MLB Winter Meetings Day 1 recap: What you missed from MLB Hot Stove

Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings are underway in Nashville, where the hot stove should really start to boil over.

Shohei Ohtani's free agency is the talk of baseball, with the two-time AL MVP expected to set the North American sports record by signing for around $500 million.

Trade talks are always a focus of the winter meetings and San Diego Padres outfielder Juan Soto could be moved ahead of the 2024 season, his final year before becoming a free agent next winter.

Here's a look back at the news from Monday at the winter meetings:

Shohei Ohtani is a free agent this winter.
Shohei Ohtani is a free agent this winter.

Mookie Betts making full-time move to second base in 2024

Former MVP Mookie Betts is returning to his roots.

No, he isn't being traded back to Boston. The Los Angeles Dodgers' seven-time All-Star is going back to the position he originally played when he made his major league debut.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Monday told MLB Network "it's pretty safe to say that No. 50 Mookie Betts is going to be our everyday second baseman" this coming season.

Roberts said it gives the team more flexibility to have Betts at second with veteran Jason Heyward patrolling Mookie's former spot in right field (at least against right-handed pitchers).

Betts, 31, has won six Gold Gloves in the outfield, but has said he feels more comfortable at second base. Looks like he'll get his wish this season.

Brewers adding two veterans to pitching staff

On a day in which they locked up their top prospect to a long-term deal, the Milwaukee Brewers have reached an agreement with free agent pitcher Joe Ross, formerly of the Washington Nationals. Ross, 30, hasn't pitched in the majors since 2021 after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery.

Ross' agreement was first reported by FanSided's Robert Murray.

In addition, the Brewers re-signed free agent left-hander Wade Miley, who declined a $10 million option with the club earlier this offseason.

Miley, 37, made 23 starts for the Brewers in 2023, going 9-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Terms of his new deal were not revealed.

– Steve Gardner

Shohei Ohtani front remains eerily quiet, but could a decision be near?

MLB's annual Winter Meetings are normally one of the biggest catalysts of personnel moves each offseason. However, Shohei Ohtani and his agent are nowhere to be found in Nashville, according to USA TODAY insider Bob Nightengale.

Nevertheless, there have been reports and rumors about which teams are in on Ohtani and what a timeline for his decision may be.

On Monday morning, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that the Braves are an under-the-radar team that's still in on the two-time MVP.

In the same report, Morosi stated he believes Ohtani could make a decision very soon.

"I was told in the last 24 hours it's increasingly possible he will make his choice within the next week," the MLB Network insider stated.

However, the Los Angeles Dodgers still seem to be the front-runners for Ohtani's services, as Nightengale told Jomboy Media's Jack Oliver at the Winter Meetings.

– Jack McKessy

Brewers officially sign top prospect Jackson Chourio to long-term deal

A deal that had been in the works for a while became official Monday as the Milwaukee Brewers signed outfielder Jackson Chourio to an eight-year contract extension worth $82 million that includes a pair of team options and incentives that could take the total value to around $142.5 million.

Chourio, who doesn't turn 20 until March, is the consensus No. 1 or No. 2 overall prospect in the minors. The long-term extension will open the door for him to begin the 2024 season on the major league roster, and potentially take over as the Brewers' starting center fielder.

"We are extremely excited to make this unprecedented commitment to a player we believe to be a generational talent who has all the tools to be the face of our franchise," Brewers GM Matt Arnold said in making the official announcement.

He's not overselling the significance of the deal either. The contract is the largest in baseball history ever given to a minor leaguer with no previous MLB experience.

WHO IS JACKSON CHOURIO? Important things to know about the Brewers' top prospect

Chourio was signed by the Brewers as an international free agent and made his professional debut in 2022. He hit .280 with 22 home runs, 89 RBI and 43 stolen bases last season for Class AA Biloxi (Miss.) before appearing in six games at Class AAA.

– Steve Gardner

Report: Japanese star Yamamoto ready for face-to-face talks

The most sought-after free agent pitcher this offseason, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, is expected to travel to the United States in the next week or so to meet with officials from several MLB teams, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Yamamoto, 25, has dominated the Japan Pacific League, especially the past three seasons − winning three consecutive awards as the league's top pitcher and two league MVP awards.

WHO IS YOSHINOBU YAMAMOTO? A closer look at the Japanese ace

Puma reports the Mets will be one of the teams to meet with Yamamoto. Also expected to be in the running: the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The right-hander has until Jan. 4 to reach an agreement with an MLB team.

– Steve Gardner

Winter Meetings put spotlight on Nashville as potential MLB expansion team

Former World Series MVP Dave Stewart envisions a beautiful retractable-roof ballpark along the Cumberland River as the home of a new MLB franchise, the Nashville Stars.

Taking its name from a historic franchise in the Negro Leagues, Stewart would be the face of MLB's first majority-Black owned team.

"This project means everything to me," Stewart tells USA TODAY Sports. "We are going to have a franchise that’s truly diverse, and one the whole world can be proud of."

Stewart, 66, the three-time World Series champion and four-time 20-game winner who’s in the Oakland Athletics Hall of Fame, has spent the past three years spearheading Nashville’s efforts to attract an expansion team.

He’s expected to speak to high-ranking MLB officials this week during baseball’s annual winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

– Bob Nightengale

OF Jung-Hoo Lee available to sign with MLB team

While almost all the attention is focused on star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, he isn't the only Japanese player who is likely to find a home in the majors this season.

