Associated Press

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.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.