phillies fired their own salvo by trading for Jean Segura. Each move has been like watching another chair shot in a WWE hardcore Triple Threat match.
The Marlins are in the corner sucking their thumb, as per usual — but they could play a big role in what happens next, which brings us to . . .
Let’s get Real(muto)
There’s approximately a 1 percent chance that J.T. Realmuto dons one of those fancy new Marlins jerseys on Opening Day 2019, so where is he going?
The list of teams to get him is pretty obvious: the Mets, Braves and Astros have glaring needs at catcher — and offer the best fits — but who is going to go all-in on the Miami backstop? There were recent rumors about a suddenly invigorated Mets making a big push for him.
The 27-year-old has improved in each of his four seasons, with his 2018 season being his best one. He produced 4.3 bWAR on the strength of a .277 average, 21 home runs and a 131 OPS+ in 121 games. He’s a solid defender, as well
Realmuto is going to fetch quite the haul, but his landing spot will be the most intriguing aspect of the deal.
Jack — or Jerry — of all trades
Jerry Dipoto is a madman.
In the midst of yet another reimagining of the Mariners’ roster, Dipoto has traded off Segura, Cano, Diaz, James Paxton and Mike Zunino, and more Mariners could be moved.
Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager are three of those Mariners. Coincidentally, of Rotochamp’s projected 2019 Mariners everyday lineup, those would be the only three players who took hacks with the team in 2018. Ben Gamel would also return, but as a bench player.
It’s interesting to think about how the Mariners have completely turned over their roster with just a handful of trades, and it’s even more interesting to think about what they could be in 2019 with a revamped identity and lineup.
Big-time targets Corbin, Paxton and Nathan Eovaldi (re-signed with the Red Sox) are off the board for teams seeking rotation help, but there’s no shortage of other available arms, free-agent or otherwise.
J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are some of the more noteworthy names on teams’ free-agent Christmas lists this winter, while Madison Bumgarner, Sonny Gray, Corey Kluber and Zack Greinke are all attainable through a Yankee Swap.
Speaking of Yankees, New York is still in the market after missing out on Corbin. The same can be said of the Phillies, who likewise didn’t have their number called in the Corbin sweepstakes. Pencil in the Brewers, Cubs and Astros among the other clubs who could look to round out their rotation.
With all these names all in play, the winter meetings could be the spark that sets off the barrel of gunpowder in the pitching market.
The Bryce is Right? Machado Madness?
Given how hot and heavy this offseason has already been, it’s hard to see Bryce Harper or Manny Machado playing things out until late January — even though they’re represented by Scott Boras and Dan Lozano, respectively, two highly respected agents. Boras’ reputation precedes him, while Lozano has secured big paydays for Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza and Joey Votto.
If nothing else, we’ll get a good idea of who’s serious about adding these stars. The list of potential destinations is sure to be long, but the section containing realistic landing spots will be much shorter.
The Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Phillies are good options for either player. Could the White Sox and Braves slip into the discussion as well? It’s a strong possibility.