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'Tis the Season for Ridiculous Rumors

Mike SteffanosThursday, November 29, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

There was a time when people didn't talk much baseball in the winter. Baseball writers covered other sports. Fans turned their attention to football, hockey and basketball. Unless a trade or signing actually happened, baseball stayed on the back burner until spring training got underway.

I'm a baseball guy, so I enjoy some of the hot stove stuff. It's fun to debate trade scenarios and the relative merits of free agents. Unfortunately, though, the hot stove talks has become quite big business for newspapers, talk radio and the national sports media. This has led to a new type of hot stove story, with a good example being this one in today's Daily News. The emphasis is mine, for the purpose of making my point:

The Twins are about to trade their shortstop. The Mets have Jose Reyes. Hmmmm.

Speculation in MLB circles swirled Wednesday that the Mets, who desperately need to obtain a frontline starter this winter, were considering parting with Reyes to obtain Johan Santana in the wake of a separate pending Twins deal yesterday that would send Minnesota's shortstop, Jason Bartlett, to Tampa Bay along with pitcher Matt Garza and reliever Juan Rincon for outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris and outfield prospect Jason Pridie.

Still, Mets insiders were adamant early in the day that neither Reyes, David Wright nor Carlos Beltran (who has a full no-trade clause) would be traded this winter.

Although the Mets feel they have a package of prospects that can compete with what the Red Sox or Yankees might give Minnesota, most baseball insiders believe what the Mets have to offer falls short and a player such as Reyes would be needed in order to land Santana.

Essentially, the source of Adam Rubin's story is the nebulous -- one might even say ethereal -- "speculation in MLB circles". Basically, this could be anyone with any tie at all to baseball. Moreover, speculation is by its very nature the conjecture of those who lack any real inside information or insight into the club's thinking.

It's fair to speculate that the Mets don't have the sexy prospects that some of the other suitors have to offer. It's also fair to have the opinion that only by building a deal around a Jose Reyes do the Mets have a chance to make a deal for the Twins' ace pitcher. This is, however, no more of a news item than any speculation you might come across in blogs, on talk radio, or debated over some cold ones in the neighborhood sports bar. Yahoo picked this up for their own MLB Rumors on their web site, crediting this very speculation as some sort of a "source", again the emphasis is mine:

The New York Daily News reported that speculation in MLB circles swirled Wednesday that the New York Mets, who desperately need to obtain a frontline starter this winter, were considering parting with Reyes to obtain Johan Santana.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but my definition of "reporting" is when a journalist passes along factual news. This is mere conjecture on the part of the writer. It's not hard to find someone somewhere to say something that makes for a good story, whether it's an unnamed executive, scout or the really vague MLB circles that sourced this one out. I'm not picking on Rubin here, who does a good job covering the Mets. It's simply the way the game is played today. The problem is that this intentionally vague speculation is given credence due to where it appears.

I know there are some who would make this deal, but players like Reyes don't come along often. I would argue that a 24-year-old shortstop with his ability would be an even rarer commodity than a front-line starter, particularly a SS that is signed to what is essentially a bargain contract compared to a pitcher who is likely to make Zito money look like chump change. This would be a DUMB trade.

It makes for great copy and heated discussion to declare that Omar Minaya has to make a huge splash this winter, when the truth is that anything he does needs to be a sound baseball move. If he gives away too much in pursuit of making a splash this winter, it may temporarily keep the wolves away from the door, but will ultimately come back to haunt him, the club and the fan base. Whatever puts the Mets in the best position to win in both the short and long terms should be the priority.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (11)

Hi Mike, I love this time of year and I eat up all the rumors with pen and paper with differant trades and lineups,but I have learned to take them wth a grain of salt because hardly any of them come to pass. And when the baloon bursts and nothing happens I just rip up my line ups and look forward to spring training.Or the next trading deadline with more pens and paper.I have come to learn that I am a very bad GM with the trades I would have made or did'nt make. All my dreams would become rumors and nightmares in the headlines and back pages of the news,every day,twice on Sundays.

Al - I think I used to love the rumors more when they weren't coming from so many places.

I am SOOOOO glad that somebody has FINALLY said something about these lazy assed HACKS who pull these stories out of their butts and call them news. All of the Reyes/Santana stuff is built on a total mountain of speculation. To the Daily News reporter: Get off your butt and do some real reporting and stop with this rumor mongering. You suck. It no wonder the bloggers are taking over.

