Associated Press

Hot Stove Rumor Roundup

33 Comments

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.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.