Anatomy of conflicting trade rumors: Adam Dunn edition

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Like I said an hour ago, trade rumors lend themselves to all kinds of mischief. Who is doing the leaking? What do they have to gain and lose by a piece of information floating out there? How near — or far — from the real decision makers are the sources whispering in the reporter’s ear? The answers to these questions can change a piece of news to a rumor to something close to utter baloney in five minutes. A great example: the Adam Dunn rumors.

The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley continues to report that the White Sox are all over Adam Dunn, saying just yesterday that the Nats and White Sox have exchanged names and are champing at the bit to make a deal.  Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Nats’ reporter, Bill Ladson, tweeted just a few short minutes ago that there “is nothing to” the Cowley report and that GM Mike Rizzo never talked to White Sox GM Kenny Williams
about Adam Dunn.”

Oh noes! Conflicting information! What’s a poor baseball fan to think!

You gotta parse this stuff.  You can start by noting that a White Sox source would have less reason to lie about the Sox and the Nats talking about Dunn, because if the deal doesn’t happen he has dashed the hopes of a lot of excitable fans who want the team to get a bat. In contrast, you have to think that a Nats’ source would not want a rumor about a fire-sale-quality trade like giving up Adam Dunn floating around out there until the last possible minute.  It could demoralize fans and anger the subject of the trade (who’s on record saying he doesn’t want to go be a DH, by the way).

Sure, there are counterarguments to each of those things — maybe the Chisox guy wants to create the illusion of action and the Nats guy would love to leak something about Dunn to cater to prospect hounds — but that’s the way I see it.

The giveaway, though, is Ladson’s subtle but rather significant qualification. Let me highlight it:  “MIKE RIZZO never talked to KENNY WILLIAMS about Adam Dunn.” Is it not possible that, say, the assistant GMs talked? Or that Nats’ President Stan Kasten talked to Williams? Or that, rather than talked, they exchanged emails or texts or telegrams or something?

It just seems like an oddly specific way to put that. It’s as if he was actually told the Williams/Rizzo thing in those exact words by someone with a need to be technically truthful but kinda cute. Reporters generally don’t operate on that level so I’m guessing Ladson didn’t create the odd construction. Front offices do, though, and I bet they did. After all of that, I come away thinking that there’s a lot of truth to the Adam Dunn to the White Sox buzz.  Maybe a trade happens, maybe it doesn’t, but I think there’s some fire there to go with that smoke.

I try to do this with every set of rumors I read. Sometimes there’s just no room to parse: you have directly conflicting reports through which no sunlight shines.  Sometimes reports are coming so fast and so furious that there just isn’t time or oxygen to go through the exercise. But a lot of the time you can smell the freshly sliced baloney, and when you can do that, it’s pretty sweet.

The realization, that is.  I’m not a big fan of baloney, let alone its aroma.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.