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.