A Quick Note On Rumors

Dave · November 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Preface – there are some really good reporters covering Major League Baseball, and they have really good sources and they get really good information. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman seem to break about 90% of the stories in Major League Baseball between them, and there are countless other guys in local markets who are really well plugged into their organizations and provide accurate information a great majority of the time.

But, unfortunately, not all reporters are created equal, and not all anonymous sources are as good as others. And, because of the way the baseball rumor industry works, it’s often hard to tell a rumor that has substance behind it from one that is speculation, spin, or just out-and-out wrong.

For instance, over the last week, we’ve seen stories that Mike Napoli has three year offers out from multiple clubs, and we’ve seen stories that Mike Napoli doesn’t have any offers from any clubs. We’ve seen stories that the Orioles are working hard on a deal with Mark Reynolds to avoid having to non-tender him before Friday’s deadline to offer arbitration, and we’ve seen stories that the Orioles haven’t had any contact with Reynolds’ representatives to discuss a 2013 contract. Today, we saw reports that the Mets most recent offer to David Wright made it possible that a deal could get done this week, and then David Wright and his agent both felt it necessary to issue a public statement that no deal was close and that the reports were inaccurate.

Obviously, some of these reports have to fall in the just “flat out wrong” category, as they can’t all be true. There are others that are more ambiguous, and are some shade of true, but might not really reflect the reality of the situation. And, of course, some are right on. For instance, Ken Rosenthal was saying for a few weeks that the Royals acquisition of Ervin Santana could lead them to sign Jeremy Guthrie to a backloaded three year deal, which is exactly what they did. He clearly had good information on that, and it’s why he’s probably the best in the business at the rumor game right now.

Not everyone is Ken Rosenthal, though, and not even Rosenthal gets everything right every time. And that’s why I’d suggest that you filter all of the rumors you’re going to see over the next week or so through the BS detector. Those rumors that the Mariners are heavily in on Russell Martin? I’m sure the Mariners called him, and on a one year deal, he’d make some sense in the same way Mike Napoli would, but the organization isn’t going to be committing long term to a catcher whose bat doesn’t play at another position. Giving Mike Zunino a veteran mentor for spring training and a guy who can hold down the fort for 2013 is one thing – signing a guy who is clearly going to want a full-time job behind the plate for the next three to four years is something else entirely.

So, why are the Mariners linked to a guy like Martin? Because pretty much every rumor about the Mariners is sourced from someone not working for the Mariners. The M’s front office is famously tight-lipped, and they just don’t really leak anything in advance. No one knew the Pineda trade was going down. No one knew the Ichiro trade was going down. They just happened, with no forewarning, and no real notice.

Rumors about the Mariners almost always come from player agents or baseball operations officials who work for other teams. Sometimes, these guys have legitimately good information about what the M’s are going to do, and sometimes, they share that information with the media. Not every rumor about the organization is BS. But you have to remember where they came from, and judge accordingly.

For instance, Russell Martin’s agent is incentivized to make it appear that his client is heavily in demand from multiple organizations. The Yankees want him back, but the Yankees also only want to sign one year contracts this winter, as they’re attempting to clear the books next year to get under the luxury tax threshold and reset their tax rate for future years. If Martin wants a multi-year deal from New York, his agent needs to give the Yankees a reason to give them multiple years. And, with all due respect to the Pirates, they’re not exactly the biggest stick in the drawer.

The Mariners, though, can theoretically represent a real stick. Ownership has publicly said that payroll is going up. They haven’t fielded a good offensive team in years. Everyone and their mother knows that the Mariners called every single free agent hitter on the market to express some degree of interest. And, if you’re just looking at the organization from an outsider’s perspective, the team has a hole at catcher, since regular starter Miguel Olivo won’t be back in 2013.

