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MLB winter meetings 2018: Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and other storylines to watch

Sporting News logo Sporting News 3 days ago Joe Rivera

a close up of a person in a baseball game © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited The hot stove hasn't just been lit, but it is en fuego. 

In stark contrast to last year's offseason, free agents are being signed earlier, players are being moved, but several big fish on the pond remain.

This year's winter meetings take place between Dec. 10 and Dec. 13 in Paradise, Nev. Here are some of the bigger story lines to keep an eye on as we march towards towards winter.

The Eastern front

The NL East has been, by and far, the most fun division to watch in the offseason.

The Braves started it all, bringing in Josh Donaldson on a one-year deal, and with holes in the outfield, they're likely not done yet.

Meanwhile, the Nationals nabbed Patrick Corbin, the Mets picked up Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz and the Phillies fired their own salvo, trading for Jean Segura. Each trade and move is like watching another chair shot in a WWE hardcore Triple Threat match.

MORE: Mets-Mariners trade grades: Mets baffle with gutsy move; Mariners add by subtracting

The Marlins are in the corner sucking their thumb, as per usual — but could play a big, big role in what happens next, which brings us to…

Let's get Real(muto)

There's approximately a one-percent chance that J.T. Realmuto dons one of those fancy new Marlins jerseys on opening day 2019, so where is he going to go?

With some rumors surrounding a reinvigorated Mets franchise potentially in on Realmuto, the list of teams to get him is pretty obvious: the Mets, Braves and Astros are the three teams with obvious needs — and best fits — at catcher, but who is going to ante up and go all-in on the Miami backstop?

The 27-year-old has gotten better each of his four seasons, with his 2018 season the best of his still relatively young career: with a 4.3 bWAR, Realmuto hit .277 with 21 home runs and a 131 OPS+ in 121 games. He's a pretty solid defender, as well

Realmuto is going to fetch quite the haul in return, but his landing spot will be the most intriguing of anything that happens with the deal.

Jack — or Jerry — of all trades

Jerry Dipoto is a madman.

In the midst of yet another re-imagining of the Mariners roster, Dipoto traded off Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Mike Zunino, there are more Mariners who could be moved.

Mitch Haniger, Dee Gordon and Corey Seager are three names who could also be moved. Coincidentally, of Rotochamp's projected 2019 Mariners everyday lineup, those would be the only three guys on a 2019 Seattle team who took hacks with the team in 2018. Ben Gamel would also return off the bench for the M's.

It's interesting to think how the Mariners have completely turned over its roster with just a handful of trades, and it's even more interesting to think what they could be in 2019, with a completely revamped identity and lineup.

Arms race

With Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi off the board and James Paxton traded, three big-time arms are off the market for teams seeking rotation help. There's still no shortage of arms, free agent or otherwise, that can be moved.

J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel highlight some of the more noteworthy arms 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.

MORE: Patrick Corbin signing marks latest push by Nationals to build a championship rotation

Speaking of Yankees, New York is certainly in the market for an arm after missing out on Patrick Corbin. The same can be said of the Phillies, who also didn't have their number called in the Corbin sweepstakes. Pencil in the Brewers, Cubs, Astros as a few more teams who could look to round out their rotation.

With the aforementioned 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?

With how hot and heavy this offseason has been, it's hard to see Bryce Harper or Manny Machado really play this whole thing out until late January — even though they're represented by Scott Boras and Dan Lozano respectively, two highly respected agents in the game. Boras' reputation precedes him, while Lozano secured big paydays for Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza and Joey Votto.

If nothing else, we'll get a good idea of who's serious for both guys. The list is sure to be long, but the realistic landing spots will be much shorter.

The Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, Phillies are all good spots for either guy. Could the White Sox and Braves slip into the discussion as well? It's a strong possibility.

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