On Reading Trade Rumors

Even though he can’t count Lou Piniella among his fans, Ken Rosenthal remains among the best in the business at breaking news across baseball. Naturally, that means I occasionally find myself reading The Buzz on Fox Sports’s website, where Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report some of the latest news, rumors, and other such things from around baseball.

Their most recent post as of this writing deals with the Oakland Athletics and their willingness to trade two of their more prominent chips this summer, namely Ben Sheets and Coco Crisp. Apparently, the A’s are happy with how Sheets is serving as a mentor to their young players, and may want to keep him for the rest of the season, even though they possibly wouldn’t gain any free agent compensation if he walks at the end of the contract. Crisp has a $5.75 million club option which “could fit easily into their budget.” In conclusion, the Athletics would need to “receive a compelling offer” to move Sheets and would have to be “motivated to move” Crisp. The conclusion regarding Sheets is from “major-league sources;” the conclusion regarding Crisp could simply be speculation by Rosenthal- it’s not clear.

What does all this actually mean? Mark Polishuk summed up the post over at MLBTradeRumors with the title A’s May Hold On To Ben Sheets, Deal Coco Crisp?. The question mark and use of the word “may” display uncertainty, but the language in the Fox Sports post doesn’t suggest either of those conclusions to me. First of all, the A’s would obviously have to receive a compelling offer in order to move Sheets. In trades, the trading partners are always looking to receive equal (or higher) value for their respective pieces; no player is ever moved without a “compelling offer.” Also, Polishuk’s title suggests that Crisp is more likely to be dealt than Sheets. To me, the difference between “motivated to move” and ‘a compelling offer” is simply one that could be found in a thesaurus.

Perhaps I’m expecting too much or reading the article incorrectly, but I don’t feel that I’ve learned anything at all by reading Rosenthal’s blurb – it tells me that Oakland would have to receive something meaningful back in return in order to trade Ben Sheets or Coco Crisp, but that is the case with any player. Still, some fans may interpret this article as saying there’s no chance that Sheets is moved, or perhaps that Crisp’s option will certainly be picked up.

The rumors are relatively benign – nobody’s going to be terribly excited by this news, nor should they be. Now is the time of year where trade talk heightens and Fox’s report is merely one example of misleading or meaningless language. For those who obsess over Major League Baseball like I do and like I know many of you reading do and like many of those fans who won’t ever set eyes upon this blog do, trade rumors are a regular part of our baseball watching and reading. For some reason, we care about what Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney and other major league sources are saying. Based on the volume of rumors around the game – MLB Trade Rumors averages 104 posts per week – these sources sure have much to say. But in this case, and in many others, all this talk adds up to nothing.

As the meat of the trading season approaches, more and more trade rumors will flood the internet. When it comes to these rumors, we have to remember that, in many cases, they are just that – rumors. This isn’t meant as a blast at MLBTR or Polishuk or Rosenthal – they do a an important job in the baseball world. I find MLBTR to be an invaluable resource when it comes to news and formulating ideas, and as I mentioned above, Rosenthal is an excellent story breaker. But, at the same time, just because it comes out of the mouth of a source doesn’t make it meaningful nor even true. I think that knowledge and some critical reading just could keep all of us a little bit calmer this July.

We hoped you liked reading On Reading Trade Rumors by Jack Moore!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

newest oldest most voted

Honestly, that item reads more like an attempt to inflate Sheets’ and Crisp’s return value on the trade market than it does a credible signal that the A’s aren’t interested in dealing those players. Rosenthal may be getting played here. This is a common reporter’s dilemma: you need access to function effectively, but access comes at a price, namely making yourself useful to the people you count on to be your sources.


I doubt Rosenthal is being “played” since he’s hardly a rookie reporter. Is it getting played when you’re a willing participant? He gets the information and passes it along, complete with its original spin (original spin: it’s what got Abner Doubleday tossed out of paradise). The only critical analysis Rosenthal is providing is a smell test, since I doubt he’d pass on anything outrageous without a little second-source checking, but really he is just a backdoor (but public) conduit for front offices to pass signals to their fanbases, their players, and each other.

In this case they are sending reassuring signals to Sheets and A’s fans, while simultaneously reminding the rest of baseball that he is indeed available.