The necessary pieces are there for the Mariners to act as leverage to get more money from other teams. I’m not saying that’s why Mike Napoli’s agent shipped him up to Seattle for a visit, but the very public nature of his tour has a nice whiff of grandstanding, especially in light of the fact that the Rangers didn’t even make Napoli a qualifying offer. It’s tough to argue that they’re a serious threat to give him a multi-year contract when they wouldn’t even give him $13 million on a one year deal, and the only other city he’s visited was Boston — the spot that most people expected him to land heading into the winter. Without that trip to Seattle, though, Napoli’s basically got the Red Sox bidding against a Rangers team that has, to some extent, already showed its hand. They’ll take Napoli back, but at a reduced price and only after they’ve explored other options. That’s not really the kind of pressure that starts a bidding war.

Getting the Mariners involved, though – that puts some pressure on the Red Sox. I’m not saying the trip was entirely grandstanding for Boston’s benefit, or even that it was primarily that, but you can’t discount that benefit to Napoli’s camp. Just like you can’t discount the benefit to Martin’s camp that the Mariners are interested in him too. And that you can’t discount the benefit to the Mariners in negotiating with Napoli if his agent thinks that they see Martin as a legitimate alternative.

This is how this all works. Leaks are intentional, and often are intended for public use to serve a specific purpose. Most leaks about the Mariners don’t even come from the Mariners. Usually, when the Mariners are about to do something significant of note, no one has any idea until it’s basically done.

So, don’t get too worked up about what Jack is doing talking to Russell Martin’s agent, when Martin is seeking a four year contract and only fits behind the plate. Just laugh it off, and realize that these rumors are frequently used as motivational tools for the benefit of others, and are sometimes just out and out wrong.

The Mariners are going to do some stuff this winter. I’m willing to bet a significant amount of money that the stuff they’re going to do will not include signing Russell Martin to a long term contract. Some rumors just don’t pass the BS test. Don’t take them too seriously.


36 Responses to “A Quick Note On Rumors”

  1. Seattleken on November 27th, 2012 11:25 pm

    Nicely said Dave.
    Leaks happen because someone wants it out, and its no issue for the M’s to help a player get more money from another team.

    If the rumor is about a outfielder or a shortstop then I can see the M’s being really interested. My money is still on Swisher coming here at 15M a season (4 or 5 years), my fear is they will give Bourn that type of a deal.

  2. MrZDevotee on November 28th, 2012 12:26 am

    Ahh… The reasonable approach. This makes way more sense than signing either Napoli OR Martin.

    And Seattle has seemingly been that “early” visit ruse with others, like last season. And given our VERY outspoken approach to “we want bats” it seems we’ll be teased by just about everyone early in free agency, to add to the plate of everyone’s possible signings, for negotiations.

    Sucks, but makes sense.

    It’s just a fun offseason for “possibilities”, with money available, and when the rumor is that someone saw Pappa Z out shopping, and Christmas is just around the corner, it’s hard NOT to wonder what might show up under the tree?

    Is there reason to believe this happens two ways? That clubs like the Mariners, who are USUALLY tight lipped, can use the leaks to convey a message to guys they actually want (ie, a Swisher?) that they’re out there about to sign somebody big, and don’t have money for everyone, so if you want our offer, better make a move? Or at the very least to let the top guys know “Mariners are serious players this year”? Do clubs leverage leaks too?

    (Not actually suggesting this, but just curious about how often THAT happens too, which was sparked by this posting.)

  3. jwgrandsalami on November 28th, 2012 2:17 am

    nice article, Dave and right on the money. It can be frustrating as a Mariner fan anxious for them to acquire some bats to see the team connected to a guy like Mike Napoli whose main position is a spot where the team seems set at least from 2014 on. I realize he’s also capable of playing first base (badly) or DHing, but if you’re giving Napoli 3 or more years at $12 million+ one would think he’d only be worth that if he’s catching at least 50 games a year.

    Couple of questions. What are the chances that Nick Swisher just flat out doesn’t want to come play for Seattle because he’s used to winning in NY and doesn’t buy in to the M’s “plan”, especially when he seems to have five other teams, most being teams that have contended lately, interested?

