Winter Meetings Live: Here's what our experts predict will happen in San Diego

Baseball’s winter meetings are underway in San Diego, beginning Monday and continuing through Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. With big-name free agents such as Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg narrowing their lists of potential landing spots and stars including Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant reportedly on the trade block this MLB offseason, it’s sure to be an exciting week of wheeling and dealing.

Start the fun with our experts’ predictions on which moves could shape these meetings and check back throughout the week for the latest news, rumors, buzz and analysis.

Key hot stove links

• Trades we want to see at the winter meetings
• Jeff Passan’s trade tiers
• Keith Law’s top 50 free agents (ESPN+) | Free-agent tracker
• A blockbuster move for all 30 teams
• Hot stove survey

ESPN+ reaction to offseason’s biggest moves: Padres acquire Pham | Phillies sign Wheeler | Reds get Moustakas | White Sox add Grandal

MLB winter meetings predictions

We asked our ESPN MLB experts to weigh in on what they think could happen in San Diego. Here’s what they said.

Who will be the biggest name to sign during the winter meetings?

Anthony Rendon: Three votes (Alden Gonzalez, Jesse Rogers, Marly Rivera)

Rendon’s market seems more limited than that of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and he doesn’t seem like the type to want to wait around. — Gonzalez

The pitching market started fast but will slow down while top hitters start to come off the board. There’s none bigger than Rendon. — Rogers

There is no other position player on the market in Rendon’s league. Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg will be the talk of the town, but with so many teams interested, they might drive each other’s market up, and their signings could take a bit more time. — Rivera

Madison Bumgarner: Three votes (Bradford Doolittle, Sam Miller, David Schoenfield)

This winter’s relatively brisk market (compared to those of the past two winters, at least) has swept up only one Scott Boras client, and Boras is famously patient, so it wouldn’t shock me if his top clients (Cole, Rendon, Strasburg) stay unsigned for a few more weeks. — Miller

With Zack Wheeler off the market and Cole unavailable to all but a couple of teams, the tier for free-agent starters behind Cole and Stephen Strasburg is shrinking quickly, so pitching-hungry teams such as the White Sox, Twins and Braves need to pounce. — Doolittle

The Yankees have shouted their desire to sign Cole from the top of the Empire State Building, but don’t expect Cole to the Yankees (or Angels or Dodgers) to happen this week. With Boras doing the negotiating, a contract of this magnitude is unlikely to happen so soon, as the Yankees just met with Cole. Although the market is moving more quickly this offseason, I don’t expect any of the big three names (Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon) to seal a deal in San Diego. Let’s go with Bumgarner. — Schoenfield

Gerrit Cole: Two votes (Dan Mullen, Matt Marrone)

I know, I know. Scott Boras guys usually sign during the NCAA tournament, not before college football bowl season, but it seems like there is real traction here, especially given that the Yankees have ownership-level approval to offer Cole a record-setting deal. There are so few teams that could go there that maybe — just maybe — it’ll speed things up. — Mullen

The Yankees aren’t going to be beaten on this one. Except maybe by the Angels. Expect Cole’s suitors to pounce. — Marrone


What will be the biggest trade to go down in San Diego?

Kris Bryant: Two votes (Dan Mullen, Jesse Rogers)

Here’s a prediction: The Cubs will trade Bryant to the Braves for Max Fried and top prospects. — Rogers

If there’s a blockbuster deal that rocks the winter meetings, the Cubs seem to be the most likely candidates to make it. My gut says Bryant is slightly more likely to move this week than Willson Contreras or Anthony Rizzo, but no deal involving Chicago would surprise me here. — Mullen

Starling Marte: Two votes (Sam Miller, Bradford Doolittle)

Starling Marte to somewhere. There’s no great center-field option on the free-agent market, and that’s one of the positions on the field that a team can’t fake. — Miller

Given our diminished expectations for winter meetings trades, Marte is actually a pretty big name to move and one of the few impact players who seems readily available on the trade market, at least among those who wouldn’t require an acquiring team to empty the prospect vault. — Doolittle

Anthony Rizzo: One vote (Alden Gonzalez)

He’s relatively affordable for two more seasons, heads elsewhere, and the Cubs get a bounty of prospects in return. — Gonzalez

Francisco Lindor: One vote (David Schoenfield)

It would seem that Kris Bryant’s trade value is somewhat tied to where Rendon and Josh Donaldson end up. If, say, the Nationals or Rangers lose on both of those third basemen, their interest in Bryant would increase. That means a Bryant trade might have to wait. I’m still skeptical on whether Mookie Betts will be dealt at all. Of the big three trade candidates, Francisco Lindor is my pick as most likely to get traded this week. — Schoenfield

David Price: One vote (Matt Marrone)

Cole — and likely Stephen Strasburg — will soon shatter Price’s record free-agent deal for a pitcher. That is a testament to Cole, but it also shows that the market is hungry for pitching. Boston will find a way to unload a huge salary — if not Price’s, then maybe Nathan Eovaldi’s — and keep Mookie Betts for at least one more year. — Marrone

Matthew Boyd: One vote (Marly Rivera)

Boyd was one of the pitchers the Yankees tried to acquire last year, but the asking price was deemed too high. With the Tigers mired in a rebuild, Al Avila will need to find a market for the talented but inconsistent left-hander. — Rivera


Which team is most likely to be the talk of the winter meetings?