As to the Hot Stove getting even hotter in recent years, it seems that like the NFL, baseball is becoming a 365 day season. The blogs also have much to do with that. You guys keep the buzz going and I think it's great. Baseball is my favorite sport and I REALLY miss it. It's like an old friend that's with you during the whole summer. The hot stove does help fill the winter void.

Here's my dumb idea.

“We are very happy with Jose Reyes,” Minaya said. “Jose Reyes is part of our core. I don’t see us trading Jose Reyes.”

I believe this to be not much more than GM rhetoric and definitely not a no-trade proclamation for Reyes. Here’s my major Shea-kup which I feel is beneficial to the Mets and the other teams involved.
Trade Billy Wagner, Ben Johnson, and Johnny Estrada to the Orioles for Ramon Hernandez and Danys Baez.
The O’s need a closer, lack LH bench help and want rid of the Hernandez/Baez contracts, and the Mets lose the malcontent rat with one year left on his deal and gain a catcher and setup man.
Trade Jose Reyes, Carlos Gomez, Aaron Heilman, Ruben Gotay, Philip Humber and 1st Rd pick to the Twins for Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, and Brendan Harris.
The Twinkies get their starting CF and SS, play newly acquired Delmon Young in LF, and get two controllable arms in Heilman and Humber. The Mets get the number one starter they’ve lacked, an outstanding underrated local-boy closer in Nathan,a serviceable infielder in Harris, and still have the Braves 1st round pick for Glavine. The lineup could be Milledge, Harris, Beltran, Wright, Delgado, Alou, Hernandez, Castillo. Lost speed/added pop. The rotation is pretty with Santana, Pedro, Perez, Maine, Duque/Pelf. Nathan closes with Baez, Sanchez, Feliciano, Smith, Sosa, Scotty S.. Bench is Castro, Easley, Anderson, Chavez, AHern

To speculate that Omar & Co. would deal Reyes for Santana is sheer madness. First, we would have to get more than just Santana, and unless we had a leadoff hitter who could hit .280, deliver 70 extra base hits, steal 70 bases easily and play shortstop, with the range and ability of Reyes (September '07 notwithstanding), there is just no way to imagine a deal of this sort.

Clearly, the price for Santana, even if prospects were only in the mix, will be too high in terms of potential talent AND salary. Let the Highlanders and BoSox overpay for all these guys. It has worked to both of their advantages to a certain degree, but they also have the highest ticket prices in baseball to show for it. There will come a point when the baseball bigwigs and the other three teams in the AL East will say enough is enough. The competitive balance is really skewed by the feeding frenzy between those two clubs. Nobody ever mentions this distortion since most of the baseball writers who are widely disseminated are from major markets (which also include Los Angeles and Chicago). If I were Omar, I would be crafting the other deals right now before the two bloodsuckers of the AL East set the bar for a quality pitcher way beyond reality.

Minaya has moved along deliberately and positioned the Mets to make a trade or two an sign a free agent or two. Frankly, I would rather have Dan Haren and/or Erik Bedard, both of whom are available (if the talk is not too cheap). Beane loves Milledge and Heilman, so a package of those two with a Willie Collazo and Ruben Gotay (who does not seem to have a place on the big club) should be able to land Haren and Kiki Colero, who the Mets appear to covet. At the same time, could Bedard and Chad Bradford be available for Pelfrey, Humber, Joe Smith, Scott Schoeneweis and/or Anderson Hernandez? Just more speculation, but a staff of Martinez, Bedard, Haren, Perez and Maine, with a pen of Wags, Sanchez, Feliciano, Bradford, Ron Mahay (the lefty I would like to see signed as a FA), Colero and El Duque as the long man, would be a major improvement.

While a considerable stream of talent would be dealt In these scenarios and deplete the farm, so to speak, the Mets would retain Mulvey, Guerra and Burgos, who may be their best pitching prospects, as well as Gomez and Martinez, their best outfield prospects. With Milledge gone, the Mets could platoon Gomez (not quite ready) with Chavez or go after Fudokome or just a short-term option, of which there are many scenarios.

Could the Mets deal for Haren, Bedard, Colero and Bradford and sign Mahay and a Fudokome or other short-term OF option? Absolutely. But not with Santana in the mix.

There is nothing wrong with the Hot Stove, as long as the speculation does not run amuck. Reyes for Santana just doesn't work for us, but if I were a Twins fan, it would be outstanding.

