November 28th, 2010

COFFEY obsession.

(* Trade Rumor Offerings To Chew On For Fun, Even Yuks)

Not to be confused with Brewers journeyman reliever Todd Coffey, the TROT COFFEY is a mailing list-only update on various trade and free agent rumblings unearthed, if not hatched, by the media:

[Web post of this typically mailing-list-only feature today . . . .  For future COFFEY reports, you can sign up for the free mailing list by clicking the link on the top menu at www.NewbergReport.com.]

?    According to Buster Olney of ESPN, the market for Cliff Lee is expected to “heat up” this week, possibly leading to a deal during the December 6-9 Winter Meetings; agent Darek Braunecker tells Olney that it’s “probably fair to say we’ve got a half-dozen teams in the mix”

?    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes this morning, in the context of the increasingly prevalent belief that Texas and Kansas City match up best on a possible Zack Greinke deal, that “[o]ne name often mentioned as trade bait” is outfielder Engel Beltre, who is hitting .380/.396/.400 in the Dominican Winter League (no walks, two hit-by-pitches, 10 strikeouts, one extra-base hit in 50 at-bats all over the lineup, though primary in the nine hole)

?    Cafardo adds that if the Rangers don’t retain Lee, they could sign closer Rafael Soriano and move Neftali Feliz into the rotation, a speculative suggestion that the Chicago Tribune‘s Phil Rogers also ran out there three weeks ago

?    According to a local report, the interest level that Texas has in catcher A.J. Pierzynski is less than what it was when the club considered trading for him during the summer (before landing Bengie Molina)

?    Rogers believes the Rangers “are becoming a more realistic option” for Paul Konerko, who would cost Texas the number 26 overall pick in the June draft to sign – though the club would get the number 31 overall pick from the Yankees (plus a supplemental first-rounder) if New York signs Lee

?    Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports “spoke with a couple people in the industry who expect Konerko to sign with either [the] White Sox or Diamondbacks”

That last pair of COFFEY drips sort of raises a point that goes beyond the toppled salt shaker.  

This is the time of the year when a tremendous amount of groundwork is being laid between baseball operations departments, and an extremely small amount of reliable news is out there . . . which doesn’t stop anyone.  There’s no stove hotter than baseball’s, and no time of year when it’s more awesome than it is now, save perhaps the final week in July.  

We love this stuff, and reporters feed on that.  The best of them miss, the least dependable nail it from time to time, and we eagerly consume it all, which is not anything to apologize for, as long as we treat it with the proper skepticism and context.

It’s obvious how to treat these when stories or tweets are raced into cyberspace at about the same time, running contradictory information out there.  But we should probably put as much weight into the uncontroverted reports as well.  It’s prima facie stuff.  Super-rebuttable presumptions.

One year ago today, I shared these three COFFEY notes, each from a respectable national writer:

?  Florida is “very willing to trade Josh Johnson right now for the right package”

?  Florida should be able to land “two [Major League]-ready guys, plus two solid prospects at the Double-A level” for Johnson

?  “Tis the season when agents try to spin news.  So here is reality: Josh Johnson isn’t going anywhere.  2010 @ $4M is good business for Phish.”

All in the same day.

The final one came from Peter Gammons, and the point is important.  There’s a reason that the second half of November brings far more TROT COFFEY rumor dumps than standard reports every year.  Teams aren’t talking publicly right now, and if they are, it’s probably more because they want a certain story floated out there than because they’re trying to help a hard-working journalist out.

And, as Gammons noted, agents are doing the same thing, and in greater volume.

All those Cliff Lee stories the last few weeks?

If Lee wants to pitch for the Yankees, his agent wants (and should want) Texas involved in the bidding.

If Lee wants to stay in Texas, his agent wants (and should want) the Yankees negotiating as well.

With all apologies to the writers we all choose to trust, “baseball people” who are talking to them don’t know where Lee is going to sign.  Some have more dependable opinions than others, just like writers, but Lee knows the answer to the question today (probably), Braunecker knows the answer (probably, but maybe a degree or two less so than Lee), and beyond that, Lee’s family and anyone else he wants to entrust the answer to fit in the category of reliable sources on November 28.  And they’re not talking.

I’ll keep rolling these COFFEY’s out there.  I dig the hot stove as much as anybody, and have ever since the Peter Gammons and Joe Falls Sporting News columns that landed in my mailbox (the one that was made of metal and sat outside the house) 30 years ago, two weeks (not two seconds) after they were written.  

But there’s a reason the COFFEY’s are outnumbering standard Newberg Reports five to one right now.  

In about a week, we’re going to get an onslaught of news flashes and reports that will take hours to write and will have no bullet points, and no photographs of dented salt shakers.  

For now, however, while GM’s and their teams of advisors are as busy as ever, it’s behind the curtains, and so what we’re left to do as fans of The Stove is take our seats, a good bit further back in the theater than the mainstream media, locked in on the manufactured previews and waiting for the lights to dim and the real show to begin.

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