    You mention that the Yankees are intent on getting under the luxury tax for 2014 and aren’t signing deals longer than one year. This plan has been written about for several months, so I was surprised when you wrote in your offseason plan that you believed it would take 7 years, $100 million to sign Swisher because you expected the Yankees to try hard to keep him. Just wondering what new information we have now that we didn’t have at the time you wrote up your offseason plan (which I thought was one of your best – I ure wish the M’s had been aggressive on Melky Cabrera like the Blue Jays were. There would be a lot less pressure on the M’s to get the next free agent signing or trade done if they alreayd had Melky in the fold.

  4. stevemotivateir on November 28th, 2012 4:46 am

    ^How do you know the M’s didn’t pursue Melky aggressively?

    That was a huge part of the point being made. We simply don’t know what Jack’s tried, what he’s doing right now, or what he might try next. Worth noting Cabrera got more than most people expected.

  5. PackBob on November 28th, 2012 5:09 am

    It’s fun for some to grind the rumor grist in the hope mill. It seems, as Dave points out with examples, that for about any player you can find any rumor. Pick the one you like and run with it, then wait to see what really happens.

    With Ichiro gone, Gutierez uncertain, and Saunders with only a year in with his new batting approach, the outfield seems like the best bet for an upgrade with a real MLB player, more so than catcher. Lots of outfielders available. Please, no more Mike Carp experiments in left field or Peguero experiments anywhere.

    I really don’t care who they get. I’d prefer Swisher, but MLB outfielder ______ fill in the blank. Anyone who can hit and play an outfield position reasonably well.

    There is money to spend, there is talent available. Seems easy.

  6. kennyb on November 28th, 2012 6:26 am

    I think it is funny that agents would link players like Napoli or Martin to the M’s.
    If we can so openly question the information and decide it doesn’t pass the smell test you would think the other front offices could too.
    I mean, most of us here thought Napoli was plausible. Strange and probably a waste of money, but plausible. But Martin? Really?
    No one reading this blog thought that would happen. Heck, even the people I work with that get all their Mariner’s information from Dave Simms thought that was not happening.

  7. robbbbbb on November 28th, 2012 6:39 am

    This sounds like a lovely time to reference one of my favorite books: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. Wherein Doug Shaftoe remarks, “Can’t you recognize bullshit? Don’t you think it would be a useful item to add to your intellectual toolkits to be capable of saying, when a ton of wet steaming bullshit lands on your head, ‘My goodness, this appears to be bullshit’?”

  8. Paul B on November 28th, 2012 7:39 am

    Since the Mariners front office is so tight lipped, I wonder if agents could also choose to use a rumor about interest by the Mariners to up bidding on their client, knowing that the M’s won’t confirm or deny it?

  9. Mariners35 on November 28th, 2012 9:03 am

    This is a very timely, reasonable and fact-based post today, Dave. And it will be good advice to bear in mind not just through the winter meetings, but all the way through to spring training.

    Nevertheless, it almost makes me want to see Napoli or especially Martin signed for say 4/36, for the sole reason of seeing what kind of sputtering and head-scratching post would go up here and elsewhere in the M’s blogosphere.

    Actually almost anything more than 3 years to almost anyone not named Swisher, Hamilton, Greinke or Felix Hernandez, and I have to wonder what kind of hit it would be to people’s confidence in Jack and this front office.

  10. sexymarinersfan on November 28th, 2012 9:12 am

    The odds of Melky Cabrera coming to Seattle were very very fair. I’m not saying that Z didn’t kick the tires on him, but he just wasn’t going to come here.

    Melky wanted to go somewhere, where he could pad his stats and re-establish his value. Frankly I’m surprised he signed for two years instead of one. Toronto offers a nice hitters park with plenty of protection throughout their lineup, not to mention they’re not a cellar dweller and have a really good chance at contending this year.