If I thought there was the tiniest chance B. Beane would accept Heilman, Milledge and Gotay for Haren as was proposed here, I could accept Reyes trade talk as speculation run amuck. I find that proposal insane from the A's perspective. Apparently Beane no longer loves Milledge and Heilman.
"Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the A's are no longer as interested in Lastings Milledge and Aaron Heilman as part of a potential trade package for Dan Haren or Joe Blanton. According to Rosenthal, the A's don't view Milledge as a long-term option in center field and don't have a large need for corner outfielders. The Mets are reportedly finding it difficult to swing a deal for a front-line starter because other teams don't necessarily value some of their young talent highly."
Haren is under contract for three more years for a total of $16.25 million, or less than Santana will command for one season. Would a Milledge/Heilman/Gotay package work for Haren, under control for that little money, but not work for the right to even talk money with Santana? If Bedard and Bradford could be had for scraps"Pelfrey, Humber, Joe Smith, Scott Schoeneweis and/or Anderson Hernandez" of course I'd do it, but the Orioles wouldn't. My proposal is not meant to be overwhelming from the Mets perspective as they are in stiff competition for an ace in a seller's market. Seems to me the cost of either Santana, Bedard, Haren is exorbitant, and if you have to part with blue chips, get the best of the bunch in Santana.

Mike - Call me an old-fashioned fart as well, but the problem with "reporting" anything between the last pitch of the season is that 95 percent of it turns out to be idle conjecture rather than facts.

When the high point of my baseball-reading day is learning who won the AL Rookie of the Year award, I know it's time to shut down, at least until the winter meetings. Problem is, those print folks have pages and pages to fill, and nothing to fill it with most days besides hints and allegations. That said, I like the idea of dealing an outfield prospect, a pitching prospect, and Heilman (despite Wags' objections) to get a Dan Haren.

Flip side: dopey rumors like including Maine in a deal to land Santana make no sense to me. You don't fill a big hole in your rowboat by pulling out the cork in a smaller hole.

Agreed with Nostradennis here on both points.

Filler material in a sports page doesn't have to be all bad, you know. One can grow cold and lonely waiting for some actual news to occur; and sometimes the real world simply isn't enough.

Well I remember the very first blockbuster rumor that I ever read, in Sporting News as it happened. The year was Winter of 1966-1967, and Sporting News had Mike Epstein going to Baltimore for Mel Stottlemyre.

It was crazy, hard for me to understand on several levels. For one thing, I had never heard of Epstein, even though he was minor league player of the year that year. Stottlemyre, I knew; he had been a hero in the World Series only two years earlier. He had won twenty games a year earlier. But he had LOST twenty in 1966, and the Yankees, who were still running on the remnants of their powerhouse team from the early '60's, were a shambles, having finished dead last; presumably the pressure was there for the owners (CBS?) to do SOMETHING.

Still, why give up one of your best pitchers for a first baseman, when your incumbent first baseman finished fifth in the league in home runs that year? And who gives himself a nickname like "Superjew" anyway? Of course, living in Tennessee I hadn't read the stories of Joe Pepitone's after hour activities; to me he looked like a good young player, a keeper. Nobody much was hitting for average back then.

See my point? That rumor got me thinking on several different fronts. It's a big part of how they hook us on baseball

In the above comment I actually meant Baltimore's Mike Epstein going to New York, not in the other direction as I wrote it.

Alot of Met fans really need to stop paying attention to the WFAN hosts. The yahoos on that station, begining with Joe Benigno and ending with the obnoxious Mike Francesa, know nothing about scouting playersm recruitment and posess no inside knowledge of long term franchise development of the Mets and their potential trading partners.

This whole notion that the Mets have done nothing thus far, have no valauable prospects and absolutely must make a splash is so uninformed and irrational and does nothing more than boost ratings, particulalrly in thse case of Mike and the truly mad Mad-Dog.

It can't help but feel that Benigno and Mike and the Mad Dog have done is to stir the pot and whip Met fans into an emotional irrational frenzy.

Lots of comments, just a few thoughts of my own as I struggle to wrap my head around the Milledge trade.

I really can't blame the guys for writing these stories. They draw a lot of attention, and that's what makes an editor happy. I guess I just wish they would separate pure speculation from reality. That's my problem, not matter who in the media is doing it.

By the way, MisterMet845, you can't trade draft picks in baseball.

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