Photo: Stephen Dunn (Getty)

We’ve been preheating the damn oven for two months, but now that it’s 2019 perhaps we are finally entering the hot stove season we’ve been so rudely denied? The Yankees have signed a multi-time all-star, multi–gold glove winning shortstop!...just not that one.

No, instead, New York has agreed to a contract with Troy Tulowitzki, who was somewhat surprisingly released by the Blue Jays last month after missing all but 66 games the last two season, including the entirety of 2018 as he dealt with bone spurs in both heels. But Toronto still owes the 34-year-old Tulowitzki $38 million over the next three years; the Yankees will only be on the hook for the MLB minimum salary.

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Though Tulowitzki has declined rapidly since being traded from Colorado to Toronto in 2015, it’s a relatively risk-free deal for the Yankees—even if they don’t quite know where, when, or if they’re going to use him. As of right now, he’d be the starting shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery sometime this summer. The Yankees would very much prefer for that not to happen, as they’re reportedly still the favorites to sign free agent Manny Machado.

It’s been two weeks since Machado made his three-city tour, but he’d made it clear that he wouldn’t choose a team until after the holidays. The White Sox, Philies, and Yankees still appear to be the only teams in the running, though it had been reported last week that no formal offers had yet been submitted, so even if that process kicks off in earnest today, it could still be a bit before Machado makes his final decision. The Yankees have been rumored to be unwilling to offer as much money/as many years as the other two teams, but Machado is said to prefer New York.

Does he prefer it enough to make up for the expected gap in offers? Does it mean anything that Machado followed the YES Network on Instagram, then quickly unfollowed? And is Bryce Harper going to wait until freakin’ March to make his decision? Is hot stove season more about the journey than the destination? What if the true hot stove is the friends we made along the way?