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Hot Stove Rumor Roundup

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A lot of non-baseball fans who learn what I do for a living ask me what I do when the season ends. Like, do I have a part time job make ends meet since nothing happens in baseball in the offseason. I then explain to them that, no, the offseason is crazy-busy due to signings and trades and things. They are uniformly surprised when I tell them that, historically speaking, our site and a lot of other baseball sites get more traffic in December than any other month.

But there is some nuance to that. The fist couple of weeks of December surrounding the Winter Meetings are, in fact, quite busy. But around now, the week before Christmas on through the new year, things get pretty dead. There will likely be a signing or two, possibly even a major one, but the day-to-day hum of offseason news slows down to a murmur. Agents and players and general managers have to do their Christmas shopping and travel to visit their in-laws too, ya know.

As often happens this time of year, this morning I woke up and all I saw in my little flow of baseball news tidbits were rumors and speculation of the most tenuous kind. Little if anything about substantive talks or impending moves and a lot of “[Team] is considering the possibility of maybe talking to [Player] if they can’t find anything better to do before lunch” rumors. The stuff of a three or four text exchange between a reporter and a source which starts with “hearing anything?” and ends with “so, not much, eh?” The middle part gets reported as trade rumor news.

Rather than spend a lot of time on these, let’s just catch you up on the state of the weak rumor news littering my inbox this fine Monday morning:

  • Buster Olney says there is “rampant speculation” that Matt Wieters will wind up with the Nationals. I like how that’s phrased. As if it’s shameful and scandalous.
  • Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times says that Nathan Eovaldi is “among the pitchers being discussed” by the Rays. Also being discussed: Frank Lary, Don Mossi and Jim Bunning, but that’s just because they’re trying to understand how the 1959 Tigers could have three 17-game-winning pitchers but only finished with 76 wins. They’re bored in Tampa Bay too.
  • Topkin also says that the Rays have discussed Ryan Howard, along with several other left-handed bats, this offseason. Left fielder Charlie Maxwell was a lefthanded bat on the 1959 Tigers. He hit 31 homers and drove in 95, leading the club in both categories, yet was only the fourth best hitter on the team. Seriously, Detroit: what the hell happened in 1959?
  • Topkin also says “it remains possible” that the Rays will make a run at free agent Jose Bautista. I think “it’s possible” that “a run could be made” stretches transaction rumors to the damn nigh breaking point.
  • Jon Heyman is tweeting that the Indians have been making low, bargain-seeking offers to Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Napoli and Chris Carter, but will only sign one of them and only if it’s at a discount. I’d link those, but Heyman blocks me on Twitter for reasons only he knows.
  • Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that the Mariners “show a willingness” to trade Seth Smith. Or, as my son would’ve said before he successfully finished speech therapy, “the Marinerth show a winningneth to trade Seth Smith.”
  • Bronson Arroyo tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that he hopes to continue his career in 2017 but isn’t sure if his health will allow him to. Oops, sorry. This thing about Arroyo’s health was mistakenly placed in the “rumor” file when it should’ve been placed in the “unambiguous certainty” file.
  • Jerry Crasnick of ESPN says that the Tigers are continuing to “field calls” on J.D. Martinez. I imagine a lot of ’em go “so, you still want a bunch of good, young, controllable major leaguers in exchange for a guy in his walk year?” And when the Tigers say “yes,” they say “Heh, we’ll call back later when you get realistic.”
  • Crasnick also says that the Tigers would “love” to sign free agent Alex Avila but his price tag could be too high. Given that the Tigers GM is Avila’s father, this one could actually result in a signing over Christmas. Like, they could get it done over one too many eggnogs, right after Al asks Alex “I have no IDEA what to get your mother and Christmas is SUNDAY!”

So that’s where we stand on this slow Monday morning. If you need me I’ll either be (a) wrapping presents; (b) preparing for my office Christmas party; or (c) taking a deep dive into the 1959 Tigers to figure out what in the holy hell was up with that team.