Outfielder Jung-Hoo Lee was officially posted on Monday by the Kiwoom Heroes, his team in the Korean Baseball Organization. Lee, 25, has been playing in the KBO for the past seven seasons – accumulating a career slash line of .340/.407/.491 in nearly 4,000 plate appearances.

Lee missed time last season with injuries, but posted career highs in 2022 with 23 homers and 113 RBI, while hitting .349 and winning the KBO's MVP award. He's also a five-time Gold Glove center fielder.

– Steve Gardner

Report: Dodgers agree to terms with RP Joe Kelly

Veteran reliever Joe Kelly is returning to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a one-year deal, Rob Bradford of WEEI in Boston is reporting. The Dodgers had declined the right-hander's $9.5 million option earlier this offseason.

Kelly, 35, won a World Series ring with the Dodgers in 2020 and was acquired last season in a deal with the Chicago White Sox. Although his overall 2023 numbers weren't great, he did post a 1.74 ERA over 11 appearances with the Dodgers after the trade.

– Steve Gardner

Braves acquire OF Jarred Kelenic from Mariners

Outfielder Jarred Kelenic hit .253 for the Mariners last season with 11 home runs and 49 RBI in 416 plate appearances.
Outfielder Jarred Kelenic hit .253 for the Mariners last season with 11 home runs and 49 RBI in 416 plate appearances.

The Atlanta Braves got the winter meetings off to a fast start Sunday night, agreeing to a five-player trade with the Seattle Mariners that partially fills their vacancy in left field.

The Braves received outfielder Jarred Kelenic, veteran left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales and first baseman Evan White from the Mariners in exchange for right-hander Jackson Kowar and 20-year-old pitching prospect Cole Phillips. The Braves also received an unspecified amount of cash.

Kelenic, 24, is a former top prospect with the New York Mets who was sent to Seattle exactly five years ago in the deal that brought back reliever Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano.

However, he has failed to deliver on his prospect pedigree with the Mariners, hitting .204/.283/.373 over his three seasons in the majors. He did show some improvement in 2023, hitting above the major league average with a 109 OPS+.

The left-handed hitting Kelenic is expected to be part of a left field platoon in Atlanta along with youngster Vaughn Grissom, who is being converted from a middle infielder.

In addition to the 27-year-old Kowar, a former first-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2018, the Mariners get a measure of salary relief by shedding the contracts of Gonzales ($12.25M in 2024) and White ($15M over next two years).

– Steve Gardner

Ranking MLB's top free agents

For the first time in free agent history, Major League Baseball awaits the dual impact of one player’s decision.

Check out the full breakdown of MLB's top 89 free agents for 2023-24:

  1. SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, Angels

  2. SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Orix Buffaloes, Japan

  3. SP Blake Snell, Padres

  4. OF/1B Cody Bellinger, Cubs

  5. SP Aaron Nola, PhilliesSIGNED with Phillies

  6. SP Sonny Gray, Twins – SIGNED with Cardinals

  7. RP Josh Hader, Padres

  8. 3B Matt Chapman, Blue Jays

  9. SP Jordan Montgomery, Cardinals

  10. SP Eduardo Rodriguez, Tigers

  11. SP Marcus Stroman, Cubs

  12. OF/DH Jorge Soler, Marlins

  13. OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Diamondbacks

  14. DH J.D. Martinez, Dodgers

  15. OF Teoscar Hernandez, Mariners

– Gabe Lacques

MLB Winter Meetings start: Few free agents have already signed

NASHVILLE — While anticipation of the most celebrated free-agent signing in baseball history continues, with teams poised to make Ohtani the first $500 million player in North American team sports, there is a genuine fear that the winter meetings could come and go without any big deals.

It has been an eerily quiet winter so far.

Aaron Nola, who re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for $172 million, and Sonny Gray, who signed a three-year, $75 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, are the only free agents to receive more than $50 million.

“There’s just not a lot of good players," one GM told USA TODAY Sports. “Nobody is jumping out and grabbing mediocre players. And agents are just waiting it out to see if teams start to panic."

Baseball GMs, executives and agents remind everyone that the World Series ended just five weeks ago, and there are still two full months of shopping days before spring training.

– Bob Nightengale

Supply and demand: Every MLB team needs starting pitchers

Forget about upgrading your starting rotation. Most Major League Baseball clubs would do well simply to tread water this winter.

Although free agency has barely begun, dueling market forces – including a weak free agent class and an inordinate number of teams aiming for contention – will create significant challenges for clubs seeking increasingly elusive reliable starting pitching.

And an analysis of major league rosters indicates demand is outkicking supply by a roughly 2-to-1 margin.

Of course, necessity will be the mother of invention. Many teams will go without a fifth – heck, perhaps even a fourth – starter, opting for bullpen games or piggyback situations. But those practices are not necessarily sustainable over 162 games, especially for teams shooting for a berth in the expanded playoffs.

Perhaps we’ll look back and laud the St. Louis Cardinals, who doled out eight-figure guarantees to veteran innings-eaters Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn before the Thanksgiving table was set, and then added All-Star Sonny Gray on a three-year, $75 million deal.

– Gabe Lacques

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB Winter Meetings: Monday recap of baseball hot stove, free agency