Hot stove league: Most wonderful time of year

Hot Stove LeagueWith agents overselling and fans yelling “he better sign here!”, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

As the clock strikes a minute after midnight Eastern Time Tuesday, nearly 150 players will be eligible to negotiate and sign with other teams. Picture a Walmart opening its doors on Black Friday but with Max Scherzer firing 95 mph fastballs and Michael Morse swinging a club, because I am, and it’s a fantastic image.

But let’s talk about those guys. They’ll draw some serious interest now that we’re entering “hot stove league” season. Scherzer has just finished laughing at the qualifying offer the Tigers extended on Friday. Both sides have expressed interest in a long-term deal and, if done, Detroit could maintain their three-headed Cy Young monster with David Price and Justin Verlander. Then they could focus on their one need: a bullpen.

Morse is fresh off a limited, but effective postseason outing. An oblique injury in early September limited him to pinch-hitter capacity with his subpar defensive abilities. However, every team saw how effective he was at swinging a club. About 10 American League teams had to wipe drool off their faces after picturing him as their DH.

And Morse isn’t even the biggest San Francisco Giant in free agency. The Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, is hitting the open market. Like the catch he made to end the World Series, Pablo Sandoval will end his free agency experience lying in celebration upon a field of green – the straight cash he will have raked in from a team this Red Sox fan hopes is the Boston Red Sox.

A left-handed hitting, fun-loving, postseason-dominating third baseman is the exact prescription for a team like the Red Sox, who are trying to put together a lineup that can score runs. Though every other team, including San Francisco, knows this. If Sandoval wants to keep owning October, why would he leave? Can the Giants afford to keep him? That’s a question this writer hopes is answered with “no.”

And let us not forget about Jon Lester, the top southpaw to be courted with his own impressive playoff resume. Is he back to Boston, or more likely a team looking to make splash, e.g., the Cubs? They didn’t hire Joe Maddon to work with the same allowance as Tampa Bay. Just don’t let the Yankees be his next team.

Lester will set the market and destinations of the next tier of starting pitchers in James Shields, Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana. Jake Peavy is looking for the big bucks after another World Series ring, but he’s mainly hoping to be traded midseason so he can win another one with that team.

Well that about does it for the top free agents. Oh, wait there is also Hanley Ramirez, Russell Martin, Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz! And then Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis and Cuban free-agent Yasmany Tomas. And I’m still not done.

Andrew Miller, Pat Neshek and David Robertson highlight an impressive relief market. Did you get that Detroit? You should corner it. That’s right, this free agency period is going to be so awesome, the relievers are even exciting.

Players coming and going, teams inevitably destroying their payroll and the Dodgers paying out the wazoo for somebody. It’s that time of year again, folks: hot stove league. For the next few months baseball fans can sit back and cozy up as the rumor mills fan the flames. Grab some cocoa and roast some chestnuts, it’s the hap-happiest season of all.

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