Get ready for plenty of gambling analogies, jackpot references and various plays off the ad slogan "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" as the winter meetings return to Sin City for the first time since 2008. But the more accurate headline may be Harper's Bazaar, as the grand stage — plus multicolored spotlights, thumping music and obligatory dancers — is set for the auction and signing of the biggest of the big-name free agents, OF Bryce Harper, who just so happens to be a Las Vegas native.
Where Harper is headed remains something of a mystery, with the Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies and White Sox rumored to be among the most interested, the Cubs and Yankees still considered possibilities despite public denials, a return to the Nationals not totally ruled out even after rejecting $300 million over 10 years, and the always intriguing involvement of a mystery team, or two.
Though agent Scott Boras is known for taking many of his big-name free agents into January to stoke the market, this seems like too much of a spectacle to pass on. Doing so would feel more like Harper's bizarre. Here are five other major story lines:
* The courting of the other superstar free-agent position player, INF Manny Machado, with the Phillies, White Sox and Yankees also considered most interested.
* Who will be the next big-name player shipped out of Seattle? And Arizona?
* Will the Marlins finally trade C J.T. Realmuto, and where?
* What moves will the Yankees make to meet owner Hal Steinbrenner's decree to win the AL East and avoid the wild-card game?
* Will the Phillies, already spurned by LHP Patrick Corbin, get to be stupid with their money?