    It’s basically the same reason Beltre went to Boston for a year after he left Seattle for less money. He got his next big contract the year after from Texas. I just don’t see how Seattle would’ve gotten Cabrera to come here.

  11. _Hutch_ on November 28th, 2012 9:30 am

    Thank you for this. I was having nightmares last night about four-year deals for catchers in their 30s. In honor of the spirit of this post, I won’t check mlbrumors.com even once today.

  12. _Hutch_ on November 28th, 2012 9:31 am

    Oh, who am I kidding?

  13. Gritty Veteran Poster on November 28th, 2012 9:34 am

    I love me some juicy trade rumors the same way I love Hot Cheetos. A few are ok, but too many and I don’t feel so great. As for Mariners rumors, especially since Jack has been here, the moves that actually happen are rarely rumored ahead of time. I don’t remember hearing even a whiff of a rumor about the Pineda/Montero trade before it actually went down. I like it that way.

  14. Adam B. on November 28th, 2012 9:37 am

    I think anyone with a bit of common sense between their ears can tell that a lot of the recent free-agent rumors haven’t passed the smell-test.

    I think the bitter truth is that at least at this juncture, the majority of the major free-agents are simply using the Mariners as foils for more lucrative contracts from more competitive teams.

    I honestly think that the Mariners are going to have to trade for the largest of their acquisitions, or at least wait til some of the larger free-agent targets are left with fewer preferential landing spots later in the off-season.

  15. MKT on November 28th, 2012 9:50 am

    “regular starter Miguel Olivo won’t be back in 2013.”

    Regardless of anything else, it just feels so good to read that sentence.

  16. BPhipps on November 28th, 2012 10:32 am

    It is not necessarily only in the interest of players and their agents to have these types of rumors. The Mariners organization could also be gaining. Rumors like this keeps the team’s name in the press. It allows fans to play armchair GM and gives talk radio something M’s related to blather on about.
    This kind of publicity ensures that Mariner’s baseball isn’t just out of sight, out of mind, from Oct-Feb. From a marketing standpoint, that has real value.

  17. bookbook on November 28th, 2012 11:58 am

    Rumor has it that Figgins’ release has been finalized.

  18. Kazinski on November 28th, 2012 12:06 pm

    But we’re all in on A.J. Pierzynski, right?

    He seems to be perfect Mariner material, as Ozzie once said “If you play against A.J., you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.” So I suppose he’ll be prominent in the next round of rumors.

  19. georgmi on November 28th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Pierzynski would nicely fill the “loathed by the fans” spot on the roster that was just opened up by the release of Figgins.

  20. Westside guy on November 28th, 2012 3:08 pm

    Wait – are you saying we’re NOT gonna sign Prince Fielder?

  21. stevemotivateir on November 28th, 2012 3:25 pm

    I can’t believe we haven’t heard Olivo’s name linked to teams looking for a catcher. Headlines should read: “Red Sox Seriously pursuing Napoli…. No Interest in Olivo”.

  22. shadow_watch on November 28th, 2012 11:40 pm

    It continues to seem unlikely that the M’s will be able to spend there money on anything of quality in the free agent market. Not sure what another $20M coming off the books next year and a fat TV deal can do, if no one can be enticed to come to Seattle.

    We don’t need to replace one .220 hitter with another for the sake of making a deal.

  23. Paul B on November 29th, 2012 7:22 am

    uh, what?

  24. thurston24 on November 29th, 2012 9:50 am

    I needed this reminder because I will admit that I was getting a little nervous that GMZ was getting a little desperate and was willing to make a bad contract or two.

    Anyone have any idea why there were the Billy Butler rumors the other week? They really don’t make sense to me at all.

  25. Westside guy on November 29th, 2012 12:56 pm

    It’s only November – everyone needs to take a chill pill.

    Don’t get hysterical just because a/some certain beat writer/writers needs to come up with a story. Note that, in this case, I’m not really faulting any particular beat writer – there’s not a whole lot of substance to talk about right now, and a writer almost certainly has a quota of words to generate daily if they want to keep getting a paycheck.