What I have now: they started out 2-15, they fired their manager and replaced him with Jimmy Dykes, and they were 11 games above .500 the rest of the way. But then they sucked in 1960, they fired Dykes, so it’s not like he was The Tiger Whisperer. Whatever happened, I feel like there’s a story in those 17 games, though.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 13, Orioles 8: Leonys Martin hit a grand slam out of the leadoff spot and the two-slot hitter, Jeimer Candelario, drove in three via a two-run homer and an RBI single. They play for the Tigers, by the way. Figure a lot of you were not aware of that. Heck, outside of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos, figure most of us don’t know most of the guys on the Tigers anymore. You do know that Manny Machado plays for the Orioles. Know that he hit two homers in a losing cause. Know that, given how the Orioles are doing these days, he won’t be with the Orioles too much longer, I reckon.

Cubs 8, Cardinals 5: Chicago built an early 6-1 lead on a bunch of singles and sac flies and stuff and Jason Heyward capped the Cubs scoring with a two-run homer in the fifth. Jon Lester allowed only an unearned run over six. Every Cubs starter had at least one hit. Anthony Rizzo had three. Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez had two a piece. After the game Joe Maddon said:

“This is so much fun to watch. Keep your launch angles, keep your exit velocities, give me a good at-bat. Seeing inside the ball, using the whole field. With that you’ll see better situational hitting, better batting average. That’s just good hitting.”

Without looking, I’m going to guess that the Cubs’ eight-run outburst was, at least in part, a function of good launch angles and exit velocities. Not that Maddon would be the first person to engage in the fallacy of assuming mutual exclusivity where it does not exist.

Astros 9, Mariners 2: Charlie Morton tossed seven shutout innings, dropping his ERA down to 0.72 in his three wins. He has also struck out 33 guys in 25 innings and has walked only six. At this rate he’s going to be in a three-way race with two of his teammates — Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander — for the Cy Young. Seattle dropped three of four in the series and, as a team, went 15-for-100 against Dallas KeuchelLance McCullers Jr., Cole and Morton.

Yankees 4, Blue Jays 3: Aaron Judge homered and, while the Jays threatened late when David Robertson couldn’t find the strike zone and loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, but he got out of the jam with only one run scoring. Judge — who a lot of you wise acres thought would struggle this year now that everyone is ready for him — is hitting .339/.481/.629 and is on a 48-homer, 152-walk pace. So, yeah.

Phillies 7, Pirates 0: OK, I think Jake Arrieta has finally finished his late spring training. Here he tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out ten. Rhys Hoskins homered, Odubel Herrera singled in runs in the second and the fifth, J.P. Crawford and Cesar Hernandez knocked in runs on singles as well. More importantly, look at the photo on the top of this post and acknowledge how spiffy Philly looked in these blues. Their only fault is that teams that do this should, like the White Sox the other day, wear the blues on the road as originally intended.

Braves 12, Mets 4: Matt Wisler was called up from Triple-A to make a spot start. Guessing he’s going to get a bit more than that after allowing only two hits in seven innings. Matt Harvey, meanwhile, allowed six runs in six innings and after the game Mickey Calloway would not commit to him making his next scheduled start. He’s just not the guy he used to be. Preston Tucker drove in five with a bases loaded double and a two-run double. Kurt Suzuki had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run homer. The Braves offense leads the NL in runs scored. We were all expecting that heading into the season, yes?

Brewers 12, Marlins 3: It was close until the sixth, when Milwaukee put up a seven-spot. Lorenzo Cain homered, doubled twice and scored four times and Ryan Braun hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer. Those three runs gave him 1,000 RBI on his career. Lewis Brinson — who came over to the Marlins from the Brewers in the offseason trade for Christian Yelich — hit his first two career homers.

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1: Zack Greinke held the punchless Giants to one run over seven innings, with a Brandon Belt homer being his only blemish. The Snakes got homers from Ketel Marte and A.J. Pollock. The Giants have scored only 51 runs in 18 games. That’s the lowest run total in baseball, tied with the Royals, who have only played 16 games. It ain’t 2014 anymore, is it?

Red Sox 8, Angels 2: And the Red Sox never lost again. Homers from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi. Eight runs on 14 hits against six pitchers. A fine outing from Eduardo Rodriguez. Seven wins in a row and, heck, even though it covers the whole season, 16 of 18 for Boston.