Salt this away.
Just remember this.
Some teams, and agents, tend to operate in silence. Texas. Tampa Bay. Philadelphia. Michael Moye (the anti-David Sloane).
You can count on consistent misdirection from others when they go to their off-season playbook. I could stack up a pile of Jerry Dipoto quotes in his 13 months on the job suggesting his Angels club had absolutely zero interest in doing something that soon thereafter it absolutely got done.
You’re going to see and hear a ton of rumors this week, lots of them in this space, but in every instance (both now and at all times all year) understand that information is sometimes sent out there by clubs to throw folks off the scent, sometimes by agents in an effort to leverage added urgency by other teams.
The words “agent” and “agenda” share an etymology.
There are half a dozen local writers here who I’ll put up against any of their counterparts in other baseball markets, and a dozen national writers as tenacious and reliable as any in whatever sport you want to choose.
But just understand that sometimes what they’re given is information that the source, for whatever reason, wants reported.
Lots of times it’s smoke coming from fire.
Other times, smoke and mirrors.
I crave the speculation as much as anyone, especially when it comes from a dependable member of the local beat or a national grapevine beast, but it’s for the above reasons that we’re all well served to take it all in with a heavy dose of salt.
Example: I went back and sifted through last winter’s Prince Fielder rumors that I passed along in TROT COFFEY reports. Take a look.
- (Nov. 3, 2011) Rosenthal believes Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder will both stay put, but he has Texas in the lead in both cases should either leave for a new team. (He has the Cubs, Angels, and Marlins behind Texas in the Pujols chase, and the Orioles, Nationals, and Mariners next for Fielder.)
- (Nov. 10) According to T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), the Rangers are “aggressively exploring multiple options and expressing at least preliminary interest in both starters and closers who are on the free agent market,” an effort that “might even include a nudge in the direction of free agent first basemen Albert Pujols and/or Prince Fielder, although pitching is still their highest priority.”
- Gammons said on WFAN that Texas is an “early favorite” to sign Fielder.
- According to Buster Olney (ESPN), the Rangers would probably consider Pujols or Fielder if they “can be had at [the] team’s price, . . . [o]therwise [it’s] probably not workable.”
- Tom Verducci (MLB Network) believes Texas will monitor Pujols and Fielder but that the “first order of business is locking Josh Hamilton up.”
- (Nov. 13) Jayson Stark (ESPN) polled a dozen executives with clubs not expected to get involved in the chase for Fielder or Pujols, with a plurality of three giving Texas the nod as far as Fielder is concerned (Seattle, Baltimore, Washington, Miami, and the Cubs also got votes), and 11 of 12 predicting that Pujols stays in St. Louis. The dissenting vote made Pujols a Cub. Stark believes that the Rangers and Marlins will join the Cubs in “gearing up to make a run at” Pujols.
- (Dec. 4) According to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports), the Rangers are “making no progress with” C.J. Wilson, which he suggests could lead to a “repeat of last year,” when Texas lost out on Cliff Lee and turned instead to Adrian Beltre. Heyman speculates accordingly: “Prince [Fielder] or Albert [Pujols] may be in play.”
- (Dec. 5) According to Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM), Scott Boras is believed to have meetings scheduled with the Brewers, Mariners, Cubs, Nationals, and Blue Jays to discuss Fielder.
- (Dec. 6) Someone who knows Fielder tells Crasnick that the slugger is “not necessarily ‘going to chase the most money,’” and that “comfort” is a bigger factor. Then again, Crasnick reminds us, Fielder’s agent Scott Boras sure likes the money chase.
- (Dec. 7) Knobler believes the Rangers are “active” on Prince Fielder, along with the Cubs, Mariners, Orioles, and possibly the Nationals, plus the Brewers.
- Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated) suggests Texas is the “stealth team” not to overlook as far as Fielder is concerned.
Bowden, for what it’s worth (a throwaway phrase that should be attached, of course, to just about every single COFFEY bullet point I ever send out), believes the Mariners “are now [the] front-runners on Fielder,” with the Brewers, Cubs, and Blue Jays all preferring shorter-term deals than he’s asking for (though perhaps with higher AAV’s).
- The Rangers were believed to be out of the Fielder chase, if they were ever in it at all — though Heyman continued to view Texas as a threat to “swoop in and win” the sweepstakes for the Scott Boras client. Fielder was said to have interest in the Cubs, per Ken Davidoff (Newsday), with less certainty as to whether the club was interested at a serious level (according to Carrie Muskat [MLB.com]). Morosi had the Mariners still involved as well.
