Seeing Through the Smoke Screens
There is a lot of nonsense being “reported” in the last 24-48 hours before the trading deadline. All the “buzz” you hear about this player generally comes from “team officials” or “a source close to the team”, etc. Part of what those “moles” are doing is purposely leaking information for any of several reasons. Let’s go through a few of the smoke screens set up by the moles and how they should be interpreted.
The “Insane Package Request”
Selling team “leaks out” that they want two or three of another team’s best prospects in return for their player on the block. The Mariners are being particularly insane in their demand for two top prospects in return for the fast-fading Raul Ibanez. Naturally, the idea is to drive up the price for a player, and hope someone is desperate enough to fall for it.
This can also be called “The Billy Beane BS”. A team that really isn’t interested in trading a player, offers him up to the world by leaking his availability. The strategy is to see if someone would grossly overpay for the player — which serves two purposes. First, if it’s a “bowl me over” offer, you pull the trigger. If it’s close, the selling GM can keep that in his pocket as a starting point when he talks trades over the following winter. Beane did this recently with Huston Street, who probably isn’t nearly as available as has been reported.
The “Owner Vetoed the Deal” Announcement
Sometimes an owner really does kill a deal — Baltimore owner Peter Angelos is infamous for this. Just as often, though, the trade was never serious, but the selling team “leaks it out” in an effort to set a price for a particular player.
This was recently played by the Pirates, who “leaked a deal that was on the table” between them and the Braves for Jason Bay. Apparently the Bucs were not happy with the offers they were receiving for Bay, so they created their own ideal package, hoping to stir the coals. Naturally, it was all baloney — the Braves were sellers, not buyers.
The “Off the Market” Announcement
When a team fails with its “Insane Package Request”, they often will move right to the “Off the Market” ploy — announcing that a certain player is “off the block” and that the team is “no longer listening to offers” for the player. Of course, this is a tactic to drive up the price of the player. A prime example is Baltimore’s taking George Sherrill off the market only a few days after requesting the “Insane Package”. Orioles GM Lee MacPhail thought he could get a “top shortstop prospect” for Sherrill, who is having a career year. But he can’t be serious about pulling Sherrill off the market — after all, the lefty was little more than an average setup man before being thrown into the closer’s role this year, and though he’s saved 26 games, he’s no Billy Wagner. His 4.23 ERA is concerning, as are the 25 walks in 44 innings. Plus, he’s 31 years old — no spring chicken. Bottom line: his value will never be higher, and the last place O’s need to deal him now.
The “Off the Radar” Announcement
Used similarly to the previous smoke screen, a buying team will have an “official” tell a reporter that they are “no longer interested” in a player, or that he is “off the radar”. Usually it is pure bunk, and designed specifically to drive down the price of the player in question. Good example: the Mets saying they are not interested in Manny Ramirez. Yeah, right.
The “Dead Deal”
This one can be played by either the buyer or the seller, as a way to, ironically, get a deal going again. Prime example: the Yankees and Mariners and Jarrod Washburn. As soon as you hear the announcement that a deal is dead, assume the opposite — it’s likely reaching consummation.
Bottom line: don’t believe all of the “buzz” reported. At least half of it is poker playing, with most of the other half public negotiation.