As professional sports continue to adapt to the age of Twitter and social media, one thing is becoming clearer and clearer as each year goes by. Rumors, whether the trade or free agent variety, are becoming more prevalent as media outlets and fans crave content and conversation more and more by the day.
The NFL has positioned itself to generate news throughout the calendar year, and other sports are beginning to follow.
Take this baseball offseason, which featured an inordinate amount of trade rumors involving players on the Nationals. Nearly every Nats player – except those who are obviously unavailable – found themselves mentioned in trade possibilities this winter. And for the most part, it’s been from national outlets with respected track records, or local publications with legitimate connections to the team.
To recap, look at the Nats players rumored to be available for trade this offseason. This is all in less than four months:
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But beyond the Bryce Harpers and Stephen Strasburgs – the players you know the Nats would not trade – there are reasons you could come with for why the Nats would listen to offers for every player listed. Based on their trade value, contract situation or position on the depth chart, a case could be made.
It’s likely that every one of the rumors had at least some truth tied to them as well. From the Nationals’ perspective, leaking a rumor about Danny Espinosa, for instance, is wise. They can gauge his value by seeing who calls, while at the same time avoid the trouble of calling around the league themselves. It’s an efficient and calculated way to do business.
Trade rumors provide excitement for fans on random offseason days, they start debate and get all of us talking. But what about the players? Their names are dangled in debates on television and on Twitter, yet the actual consequences of such a move are rarely mentioned. Of course, if a player gets traded, their life changes dramatically.
Several Nationals players talked about the issue last weekend, including some who are on the list above, as well as two guys who were actually traded this offseason.
One of those traded players was Jerry Blevins who came over to the Nationals in a Dec. 11 trade with the Oakland Athletics. Blevins had heard media reports about his status on the trade block, and as the season went on began to sense the end for him in Oakland was likely near.
“I saw how I didn’t pitch in the playoffs and there were a few situations where normally that would be my position, but you never speculate,” Blevins said. “If you start doing that, you start questioning what’s going on, you can get caught up in a lot of different stuff. You’re prepared for anything as a baseball player, you understand that there’s a business to it as well. If you do get traded, I couldn’t ask for a better place to be traded to.”
A seven-year veteran, Blevins has learned how to deal with trade rumors. He was dealt in the offseason, which makes matters a little easier. Doug Fister – also acquired this offseason by Washington in a trade – has been traded twice. In 2011 he was shipped to Detroit by the Mariners in late July. This time around he realizes how much better it is to be traded over the winter.
“It’s a little easier in that I don’t have to pack up an apartment and be ready to leave in the next day or so. It’s one of those things that I’ve had the offseason to take care of, getting anything in line that I need to get in line,” he said.
Drew Storen was featured in one of the bigger debates of the offseason, as his name appeared in a story linking the Nationals to then-free agent closer Grant Balfour. It was just another rumor in a long line of them for the young Nats reliever, and by this point he’s used to it.
“It’s part of the business. You read it and … eh, whatever happens. You never really know the full story. It’s kind of funny. Once I dealt with it the first time in 2011, it just kind of rolls off.”
Denard Span’s name surfaced in November, just one year after he was traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Nationals. It prompted the center fielder to send out a message on Twitter.
Here we go again— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) November 9, 2013
Though the story was enough to prompt a reference on social media, Span says he wasn’t upset when he saw the rumor. After six years in the majors, he’s seen enough to know there’s no sense in getting caught up with the Hot Stove season.
“I take it with a grain of salt now. It’s not my first rodeo, I’ve dealt with it in the past,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but this offseason I’ve just been more confident. I believe that I’m a good player, so whether it’s gonna be here or wherever I’m going to be at, they are going to be getting a good player and a good person. So when I heard it, it was like ‘here we go again,’ but if I have to go wherever I’m going to be productive and be a good player.”
Span is still in Washington and still projects to be on the Nats’ Opening Day roster, as does each and every name you see listed above. The rumors will go away soon, but only for a few months until the trade deadline nears. And then, as soon as the 2014 playoffs end, the Hot Stove will once again heat back up.