MLB winter meetings Day 1: Five storylines to watch

Gerrit Cole is the top free agent on the market and could reportedly get $35 million per year. (Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Gerrit Cole is the top free agent on the market and could reportedly get $35 million per year. (Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

This is Yahoo Sports’ daily winter meetings preview. For a running list of the most important deals and rumors, check out our winter meetings tracker.

SAN DIEGO — The first piece of business is out of the way at the 2019 winter meetings. Marvin Miller and Ted Simmons were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. That veterans committee vote is the kickoff to the winter meetings, which figure to kick into full swing Monday.

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So now it’s onto the signings, trade rumors and the gossip that make the winter meetings fun. Will Gerrit Cole sign? Will a major trade go down? Will these meetings be busier than recent years? All worthwhile questions as we look forward to three days of Hot Stove action.

Each day of the winter meetings, Yahoo Sports will look at the biggest storylines you should keep an eye on. Until something drastic happens, Cole will probably be the No. 1 thing on the list. So let’s start there.

1. Gerrit Cole and the Yankees: Made for each other?

The New York Yankees have made it known that signing top free agent Gerrit Cole is their No. 1 priority this offseason. They’re prepared to offer him a record-setting contract of $245 million over seven years, according to a report from Bob Klapisch of the New York Times. Jeff Passan at ESPN, meanwhile, expects Cole to get in the neighborhood of $35 million per year.

The question now: Does that get a Cole deal done soon? The Angels and Dodgers are both interested in Cole, and it seems like there’s a lot more momentum toward getting a deal done early than we’ve seen in recent years with the No. 1 free agent. Now that MLB is all in one place, it’ll be interesting to see who else may emerge as a Cole suitor and whether the Angels or Dodgers make a bold play for him.

2. Will these winter meetings be busier?

If you pay attention closely, you know the winter meetings haven’t been a hotbed of actual deals the past few years. Instead, what has happened at the meetings has set the groundwork for deals afterward. There’s a good amount of buzz that this year could be different. Particularly when you take into account all the hype around Cole.

Teams are already handing out some surprising deals — both in terms of the number of years and overall salary. So there could be more teams wanting to make a splash this offseason.

3. Ryu, Bumgarner and the next rung of pitchers

Hyun-jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner are a couple of non-Gerrit Cole pitchers with some buzz heading into the winter meetings. Ryu has spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers, and while a reunion makes sense, Jon Heyman of MLB Network notes that there are a couple of other teams interested in Ryu’s services.

Ryu won’t attract Cole/Stephen Strasburg money, but it’ll be interesting to see if that next tier of pitchers starts to heat up while we wait for decisions on the big stars.

Same goes for Madison Bumgarner, who might ultimately be a bargain compared to Cole/Strasburg. His market could move quickly, according to Passan. As for money, Bob Nightengale of USA Today says Bumgarner is looking in the five-year, $100 million range.

4. Will we see a big trade?

There are quite a few BIG names who could get moved this offseason as teams like the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs try to figure out how they’re going to re-tool their rosters.

We’re talking Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor — all of whom could help a number of clubs. We haven’t heard much substantive chatter on those players, but this week would be the time to start.

5. Speaking of the Cubs ...

The Cubs may be the most interesting of those clubs because they’ve already made some changes, with Joe Maddon out and David Ross in as manager. They should be pushing toward the playoffs, but at the same time, it seems like they’re trying to figure out how to balance their checkbook.

Ken Rosenthal wrote for The Athletic that the Cubs are telling even lesser free agents that they’re not quite ready to spend yet.

“Club officials are telling representatives of even low-budget free agents that they need to clear money before engaging in serious negotiations.”

The Cubs moving Bryant or catcher Willson Contreras would entice other teams, but it might quickly sour a fanbase that had dynasty expectations after that 2016 World Series title.

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Mike Oz is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @mikeoz

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