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White Sox Fri Dec 05 2014

Sox Target Samardzija but Beware the Rumor Mill

Chicago White SoxThe rumors started and heated up over Thanksgiving weekend. The White Sox are interested in A's starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

The Sox asked the Athletics about the former Cubs ace that Oakland acquired in the middle of last year, but also a bunch of other teams would like to get Samardzija, too.

Minds have already started to wonder what the Sox would look like with Samardzija in the No. 2 slot in the rotation. The club would be in on making a postseason run this season, but the Sox would possibly be sacrificing their long-term future if the free-agent-to-be leaves them after 2015.

I could break down the numbers and daydream about Shark on the Sox all I want, but I really don't think the speculation is true. I have a long-running theory -- the more a pro sports trade or signing is rumored, the less likely it is to happen.

This happens every year during the Hot Stove season. Transaction rumors surface, people react, time passes, and then nothing. Speaking from personal experience, I remember the huge sagas that surrounded Alex Rodriguez in 2003, Johan Santana in 2007, Mark Teixeira in 2009 and Cliff Lee in 2010, fox example.

The Red Sox negotiated with the Rangers and White Sox for a month in an effort to land A-Rod. The Red Sox and Yankees battled over Santana for weeks with each team engaging in massive internal debates over which prospects to include. Teixeira looked hard at the Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals, weighing long-term offers. The Yankees looked like they were going to nab Lee at the trade deadline.

Yet, in each case, the winner of each transaction won it seemingly out of nowhere. The Yankees got Rodriguez overnight in February. The Mets got Santana after the hype died down. Teixeira chose the Yankees to cap New York's huge offseason. The Rangers got Lee a few hours before the July 31 cut-off.

Transactions, even ones that could alter a team for years to come, ultimately happen quickly. Take those examples above, or see some of the bigger recent deals. The Robinson Cano Mariners' signing last year, the Jon Lester-Yoenis Cespedes swap in July and even Friday's Josh Donaldson trade from Oakland to Toronto all happened without any prior word or hearsay.

Delays almost always mean something is up. In trades, teams could be at a standoff, posturing and wanting to squeeze every asset they could out of the deal. Trades could start off as a team feeling certain on trading someone, testing the market, talking itself into a weak offer before deciding to keep the him. In free agency, guys try to be patient in order to ratchet up the bidding war. They also might be weary of either taking less money to join a good team or taking more to join a bad team. Rumors never linger and then prove come true exactly as planned.

I have an exception to my theory that proves the rule. This fall, free agent Pablo Sandoval was long-rumored to be joining Boston. The weeks dragged on with no action, but he finally did sign with the Red Sox. However, the delay was for a reason. By the day he signed, both the Giants and Padres had each offered him lucrative deals, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez also signed with Boston, which could have sold Sandoval on his decision.

Rumors themselves need to be examined, too. There has to be a reason as to why word got out. Where did the leak come from? In the case of a trade, is the team that is selling an asset trying to gauge the public's reaction to see if it should be receiving a better return? Are the teams trying to wake up other teams and force them into making better offers? Are they trying to get the reactions of the players they are potentially acquiring?

The same motives can be seen in free agency negotiations. Are agents trying to drive up the price for their clients by creating a competitive market? Are rival teams purposely leaking erroneous info? Are teams trying to sell their fanbases on the illusion of signing someone and creating a competitor?

There's also the media factor. The Sox very well could have reached out to the A's to see if they would consider trading Samardzija, and the A's said yes. Then each side may have hung up the phone and that was that. But with that little piece of truth -- "Sox inquire about Samardzija" -- writers, radio hosts, bloggers (hey!) and television talking heads could make assumptions and blow everything out of proportion.

With Samardzija, the baseball world will wait. The rumors will pile up, the A's will continue to test others' interest and the Red Sox and Braves will make their best pushes. But, just when you least expect it, Samardzija will be dealt, and probably to the last team you expected. Of course, that could very well be the White Sox.

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