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Hot Stove to keep cooking on Thanksgiving

Hot Stove to keep cooking on Thanksgiving

It's the perfect baseball stealth move.

When late November rolls around and the Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings create a blissful, tryptophan-induced haze that seems to last a whole four-day weekend, one might think that free-agent wheeling and dealing or pulling off the blockbuster trade of the winter might not be able to compete with pumpkin pie in the minds of baseball executives.

But a recent history shows us the opposite. Just about every home has a Hot Stove this time of year, and if an astute general manager can swoop in and make serious noise for his team, the rest, as they say, will be gravy.

Mets GM Omar Minaya might have put it best last year when he told the New York Daily News, "In this business, Thanksgiving is still a work day."

Minaya's Red Sox counterpart, Theo Epstein, proved that in 2003, when he and club president and CEO Larry Lucchino flew to Phoenix and showed up at the home of then-Arizona Diamondbacks ace Curt Schilling. The two actually ate Thanksgiving dinner with Schilling and his family while Epstein tried to convince the right-hander to waive a no-trade clause and accept a contract extension, presumably between bites.

It worked. They carved out the turkey and the trade that brought Schilling -- and the following year's World Series title -- to Boston.

"If we didn't sign Curt, it probably would have been the worst Thanksgiving of my life," Epstein said at the time. "We tried to refuse, and Curt said it was a deal-breaker, they would be insulted if we didn't go."

Two years after that, the Red Sox worked more holiday magic, this time making a deal on the Turkey Day itself, landing starter Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell in a super-swap with Florida that netted the Marlins their All-Star shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, plus Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado. Two seasons later, Beckett and Lowell helped take another title back to Beantown.

And in 2007, Angels GM Tony Reagins landed on his proverbial Plymouth Rock, making waves while new on the job by inking center fielder Torii Hunter to a five-year, $90 million deal during an impromptu meeting with Hunter's agent at a Del Taco fast food restaurant near Anaheim. It was the day before Thanksgiving.

"These guys shocked me," Hunter said at the time, perhaps referring to the fact that two men were eating at a place with such fare as Macho Nachos and Big Fat Tacos instead of relaxing at home the night before Thanksgiving.

"I wanted to play with these guys. For me, they were one of the teams I was looking at, but I didn't know if they were looking at me. We shocked the world."

Others shocked the world, too, Thanksgiving-style.

Minaya traded for Carlos Delgado and Mike Jacobs on the holiday in 2005, a year after he wooed then-free-agent Pedro Martinez to the Mets with a Turkey Day visit in the Domincian Republic.

And the day after Thanksgiving in 2005, the Phillies made a big move, trading slugger Jim Thome to the White Sox for Aaron Rowand.

A year later, the Houston Astros celebrated America's favorite shopping day with a spree of their own, inking free agents Carlos Lee and Woody Williams the day after Thanksgiving.

One reason Thanksgiving signings and trades have become more popular recently might be because arbitration offers have to be made by Dec. 1, and the deadline to tender contracts to players arrives soon after that.

With that in mind, it's fun to wonder which huge baseball moves might pop up on our TVs while we settle into sofas and let our festive feasts digest.

One possibility is Boston trading for Roy Halladay.

According to The New York Daily News, citing an unnamed source, the Red Sox are "putting on a full-court press" to pull off a deal for the Blue Jays ace, looking to trump the Yankees in the process.

"[The Red Sox] would love to get it wrapped up before the Winter Meetings (beginning Dec. 7)," the source told the paper.

In other words, don't be surprised if Thanksgiving Theo strikes again.

Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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