- (Dec. 8) According to local reports, Prince Fielder is “not on the Rangers’ radar screen,” according to multiple club officials. Texas did meet with Scott Boras yesterday, during which Fielder’s name likely came up, but more likely it involved a focused discussion on left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez, whose knee is reportedly healthy again.
- (Dec. 13) Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) wrote overnight that, due to flexibility in the payroll that “is not as significant as many in the industry previously believed,” Texas is more likely to trade for a starting pitcher than to pursue Japanese righthander Yu Darvish or first baseman Prince Fielder. Sealed bids for the right to negotiate with Darvish are due at 4:00 p.m. Central tomorrow.
- (Dec. 17) Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) makes Texas the 3-1 favorite to land Scott Boras client Prince Fielder, suggesting: “They aren’t even completely in the game yet, but if the Rangers get in, look out.”
- Joe Sheehan (Sports Illustrated) agrees that Fielder is a “perfect fit” for Texas. A “rival scout” tells Danny Knobler (CBS Sports) that Fielder would hit 60 home runs a year with the Rangers.
- Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) believes only four teams are “realistically” in contention for Fielder — Texas, the Cubs, Seattle, and Baltimore, in that order — but in his latest volley on the subject, he suggests that the “[f]avorites heading into the weekend based on industry consensus [are Carlos] Beltran — STL; Darvish — TOR; Gio — TX; Fielder — CHC; [Joe] Saunders —Det.”
- (Dec. 26) Heyman suggests that Texas remains “a threat” to sign Scott Boras client Prince Fielder, perhaps as “insurance against the possibility of losing [Josh] Hamilton, who is eligible for free agency after next year. While the Rangers want to keep Hamilton, they want to do it with a shorter contract than he will likely want.”
- According to Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM), “sources close to Fielder acknowledge Texas and Toronto [are] still in on” the first baseman. Interestingly, Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) writes that the Rangers “are still believed to be the favorites to land” Fielder, with the Cubs and Mariners denying interest.
- (Jan. 4, 2012) Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) still believes Texas would be the best fit for Prince Fielder, followed by the Nationals, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Cubs, Mariners, and Orioles.
- (Jan. 10) According to Phil Rogers (Chicago Tribune), Texas is “studying a late run at Prince Fielder as a contingency if it deems Darvish’s demands too high.”
Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) works up a scenario in which he believes the Rangers could afford to sign Fielder without letting Josh Hamilton walk a year from now.
Under Grant’s plan, Texas would guarantee Fielder $119 million over six years, though he could opt out after four years (and get a $2.5 exit payment), while the Rangers could opt out after the fifth year (triggering a $5 million termination payment). If Fielder were to reach 550 plate appearances in the sixth year of the deal (2017), a $25 million option for 2018 would vest; if he were then to amass another 550 plate appearances in 2018, another $25 million option for 2019 would vest.
The breakdown, based on the various opt-out and vesting provisions, would work out this way (not including incentives): four years at $69 million ($17.25 million AAV), five years at $94 million ($18.8 million AAV), six years at $119 million ($19.8 million AAV), seven years at $144 million ($20.6 million AAV), or eight years at $169 million ($21.125 million AAV).
Grant’s Hamilton proposal would kick in after the $13.75 million that he’s contracted for this coming season, guaranteeing five more years at $89.25 million ($17.85 million AAV), plus incentives. A $20 million club option for 2018 would vest if Hamilton were to reach 550 plate appearances in the fifth year of the deal, bringing the six-year commitment to at least $108 million ($18 million AAV).
Grant makes no mention of Darvish in the article.
- (Jan. 12) Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) believes the “long-awaited [Prince] Fielder deal may wait ‘til after Rangers/Darvish are done negotiating” and adds that “Texas [is] a team of interest here.”
- According to Jon Morosi (Fox Sports), a “[s]ource with knowledge of Rangers’ finances doubts they invest in Yu Darvish AND Prince Fielder. Nats still viewed as favorite for Prince.”
- Adam Kilgore (Washington Post) reports that the Nationals have ramped up their pursuit of Fielder and that club owners met with Scott Boras yesterday at the Owners’ Meetings in Arizona to discuss the first baseman.
- (Jan. 14) . . . Prince Fielder was spotted (as first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale) at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, apparently meeting with the Rangers at his and Scott Boras’s request. (According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, one club executive hypothesized that Fielder could end up with a six-year contract that he can opt out of after three seasons, maybe at $22-24 million per year, and that the Rangers, Nationals, and Cubs could lead the pack.)
