An Immediately Squashed Rumor About Bryce Harper Reminds Us That the Offseason is Gonna Offseason

Social Navigation

An Immediately Squashed Rumor About Bryce Harper Reminds Us That the Offseason is Gonna Offseason

Chicago Cubs

I won’t *just* quip about this set of tweets being a perfect encapsulation of folks just trying to do their best in the offseason, but I will start there:

Having to squash your own rumor just an hour later … yeah, that’s the baseball offseason, baby. And it’s the reality of things when information and misinformation and interpretation and deconstruction and a game of telephone all swirl together into a jambalaya of entertainment. We want the entertainment, and, in service of that, I have no problem with guys like O’Brien offering up credible information that they’ve vetted, even if they later learn of conflicting information.

And that goes into something broader that I think we all have to remind ourselves about each offseason: although I don’t think every club is out there playing four-dimensional chess, I do think enough of them – and agents – are creatively trying to maneuver rumors and reports and reactions and analysis to achieve ends that might forever be entirely opaque to us. We won’t always know what exactly is being served by rumors that Team X is considering Player Y, or that Team A called Team B about Player C. All we can do is assess credibility and plausibility, and then have fun with the rumors.

On this one, there’s a secondary point I want to make as nothing more than a dopey outsider: why do large-market clubs like the Braves deny the pursuit of big-ticket players like Harper? What exactly is lost by letting it be out there that, “Yeah, you know, we’re involved in the conversation, but superstars attract a ton of attention and they can only sign with one team. Maybe something happens, maybe it doesn’t.” What’s the downside when it’s framed that way? It’s a dang 26-year-old superstar that would improve any team. There’s no benefit in hiding some baseline level of interest, and there’s no downside in people knowing you generally dig a superstar player because OBVIOUSLY.

Heck, what’s the downside if that’s actually true? We’ve been saying it for a long time now with the Cubs. Even if they have budgetary concerns that make landing Harper unlikely, why would you not actually and in fact remain in the conversation? So what if rumors then cast that as “ooh, Cubs are talking to Boras about Harper!’ or “ugh, Cubs are only mildly interested in Harper”? Just keep a seat at the table and see what happens. (I tend to think, by the way, that this is what the Cubs are doing.)

The odds were already good that you – the Cubs, the Braves, whoever – weren’t going to land the guy that five other big-market teams are trying to land – that’s just math. So if you don’t land him, and even if it were out there that you were trying but had limited funds … so what? People already think you have limited funds! What’s the downside of trying? Why aim to manage the message to the negative side as aggressively as the Braves are apparently working to do? Even being generous to the motives, does this actually help in negotiations with a free agent that has tons of options?

Those aren’t entirely rhetorical questions, mind you. These are huge-money negotiations, and even the tiniest edge at the margins somewhere could be worth millions of dollars. And I’ve done this long enough to know that sometimes you’re surprised by an answer behind the scenes that isn’t entirely intuitive. Sometimes I get a text in response to something I’ve written like this, with information I can’t share, but that makes me go, “Oh. Didn’t think about that. Makes sense. I was dumb and I am now slightly less dumb. Neat.” Maybe I’ll get one of those in 10 minutes.

In any case, this is the offseason. We do the best we can, just like the teams and the players. In this instance, I don’t really get why the Braves would not pursue Harper, much less not pursue him *AND* try to make sure the world knows they aren’t pursuing him. (*OR* feverishly try to create the perception that they aren’t pursuing him! DOUBLE-CROSS!)

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.