  26. heyoka on November 29th, 2012 2:23 pm

    I believe it is now our responsibility to start rumors.
    What would be a good way to start a rumor and see if we can get some news sport section to pick it up?

  27. thedude1987 on November 29th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Mike Morse may be expendable with the addition of Denard Span. would this be the kind rf/lf/1b/DH that would be intriguing. I really can’t remember the kind of player he was when he was playing in Seattle.

  28. gwangung on November 29th, 2012 5:39 pm

    Mike Morse may be expendable with the addition of Denard Span. would this be the kind rf/lf/1b/DH that would be intriguing. I really can’t remember the kind of player he was when he was playing in Seattle.

    Hit like a slap hitter, with no power. With all the agility of a moose in heat in the field (he hurt himself for the season turning around three or four times trying to flag down a fly ball that still managed to go over his head–he tripped over himself and fell on his shoulder).

  29. Typical Idiot Fan on November 29th, 2012 8:10 pm

    I think we can get past the “Morse sucks” talk now, tho. He’s definitely a hitter, and though he’s a butcher in the outfield, he could probably hold down first given enough opportunity, and would make an obvious DH in the AL. What this does for Montero, Jaso, and Smoak would require some refinement and finagling, but it could be workable.

  30. MrZDevotee on November 29th, 2012 8:14 pm

    Russell Martin rumors are over…

    2 years/$17 million to the Pirates


  31. Seattleken on November 29th, 2012 11:26 pm

    I imagine the Yanks are looking to trade for a catcher now… the remaining free agents are either more costly than Martin or absolute crap. My god Olivo is probably the best out there in the under 4 million a season crowd.

    You have to wonder what they were thinking giving Rivera 10 million but 8.5M was too much for a 2 WAR catcher. They could have signed Martin and got Soria as a free agent closer for 13 million instead they will go with Rivera and a nightmare like Olivo or Barajas for 13 million.

    That or maybe they are calling Jack and seeing if they can trade for a catcher.

  32. jwgrandsalami on November 30th, 2012 12:40 am

    Really ken? Now we’re worrying about the Yankees and speculating they’ll have to sign Miguel Olivo because they ddnt overpay to re-sign Russell Martin? Perhaps we should stick to trying to solve the Mariners’ problems. While the Mariners have missed the playoffs in each of the last 11 seasons, NY made the postseason in ten of those seasons. The Yankees have a smart and creative GM, so while I’m not a Yankee fan, given their track record, I’m quite sure they’ll be able to find a solid starting backstop either by trade or in the farm system without having resort to a bottom feeder like Olivo.

    And no, they’re not going to kick their Hall of Fame closer to the curb so they can overpay a guy who hit .211 last year. Players like Martin are what the smart teams call expendable when he doesn’t fit their budget/plan. And I’m glad for the Pirates that hey got someone to take their money this early in the offseason. That’s not an every year occurrence!

  33. Johnny Slick on November 30th, 2012 4:22 am

    How is 2 years and $18M an overpay for Martin? If he’s worth 2 wins this year and a win and a half in 2014 the Bucs come out roughly even.

  34. Paul B on November 30th, 2012 6:53 am

    I’d be very amused if the Yankees signed Olivo.

  35. ThanatosK on November 30th, 2012 10:11 am

    Hmm, reports that the Angels acquired Tommy Hanson from the braves for Jordan Walden. Hanson isn’t quite the uber stud he looked like his rookie season but I think I would have been happy to trade one of our better bullpen arms for him. Anyone else’s thoughts?

  36. Jamison_M on November 30th, 2012 10:53 am

    Yes, I would have been very comfortable giving up a bullpen arm, comparable-to-slightly-better-than Walden, to acquire Tommy Hanson (who went to the same Community College as me!), though no examples come screaming to mind.

    And, of course, I don’t like anything the Angels do… except when they lose. I like when they do that.

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