What is the Hot Stove?

865847882What is the “Hot Stove” and where did the term come from?

The Major League baseball off-season is known as the hot stove season because back in the day that’s what you did in the wintertime to get some baseball — sit around a hot stove with some other folks and talk about baseball.

We’ve come a long way from literally gathering around a stove for baseball chit chat, but today’s technology (including the MLB Network–TV & radio) makes the off-season chatter faster and more intense. We are now past the World Series (thank god) and awards for 2018 performance. Now we can look ahead to 2019, where hope springs eternal for all teams.

The hot stove is basically info for baseball junkies. It allows us fanatics to follow things like:

1. Qualifying offers

2. Free agency

3. Trades

4. Off season injuries

5. 40-man roster manipulation & Rule 5 draft

6. New front office/managers

7. Arizona Fall League

And much more.

The free agent market, a key highlight, usually develops slowly and then, whammo, there will be mega player movement. But what happened last year is that the market moved very, very slowly and several free agents were unsigned as spring training opened and then were forced to take one year deals at “modest” (relative) compensation. Many player agents, including uber-agent Scott Boras, push their clients to play the waiting game in free agency. Some players are rewarded for their patience while others get coal in their Christmas stocking. It’s a multi-million dollar game of chicken.

Interestingly, this year there are 2 mega-stars on the free agent market-Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Beyond their top tier talent, they each made the majors at age 19, and therefore are now young 26 year-old free agents. Typically, free agents are in their late 20s and early 30s.

But many teams are more cautious with free agents, particularly those seeking longer contracts. Several teams have been burned by offering 10-year deals to 30+ year old players (A Rod, Cano, Pujols are good examples). It’s a virtual certainty that the player performance in last 2-3 years of a 10 year deal will be disappointing. But in the Machado/Harper cases, a 10-year deal would take them through age 35. Then again, they may push for 12-year deals or more. They will surely be seeking $300Million+ deals and Harper had verbalized a $400Million goal. Good luck with that.

new-york-yankees-223768_500_500However, the most important question (to me) is..…what will the Yankees do?

That’s unclear. I liked that they re-signed CC and Gardner for another year. Still solid players. Good start, but their need is top of the rotation pitching, pitching, pitching. Arizona’s Patrick Corbin is the top free agent pitcher as of the moment. Jay Happ (who played for the Yankees in August-September) is another high quality pitcher. There are rumors of the Yankees interest in a trade for the Indians Corey Kluber. He’d be a great add. He’s still a stud. And adding another strong reliever is always a smart thing to do. The Yankees have not been reluctant to add to the pen, but starters are their #1 priority.

The Yankees also have a need at shortstop with Didi Gregorius, who has blossomed into a top shortstop and team leader, needing off season Tommy John surgery. Ugh. There are options as Gleyber Torres could move back to shortstop (where he played in the minors), but that would leave a 2nd base hole. Other options to explore here too. Does this make them more interested in Machado? Who knows?

My Yankees have never been reluctant to spend major shekels on talent (and I love them for that) but they have been a bit more frugal in the past couple of years to avoid/minimize the luxury tax on baseball’s biggest spending teams. They also are now benefiting from the youth of the majority of their players who are still in their pre-free agent years. But there will be big contracts in the 2020s for Judge, Severino and others. As it relates to free agents, the Yankees often get what they want. It’s just not clear that they want/need Machado or Harper.

However interesting the Hot Stove is, one thing is clear. The Hot Stove winner (as judged by fans) is not always the winner during the season. Big signings can disappoint. Lesser players and youngsters emerge. Players don’t come with performance warranties…only guaranteed contracts.

What I do know is that I can’t wait for Opening Day. I’ll be there. I have 29 games in my 2019 package. How many I will make I have no idea. The fun begins on March 28 at 1pm vs. the Orioles in the Bronx. Exciting year ahead. #28 in 2019.

PS: Since I originally posted this on the morning of November 19, the Yankees have traded for James Paxton of the Mariners later that day. He’s a very good starting pitcher with some durability issues.  Stove is heating up. Keep it going.

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