If you've ever wondered about the inner workings of trade talks in an MLB front office, it's your lucky day.
About 10 months' worth of apparent trade chatter involving the Houston Astros has been leaked online, shining some light on what seems to be an intriguing, if odd, method of how at least one team records and catalogs the names and teams involved in various discussions.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has since confirmed that the files—one that covers the June-July 2013 trade deadline and another that focuses on this past offseason—are genuine, according to a number of baseball executives:
The team, however, did release a statement shortly after this story started making the rounds. Here it is, straight from Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI. Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible. This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.
It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information. While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.
In a way, the team is acknowledging that there is some truth to what's been posted. Also lending some veracity to these hacked and/or leaked reports is the fact that a few of the players mentioned in the digital pages actually wound up being swapped.
Like right-hander Bud Norris, whom the Astros tried to shop heavily before ultimately sending him to the Baltimore Orioles last July for outfielder L.J. Hoes, pitching prospect Josh Hader and a competitive balance draft pick.
And Dexter Fowler, the veteran outfielder Houston acquired in December from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for righty Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes.
There's even a coded reference to a blockbuster that never came to fruition in which "JL"—Jeff Luhnow—approached "DJ"—Miami Marlins general manager Dan Jennings—about the availability of one Giancarlo Stanton, who is in the mix for National League MVP this season with his league-leading 21 homers and 60 RBI:
JL talked to DJ and said we had interest in Stanton. DJ said he doesn't think he'll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be Springer and Correa. JL said that would not work. JL posited a deal around Cosart and Deshields.
Luhnow, it seems, was unwilling to part with George Springer, who has joined the American League Rookie of the Year race since debuting in mid-April, and top prospect Carlos Correa, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 who was dominating the High-A California League before recently being lost for the season after fracturing his fibula.
If the leaked files are to be believed, though, Houston was more than ready to give up young right-hander Jarred Cosart, who has started to figure things out at the big league level in his first full season, and speedy outfield prospect Delino DeShields Jr., son of the longtime big leaguer by the same name.
Although there's no mention of something along the lines of "DJ LOL'd at JL's proposal," not surprisingly, nothing came of this.
The timing of the leak actually is rather interesting for a couple of reasons. First, while the Astros are just 36-47 and in last place in the AL West entering play Monday, they actually are playing better of late than they have in recent seasons.
That may not be saying much for a franchise that has had three consecutive 106-plus-loss campaigns, but Houston went 15-14 in May—its first winning month since September of 2010—and has followed that up with a 12-14 record as June comes to a close.
By the way, with the July 31 trade deadline about a month away, rumors and speculation will start flying left and right as clubs try to make moves. Think there's a chance this might make for some awkward discussions with other teams this time around, especially if other general managers or executives might be worried about any communication with the Astros somehow finding its way to the public forum?
Another element to consider with regard to the timing of this how-the-sausage-is-made trade talk is that Springer and the Astros currently grace the cover of the latest edition of Sports Illustrated, which crowns them the World Series champions...in 2017.
The feature written by Ben Reiter, entitled "Astro-matic Baseball," explores the highly analytical process of the team's key front-office members—like Luhnow, Goldstein, director of amateur scouting Mike Elias and director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal—and shares all sorts of insider insight into some of the big decisions they have made since joining the franchise over the past few years, like drafting high school left-hander Brady Aiken first overall in the MLB draft earlier this month.
With the alleged reports having been leaked and now splashed online for all to see, that highly analytical information and insider insight now looks slightly less analytical—and is certainly a whole lot less insider.
To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11