It’s beginning to look a lot like that time of year again. You know, the one where mystery teams get mentioned, anonymous talent evaluators get quoted and friends of friends who work in the front office begin risking their livelihood to tell their drinking buddies all of their employer’s secrets.

While, technically, this special time of year begins right after the final out of the World Series, it doesn’t feel real until someone in the media reports on a mystery team’s interest in an available player, all while maintaining a straight face.

As such, credit to ringing the bell on another season of rumour mongering goes to former Big League GM and the inventor of OPSBI, Jim Bowden, who reported last night that Heath Bell’s free agent contract was almost done, but that he had no word on who the team involved was. An hour later, Bell himself tweeted out that there was nothing imminent, suggesting that the most exciting thing to happen in his world was stringing up Christmas lights.

Oh man, it’s so on.┬áRumour Mongers: Let’s get mongering.

After agreeing to terms on a two year contract with second baseman Ramon Santiago, the Detroit Tigers were rumoured to have interest in free agent outfielder Coco Crisp. Austin Jackson and Crisp in the same outfield would eliminate more Gaps in Detroit than the economy.

Free agent shortstop Jose Reyes was in Philadelphia yesterday, but it had nothing to do with baseball. No, seriously. Now stop asking.

The Texas Rangers are admitting to having some interest in Prince Fielder, but he’s far from a priority. Instead, the team will focus on making their bullpen even more Ron Washington proof, joining the Blue Jays and a host of other teams interested in Oakland A’s reliever Andrew Bailey.

The Minnesota Twins are making a “mad effort” to bring back Michael Cuddyer. Instead of a mystery team, let’s attach a mystery justification to this one.

And The Rest

The entrants in the initial competitive balance lottery were announced, and include the D-backs, Orioles, Indians, Royals, A’s, Pirates, Padres, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers and Cardinals. Thank god two division winners, a Wild Card team and the World Series champions who Forbes ranked as the eleventh most valuable franchise in baseball last year can finally find an even playing field.

Texas Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine said thanks, but no thanks to the Houston Astros interview request. So, what would it take to convince Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman to switch allegiance and join the worst team in baseball right now.

And just in case you were wondering, this is when Friedman is at his busiest.

The Colorado Rockies were a busy little franchise last night.

Minor League Ball’s John Sickels thinks rather highly of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. DJF puts his thoughts into bearable language.

Should the Kansas City Royals really be transferring Aaron Crow from the bullpen to the rotation?

The Hardball Times looks at the predictive ability of the newest plate discipline metric.

Is Vladimir Guerrero facing unemployment this coming season?

Finally, from Matt Sebek, this is how Colby Rasmus gets down during the off season: