According to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, Major League Baseball is investigating potential media leaks that revealed several of the Boston Red Sox trade waiver activities over the past four weeks. While the phrasing of the previous sentence (combined with the reputation that Boston’s ownership and management has earned) might suggest to some that the Red Sox would be the team under investigation, it’s not necessarily the case.
In fact, in fact it’s hard to imagine what Boston might gain by secretly informing the media that several of its high profile players were placed on the waiver wire, especially considering the deal that the team worked out with the Los Angeles Dodgers to take on several large contracts that would have to pass before they could be dealt. I suppose it would be a good way to measure fan reaction ahead of time, but I’m not so certain that a) optics matter all that much with the amount of salary that was being cleared; or b) such a strategy would be guaranteed not to back fire with the Dodgers able to measure reaction as well.
As you’re probably aware by now, following the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, players must pass what’s commonly referred to as trade waivers before they can be dealt to another team. Typically, teams will place a good portion of their active roster on waivers over the month of August. If a player passes through unclaimed, he can be traded to any team in baseball. If a player is claimed by another team, only the organization that claimed the player and the team that waived the player are notified. The team that waived the player then has 48 hours to negotiate a trade, pull their player off of waivers or allow the claim to go through.
There is more than a fair measure of professional courtesy that goes on during this process, as Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus informed us a few weeks ago.
The August waiver period runs smoothly partly because of professional courtesy, and mutually assured destruction. If a team doesn’t think [Evan] Longoria is actually going to be traded to them, they won’t put in a claim. This is especially true for non-contenders, who mostly sit on the sidelines during August. That’s because they want their players to go through waivers without getting frivolously claimed. If a team starts claiming everybody, even with a) little chance of landing the player and b) no intention of putting together a trade package to make it happen, then its own claims will start getting blocked, in retaliation.
According to MLB rules, leaking information regarding the waiver wire process is punishable by fines, but it’s a threat that’s typically not enacted, due to the self-governing described above.
So, if the Red Sox didn’t stand to gain enough by disclosing waiver wire information to the media, who did? I suppose that the Dodgers could benefit in the same way that Boston might, but again, the drawbacks for Los Angeles would remain the same as they were for the Red Sox.
We might make assumptions that a team like the San Francisco Giants would stand to benefit from releasing the information, and drawing a spotlight on the players available so that other teams might block a deal by making a claim, but it’s unlikely that other teams would be unaware of a waiver wire presence to the degree that they would need to be reminded. The most likely motivation for revealing the names would be to cause some sort of media fall out in Boston regarding their availability, either born out of not wanting the Dodgers to acquire any more talent, or not wanting the Red Sox to free up any salary.
The Giants still might fit our assumption here, but so might any of Boston’s rivals in the American League East, among which are a couple of teams with a reputation for gaming the system.
What’s humorous here is that if leaking the information was an attempt to derail the Dodgers/Red Sox deal, it was a rare moment of underhanded underhandedness in that the more direct approach was to simply claim one of the players involved. However, either out of fear of having to take on the contract being claimed or breaking the unwritten professional courtesy code, the offending party circumvented the process and leaked the information as a means of hoping to cause repercussions in terms of public relations.
All of this is to say that, try as we might, we have no idea who spoke with the media, why they spoke with the media or on what terms they spoke with the media. However, it is kind of fun to imagine San Francisco General Manager Brian Sabean on his Motorola RAZR, trying to connect with Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.