Baseball executives, player agents and the media are currently descending upon Orlando for this year's winter meetings. As they get situated, we take a look at 10 questions we're asking before things get really hot on Monday morning ...
1. Is Prince Fielder(notes) going anywhere?: Now that Adrian Gonzalez(notes) is officially off the market, the Milwaukee Brewers first baseman arguably becomes the sexiest trade bait out there. But while the Crew looks at the nice package that the Boston Red Sox were going to send the San Diego Padres for A-Gone, the truth is that Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin can't get that excited and expect the same. Gonzalez was a special case as 1) Red Sox GM Theo Epstein had long coveted him and 2) they had a window to negotiate a contract extension. Fielder isn't being followed by that one suitor who has to have him and there's little chance that he and agent Scott Boras would want to work out a big contract extension ahead of his free-agency coming out party next offseason. The Brewers could trade Fielder this offseason, but it'll likely have to be at a lower price than what the Red Sox were willing to pay for Gonzalez (three minor league prospects who were ranked in their top six).
2. Whither Cliff Lee(notes) and Carl Crawford(notes)?: The derbies for the top two players on Jeff Passan's free-agent tracker continue and the debate over their eventual landing spot will dominate the winter meetings discussion. However, it's helpful to remember that these next few days are a lot more about agents meeting with teams, collecting info and then retreating back home so they can make an informed decision. Their final answers could come as everyone heads for the airport (like CC Sabathia(notes) in 2008) or be delayed until after the new year (like Matt Holliday(notes) in 2009). The surprise signing of Jayson Werth by the Washington Nationals on Sunday introduces a new element to the Crawford talks and it'll be interesting to see how his agent uses those big numbers to the outfielder's advantage.
3. Hey, how about Heath Bell(notes)?: The Padres' truck is set to "dump" mode and it's going to be interesting to see the teams line up to trade for a top-notch closer who has one year of arbitration left and will come relatively cheap since he made only $4 million in 2009 (and won't need to receive a multi-year deal). Interesting destinations include a return to the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox, where we'd love to see his personality side-by-side with Ozzie Guillen. Of course, the Padres could always hang onto Bell if they think he'll be able to fetch more at next season's trading deadline.
4. Who are we most likely to see riding the tea cup ride at Disney World?: Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti. Not only was he one of the quietest GMs at the 2009 conference, but he already got some offseason work out of the way by acquiring Juan Uribe(notes) and Jon Garland(notes) while re-signing Ted Lilly(notes) and Hiroki Kuroda(notes), and shipping Ryan Theriot(notes) off to St. Louis. Given those tasks, he'll have enough time to take in Epcot Center, too.
5. What will the Texas Rangers do?: The Red Sox and Yankees are already gearing up to unseat the Rangers as the top team in the AL, but it will be interesting to see what the defending champs will do. GM Jon Daniels is dealing with a bigger budget than last year's shoestring, bankruptcy-affected till and Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and others remain targets. Is becoming a bigger spender the key to keeping Texas relevant in the powerful AL or does Daniels stick to the careful, considered and conservative plan that got the Rangers to their first World Series last fall?
6. Are we really supposed to get excited over Carlos Pena and Adam LaRoche(notes)?: If you're a fan of a team that needs a first baseman and already missed out on Adam Dunn(notes), Adrian Gonzalez, Lance Berkman(notes) and Paul Konerko(notes) (if he re-signs with the Chicago White Sox), yes! This means you, those who follow the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals!
7. Who's going to win the Brandon Webb(notes) sweepstakes?: Despite being this year's version of Ben Sheets(notes), the former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher has no shortage of teams hoping that he'll be able to be the free-agent find of 2010. The Cubs and Nationals are interested, but bargain-hungry teams like the Rockies and Twins could jump in, too. The Cubs could be a favorite as they'll be able to apply the savings they'll get by re-using Mark Prior's(notes) old towels.
8. Are the St. Louis Cardinals going to add any other statues to their outfield, just for laughs?: After the team inked Berkman to that head-scratching deal on Saturday, the blogosphere outside of Cardinal Land can only hope. Might we suggest Manny Ramirez(notes) or Vladimir Guerrero(notes) for center field?
9. Will baseball fans lose patience if we don't have at least 10 big signings and four blockbuster trades by noon on Monday?: Of course we will. Today's new Twitter world has everyone clamoring for fresh meat every five minutes, but it's helpful to remember that this is far from the only forum for your team to improve this winter. Yes, the baseball media (Y! Sports included) makes these meetings out to be a never-ending circus of activity, but it's helpful to remember that GM/agent attendance sprung out of the industry convention and fair that's held in another hall each year ... not the other way around. In other words, don't expect to read an earth-shattering story every hour — let alone every 15 minutes.
10. Do you need to go anywhere other than Yahoo! Sports for winter meetings coverage?: Of course not. Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo), Dave Brown (@answerdave) and Steve Henson (@stevehenson333) are all on the ground in Orlando, while Jeff Passan and yours truly will provide perspective from outside the maelstrom. Big League Stew will also be featuring a Twitter tracker containing some of the industry's top reporters and the Florida folks will drop by periodically to answer questions in a BLS chat. From breaking news to analysis, we're offering a deal you can't get anywhere else.