The have been a lot of tweets, newspaper articles and blog posts about a rumored deal between the Padres and Dodgers involving Matt Kemp. There is an expression that where there is smoke there is fire. But sometimes there is just some smoke whens someone only tries to start a fire.
Matt Kemp has been in trade rumors long before this offseason, but if we focus just on the most recent stuff you see that you will find that the rumor mill started churning for him about a month ago when Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted this:
Sources: #Dodgers aggressively trying to move Kemp, Crawford or Ethier. Puig not in play.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 10, 2014
You will find Rosenthal's name come up a lot in Kemp rumors. In this one, he is just focusing on the Dodgers side. It is they that are reportedly shopping Kemp. This fuels media fires as they speculate why the Dodgers are willing to deal the 30 year old outfielder. It's only shortly after this rumor and speculation pop up that reports come out of San Diego that the Padres would be willing to move a catcher. Follow this link to Dennis Lin's story on the subject on November 17.
Rosenthal, again in the driver's seat here, first connects a team to the Kemp rumors on November 18. That team is not the Padres. It is 3 days later when Rosenthal connects the Padres to Matt Kemp in an article that tells how they have put feelers out for many players with good bats. Jay Bruce and Jason Heyward are the others mentioned as trade targets as well as one of the initial reports that connected the Padres to free agent Pablo Sandoval.
Things quiet down for over a week, but on November 25, Ken Rosenthal was on to the Padres' week old rumors:
Sources: #Padres getting "ton of inquiries" on their catchers - Grandal, Rivera and top prospect Austin Hedges. Talks active.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 26, 2014
That's really not a Kemp rumor, but it helps connect the dots a little. The Mariners then sign Nelson Cruz, but a Tacoma News reporter, Bob Dutton, let's everyone know that the Mariners are still interested in Kemp. However, they have balked at the asking price of one of their top young pitchers. So, the asking price is established as being high.
Just after that Jon Heyman jumps into the fold and finally makes the connection between the Kemp and the Padres' catching prospects. There is talk of Austin Hedges being discussed, but a more of a willingness by the Padres to part with Rene Rivera or Yasmani Grandal. Not to be outdone, Rosenthal has to get back in the fray:
So, there we have have it. The dots finally connect. Padres, Dodgers, Kemp, Grandal. Of course, if you pay attention the bet is hedged here. There is that little modifier in there: Likely. What does that mean? Take it out and there is certainty. Leave it in and there is uncertainty. What does that uncertainty mean?
With dots connected, the rumors turn to speculation again. Jon Heyman talks about how the Dodgers did not go into the offseason with plans to move Kemp. He mentions how the club might just be doing their due diligence (a term we will get back to later) with Kemp, but speculates that with so much time being spent on finding a suitor for him that they might be serious about moving him. Back in San Diego, Dennis Lin talks about how Kemp (or Justin Upton) could be the ultimate prize in the Padres' offseason. Up in L.A., with the Winter Meetings approaching, Bill Shaiken of the Los Angeles Times writes that this could be when the Dodgers finally unload someone from their glut of outfielders. His take is that the Dodgers would prefer that be Kemp.
On Monday December 8 the Winter Meetings were well under way. The rumor mill was churning enough that it could generate its own smoke. Here are some tweets from the first couple days of the meetings:
padres keep talking about kemp. grandal, elfin have been discussed in potential package. http://t.co/u26MErhmGb— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 9, 2014
hear orioles, rangers and mariners, 3 early kemp players, are all out on him. seems like might be padres or bust.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 9, 2014
My favorite part of all this rumor mongering is Rosenthal throwing out Matt Wisler's name only to retract it later and throw out another name. There is no context given to either. How much is his own speculation and how much is sourced information? Did a source tell him a right handed pitching prospect? Advanced pitching prospect? Anything? Nothing? Who knows? Heyman at least goes out on a limb and says Elfin (we have to assume he means Zach Eflin, a Padres pitching prospect who threw for Lake Elsinore last season) has been discussed. That's a little more contextual. Heyman also leaves in the idea of "bust". That even though the Padres are the only suitor for Kemp that hasn't been ruled that there may be no trade that gets worked out.
The Winter Meetings also bring interviews with the people actually making these deals. Farhan Zaidi, the new Dodgers GM, was quoted by many media outlets talking about a Kemp deal (but I'm using quotes from Dylan Hernandez' piece in the L.A. Times):
"I think the information that’s coming out there may be driven more by either what people are hearing in snippets or what people want to believe we’re willing to do than what we’re actually willing to do," Zaidi said.
Zaidi said the stories of a potential deal are a reflection of wishful thinking on behalf of the media.
"That’s how I would characterize it," Zaidi said.
The Dodgers are also entertaining offers for Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Zaidi said the Dodgers have received "multiple hits" on all three of their veteran outfielders.
This is where we get to the part about these rumors being smoke with no fire. Zaidi blames the media for creating that smoke. I think there is some truth to that. Look at how attached Ken Rosenthal is to this story. One could also get the idea that he wants it to be true so bad that he would make it be true if he could. It's a pretty easy storyline to follow. Dodgers have a glut of outfielders. Kemp has the most value. Padres need a bat and have an excess of catchers. Dodgers need a catcher. Try to fit the two together. The teams are definitely talking, but the deal is not as simple as the storyline.
Padres GM A.J. Preller also spoke with the media during the meetings. The Padres' own twitter account tweeted out some of the quotes:
Preller: "I think our goal is offensive pieces to complete the ball club. We'll be focused on that the next few days and weeks."— San Diego Padres (@Padres) December 9, 2014
Preller: "We're looking to make good baseball decisions that improve the team both short term and long term."— San Diego Padres (@Padres) December 9, 2014
Mighty 1090's Marty Caswell added some context with some additional quotes from the new GM:
AJ Preller on trading in division "We're looking to make good decisions & good deals. If that ends up being a team in NL West then so be it"— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) December 9, 2014
Preller on how many times he's talked to the Dodgers "At this point, I don't even know...I think some of them are tired of seeing me call"— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) December 10, 2014
Dennis Lin further added context in his recent piece:
And Padres GM A.J. Preller, speaking about possible deals in general: "We’re still progressing through conversations. I think at least it’s been a productive 24 hours, just to get a little better sense of what may be realistic and some other things that we’ve got to move past and probably aren’t going to work out."
Asked if anything was imminent, Preller said, "It’s hard to predict, really. I’m not saying that to be evasive. I think we’re working towards trying to get something done, but to sit there and predict this is imminent or this is coming down the pike, I have no real idea on that part of it, the time frame."
I said earlier I wanted to get back to that due diligence term, so here I go. A.J. Preller would appear to be a guy that is really big on that concept of due diligence. He needs to know about all the available opportunities before making a decision. This goes back to his scouting background. You need every bit of information before going forward. That means talking to several teams about several different players to acquire and probably proposing multiple offers that could be used to acquire those players (hence why the Dodgers are sick of his calls). He is not Kevin Towers where he can get on the phone and just work a deal until it is done. He is not Josh Byrnes where he shops a guy to various teams in order to take the best offer. He examines everything. That's mostly speculation on my part, but I'm not alone:
I'm guessing A.J. Preller's reputation for thoroughness will lead to many, many Padres trade rumors for as long as he's general manager.— Ben Higgins (@BenHigginsSD) December 10, 2014