- (Jan. 16) Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) tweets that Texas and Darvish are “close enough in negotiations” that an agreement is expected to be reached by Wednesday’s deadline, which will be at 4:00 p.m. locally, and he adds that the “Rangers’ meeting with [Prince] Fielder at the Four Seasons Hotel [on Friday] went extremely well and they can afford to sign both Darvish and Fielder if they choose.”
- According to Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News), Fielder and agent Scott Boras were the ones to request Friday’s meeting, and they’re still believed to be seeking eight years or more, a term that Texas wouldn’t be interested in. But Grant concurs that the Rangers’ agreement to visit with Fielder “is [an] indication they are interested in signing [both] Yu and Prince.” Bob Nightengale (USA Today) also believes the Rangers could sign both.
- Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) reports that the Fielder meeting with Texas was merely the first stop on a tour to visit several teams the next few days.
- (Jan. 22) Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) and others continue to suggest Washington is the frontrunner for Prince Fielder, but if that’s where he wanted to be, it seems he’d likely have signed by now. Even if the idea was to see if Texas and Yu Darvish failed to reach an agreement for the purpose of drawing a Rangers bid — if for no other reason than to force an increased Nationals offer — the Darvish deal is out of the way now, and Fielder remains unsigned. All signs seem to point to Fielder wanting to play in Texas.
- Also from Morosi: “Sources say Rangers unlikely to outbid Nationals for Prince Fielder. But as I wrote earlier this week, Texas has surprised us before.” An AL East GM tells Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) that he expects it to “come[ ] down to the Rangers and Nationals, with the Brewers and Cubs taking a shot if he settles for a one-year deal and elects to become a free agent again.” Joel Sherman (New York Post) also hears that the Dodgers could get involved.
- Interestingly, however, there’s this from Jason A. Churchill (ESPN), who heard Friday night that “the Fielder race is about two teams — both in the American League” and that “[t]his tells me Texas [is the] heavy favorite.”
- Nonetheless, both Bob Simpson and Nolan Ryan have told local reporters that Fielder’s current expectations are out of the Rangers’ price range, though the club will listen if he brings his demands down, while Jon Daniels told Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) that “from a budget perspective, it’s unlikely we sign him.”
Ryan told Randy Galloway (ESPN 103.3 FM), regarding Scott Boras and Fielder’s present tactics: “One time they’re talking eight years, one time they’re talking 10 years, one time they’re talking about a contract bigger than Ryan Howard’s in Philadelphia.” Howard finished up a three-year, $54 million contract last season and now enters a five-year deal (signed back in April 2010) that guarantees $125 million.
- Bob Nightengale (USA Today) feels he’s got a handle on this, suggesting that “[t]he Texas-sized truth is that while the Rangers now have Darvish, they still want Fielder, too. But they also know publicly divulging their intentions will drive up Fielder’s price tag and spoil their surprise attack. Sure, it will take a bit of ingenuity, and maybe some opt-out clauses, to sign Fielder. They won’t give him the same 10-year, $240 million deal that Albert Pujols got from the Angels, but they still want to find a way to sign the big fella.”
- (Jan. 24) On the Prince Fielder front, Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) tweets that the Rangers “love Prince, and vice versa” but that Texas officials believe the club “isn’t that likely to win [the Fielder] derby” after signing Yu Darvish. According to Heyman, who suggests that there is “something close to a final four” for Fielder, Texas is “[i]n, but not [the] favorite.”
- One GM told Rosenthal that the Rangers “are on Fielder ‘hard’ but others continue to say [Texas] won’t go heavy on years.” Jim Duquette (MLB Network Radio) tweets that Baltimore is “definitely in” on Fielder.
- Most outlets continue to identify the Nationals as the most aggressive suitor. Adam Kilgore (Washington Post) suggests they won’t offer more than seven years, and predicts that Fielder will ultimately sign for seven years and $170 million, regardless of which team prevails.
Not once was Detroit mentioned, including in those three final bullet points, which I sent out at 7:30 in the morning on January 24th.
About five hours later, Fielder’s landmark deal with the Tigers was announced.
I’m not suggesting that watching the Twitter play-by-play unfold is a waste of time. It’s intoxicating. The COFFEY’s will keep coming.
Just understand where some of the information comes from – meaning not the journalists who report it, but instead the sources that feed it – and that in many instances, there’s a reason those sources want the stuff out there that’s different from something as simple as giving a writer a scoop.