New York Yankees: Four votes (Dan Mullen, Jesse Rogers, Matt Marrone, Marly Rivera)

If the Yankees leave San Diego with Gerrit Cole in pinstripes — or spend the next three days having everyone buzz about the possibility of it — there really isn’t anything anyone else can do that would have us talking more than that. — Mullen

Everyone knows the Yankees need starting pitching. Before it’s over, they’ll be linked to many available names. — Rogers

Is the Death Star fully operational? Whether or not the Yankees sign Cole this week, there’ll be plenty of buzz around the Bombers and baseball’s biggest free agent, not to mention the various other questions in the Bronx after the team’s second ALCS loss to the Astros in three years. — Marrone

Just how high will the Yankees be willing to go to outbid the Angels for Gerrit Cole? — Rivera

Atlanta Braves: Two votes (Sam Miller, David Schoenfield)

The Braves have already been active on midtier moves, but if they’re really pushing to join the superteam tier, they make sense as a destination for almost any headline name out there. — Miller

The Braves have a lot of potential to take this honor if they’re willing to up the payroll a little. They could be in on signing Donaldson or trading for Bryant. Maybe they still want to add a veteran starter to the rotation even after signing Cole Hamels. Heck, Dansby Swanson isn’t enough to block a potential Lindor trade (in fact, Swanson could be part of the deal). The Braves have drawn a hard line on their payroll under Liberty Media, but they need one more big star, and they have the financial and minor league resources to do it. — Schoenfield

Los Angeles Dodgers: One vote (Alden Gonzalez)

The Dodgers appear to be in on all the big names, on the trade market and in free agency, and now might finally be the time for Andrew Friedman to make a big splash. — Gonzalez

Los Angeles Angels: 1 vote (Bradford Doolittle)

With L.A.’s other team in spend mode and their need for starting pitching so acute, the Angels have the kind of pent-up desperation needed to push things in the market, perhaps more than any other club. — Doolittle


Who is one under-the-radar team to watch in San Diego?

Texas Rangers: Two votes (Alden Gonzalez, Dan Mullen)

They’re heading into a new ballpark, have unveiled new uniforms and need a new star to market around. — Gonzalez

The Rangers want to do something big as they get ready to move into their new ballpark. The question is if they find a free-agent or big trade fit that takes them from a team to watch to one actually making moves. — Mullen

Cincinnati Reds: Two votes (Jesse Rogers, Marly Rivera)

Perhaps it won’t be so under the radar, considering they already inked Mike Moustakas to a deal, but the aggressive nature of the Reds — who see an opening in the NL Central — might come as a surprise to many. — Rogers

The Reds indeed sense an opportunity to contend in the NL Central and have already made some significant offseason moves. — Rivera

San Diego Padres: Two votes (David Schoenfield, Matt Marrone)

A.J. Preller has already made two interesting trades for the Padres, bringing in Tommy Pham, Zach Davies and Trent Grisham, but this roster is hardly a finished product that can contend with the Dodgers or Braves for NL supremacy. The rotation still could use a veteran leader with more upside than Davies, and an upgrade over Manuel Margot in center field is a possibility. How about signing Hyun-Jin Ryu or Bumgarner and trading for Starling Marte? — Schoenfield

The home team is already off and running and won’t stop this week. — Marrone

Milwaukee Brewers: One vote (Bradford Doolittle)

Milwaukee has shed talent like a molting snake since the World Series ended, but with just two more years of Christian Yelich ensured, it’s hard to believe that the departures have been a harbinger of a soft rebuild. — Doolittle

Arizona Diamondbacks: One vote (Sam Miller)

The Diamondbacks are probably a big bat away and seem to have already successfully, admirably completed their flash rebuild, so it’s a little surprising not to hear them more frequently speculated about (speaking of “Starling Marte to somewhere,” now that I think of it.) — Miller


What’s the one thing everyone will be talking about on the plane home?

The winter meetings are back! They have been exceedingly dull the past two years, but this time, the big stars will sign and major trades will be made, and baseball observers everywhere will be shocked multiple times over, just like the old days. I’m going to will this into existence. — Gonzalez

Gerrit Cole. Whether or not Cole signs this week, his name will be prevalent throughout our stay in San Diego, just as it is now, and if he hasn’t committed to a new team by Thursday, our collective appetite for news about him will grow ever more ravenous. — Doolittle

How long will it be before Cole, Strasburg and Rendon sign? — Schoenfield

Teams overpaying for starting pitching and the exorbitant numbers being discussed regarding Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. — Rivera

I’ll go a little outside the box here and say the Astros. If Cole signs, what he means to INSERT TEAM HERE will certainly dominate. But the sign-stealing scandal remains the biggest story in baseball. How — and when — will it be resolved? — Marrone

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