The trade deadline season can drive the internet absolutely nutty. National writers have to be careful about what they say, because literally anything can go from passing thought to CONFIRMED RUMOR TOTALLY HAPPENING in the matter of a few tweets.
This fantastical trajectory from innocent idea to impending trade was on full display over the weekend, when ESPN’s Buster Olney posted one of his many daily updates during the busy trade season.
Innocently enough, he mentioned the Cleveland Indians’ rumored pursuit of J.D. Martinez, and what it could mean for the team, tucked away in a post about what the Texas Rangers should do with pitcher Yu Darvish.
The Indians are hoping to add a utility player, but the fact that they dug into conversations about J.D. Martinez suggests that they might also have explored an alternative to Carlos Santana, who has slogged through a disappointing season -- a .240 batting average with 10 homers. It would be an easy pivot for the Indians to make with no long-term fallout because Santana is in the last year of his contract before he reaches free agency.
Buster makes some good points. And the link between going after Martinez and trying to find a replacement for Carlos Santana isn’t that far-fetched. Personally, I thought it was more of trying to grab insurance for Lonnie Chisenhall, but Martinez would have looked pretty nice at designated hitter when Lonnie returned the field. So, sure, I’ll pick up what he’s putting down.
Good, concise thoughts on a recent hard rumor there, Buster. Let’s all pack up and go home — oh, what’s that? You’re not done? Crap.
In Olney’s blurb on the Indians, he also notes a few potential sluggers the Indians could go after, in a market flooded with designated hitter types. One of which was Mike Napoli.
Given the glut of position players available, there will probably be numerous sluggers available in the last days before the trade deadline, from Jay Bruce to Mike Napoli to Yonder Alonso to others, and the Indians could add somebody else. But Cleveland is expected to get Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis back from the disabled list in the next couple of weeks.
I’m assuming that, for a certain sect of Indians fans, a large amount of brainpower just shut off the moment they saw Napoli and they went to the highest mountaintop of social media they could find to yell about how exciting it would be. A lot of people still love Nap’, and rightly so. The big guy’s bat died down the stretch, but I would buy the argument that he helped the team reach the World Series. He’s no upgrade over Edwin Encarnacion or even a slumping Carlos Santana right now, but the idea of the Indians going after him would be an interesting one.
But that’s the thing: It was just an idea. Nowhere in Buster’s piece does it state the Indians are actually pursuing Napoli, Bruce, or anyone else. This is just a national writer postulating about some teams might do. It’s sort of his job, and he’s pretty good at it. He’s also good at wording things so that readers should be able to know the difference between a concrete rumor and stray thoughts, but sometimes the potential takes are too good to ignore.
As Justin here so perfectly put it below, fans were playing a really drawn-out game of telephone without ever knowing the actual source of the “rumor.”
People are playing the telephone game (badly). Buster Olney did NOT say the Indians are "interested" in Napoli. Here's the note. pic.twitter.com/C9GFqjZh74— Justin L. (@JL_Baseball) July 24, 2017
I probably can’t talk too much, I too write things about off-hand comments that Buster Olney — or occasionally other big-name writers — make. For instance, when he noted that the Indians could be in on pitcher Sonny Gray, I wrote about that because I like the idea of the Indians trading for Sonny Gray (or at least I did before Danny Salazar re-emerged on fire and launching fire balls of fire). I feel like I had some things to add to that conversation, and I cannot deny the power of Buster Olney Around the Trade Deadline clicks. They’re too good, folks.
This fake Mike Napoli to the Indians rumor is a whole different story, though. You keep doing what you’re doing Buster, but that would make almost no sense for the Indians. Unless there is some kind of quasi three-team deal where the Indians send Santana away to get prospects in return, then the Indians grab Napoli, having three 1B/DH players just doesn’t add up. Especially when the one you add last is the worst of the bunch.
Santana is definitely slumping — his .238/.336/.404 slash adds up to a career-worst 96 wRC+, and his 12.2 percent walk rate would also be a career-low. But why on earth would you try to “upgrade” that by trading for a guy who is hitting .202/.281/.457 and also 35 years old. Is it the #dingers? Napoli’s 21 sure are nice, but what about every other time he comes up to bat and whiffs out of his shoes? Is it the leadership? Because if the Indians seriously can’t find consistency without Mike Napoli, they might be in bigger trouble than we thought.
The good news is the Indians finally had a good series against the Oakland Athletics, so at least everyone will stop coming with ludicrous ideas on how to fix a team with the sixth highest run differential in the majors and Corey Kluber taking the mound every five days.
UPDATE (7/24, 11:58 AM): There’s a 90 percent chance this was all @HipsterTito’s fault.