*Don't worry, you didn't miss anything with no Hot Links yesterday morning.
*Ken Rosenthal has an interesting piece over in The Athletic (I know many don't like paying for quality writing, but my months-long writer's block crisis may actually be subsiding and I may be contributing two or three things in the next few weeks over there so you can...continue to not subscribe to The Athletic. Just text me, I'll probably tell you the gist.) in which he reports that the Astros are...
-Interested in Nelson Cruz AND Michael Brantley
-Are open to moving Josh Reddick
A free-agent splurge on Cruz and Brantley would be out of character for the Astros, and the competition on the open market, combined with the team's need for a starting pitcher, makes it more likely Houston will get one hitter, not both.
Rosenthal also mentions the fabled "Veteran Presence" of Nelson Cruz, a la Carlos Beltran, on the team as an attraction. But I'm struggling to find how the Veteran Presence benefits the Astros, who have been to consecutive ALCS' and won consecutive divisions. I think Altuve is the Veteran Presence. But what do I know?
*Cool article over at The Runner, who talked to prospect (and Big-League Spring Training invitee) Corbin Martin about growing up in Hempstead and will likely pitch for the Astros in 2019.
*Lance McCullers Jr traded 90 dogs and cats to Minnesota for future considerations
*Ralph Bowden gives the Astros a D (like, a letter grade, not a euphemism) on their offseason so far.
*So here's an NYT article about McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, is helping to elevate authoritarian governments. Keith Law came along and noted McKinsey & Company's work with the Astros. It's true. Jeff Luhnow spent five years with McKinsey, though probably not in the Authoritarian Government Stabilization Department.
*The Braves are now apparently favorites for J.T. Realmuto. Wait, no, it's now apparently a three-team Mets/Marlins/Padres menage a trade, and the Braves are out. No one knows anything why do we even pretend?
*Future Ramgers Great Mike Fiers?
*Why Cincinnati is a perfect fit for Dallas Keuchel.
*Justin Verlander threw a Christmas party at Dave & Buster's for 1,000 veterans and their families.
*Here's an excellent recap of Jeff Kent's Hall of Fame case from FanGraphs' Jay Jaffe. Jaffe's insightful analysis masks over some memories I have of Kent (mainly my lasting memory of Jeff Kent is just him flipping his helmet over and over again). But hell if Harold Baines is in, why not let Kent in?
Related: According to Jon Heyman (via Hall-of-Famer-Who-Shouldn't-Be-A-Hall-of-Famer Jack Morris and not-Hall-of-Famer Dave Stewart) criticism of Baines' selection to the HOF is insubordinate, and churlish.
*Sam Miller: You might be a better hitter than these five MLB pitchers. LOL couldn't be me (Ed. Note: would totally be me).
*Great piece in The Hardball Times from FOAC (Friend of Astros County) Mike Bates: Who is the King of Baseball? Hint: it's not what you think.
*How Adam Ottavino attacked the offseason.
*OF COURSE Bryce Harper was a Yankees fan growing up.
*You've probably already seen this, but whatever: My dad's (Ed. Note: Not my actual dad, the writer's dad) friendship with Charles Barkley.
*Grant Brisbee: Why gambling used to scare baseball and now it doesn't.
*Gizmodo: When a stranger decides to destroy your life.
*A Musical Selection: