We knew the Sports Illustrated cover jinx could ruin humans, but now it's claiming computers as victims.
Last week, the Houston Astros made the cover of SI, with (friend of the podcast) Ben Reiter detailing the unorthodox methods and mindsets behind their drastic rebuilding effort, including the club's proprietary database named Ground Control.
It turns out Houston had a bit of a problem. On Monday, Deadspin came across a couple anonymously leaked documents, which were purportedly from Ground Control and loaded with dispatches regarding the Astros' trade discussions over a 10-month period from the start of the 2013 offseason to the 2014 deadline.
You can't really blame SI, because Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he was aware of the breach a month ago. But the timing does take a little bit of the air out of any cover-story buzz.
Luhnow said Major League Baseball and the FBI are trying to determine who's responsible for the leak, which is some kind of illegal and unethical. It's also some kind of fascinating for people like us. Even though a lot of the emails are rote, we never get a chance to see how discussions unfold, so even the machinations make for enthralling reading.
There are some highlights/lowlights, depending on which team you follow...
If you're an Astros fan: You cringe at the Bud Norris discussions.
If you're a Nationals fan: You laugh at the idea of Lucas Harrell for Lucas Giolito. Harrell wouldn't even be the best guy named Lucas in the trade.
If you're a Marlins fan: The idea of trading Giancarlo Stanton would sadden and not surprise you.
There are also some caveats. Luhnow couldn't dismiss the documents entirely, but he tried to diminish the veracity by claiming "a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated." Jeff Passan said he confirmed the authenticity of the talks with multiple executives involved, but at least one executive is calling shenanigans:
#Marlins GM Dan Jennings says it's completely fabricated that they ever offered Stanton to #Astros or any other team calling it 'laughable."— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 30, 2014
Now, Jennings could be covering his ass, and why wouldn't he? He didn't create this mess. Or somebody in the Astros' front office may have been mistaken. Or whoever leaked these documents may have sprinkled in some fiction for funsies. Whatever the case, it puts a few baseball people in tough spots, forcing Luhnow to commence damage control for Ground Control:
Luhnow said he reached out recently to Astros players who were mentioned in trade discussions in the conversations, such as Jason Castro and George Springer, as well as to the other teams who also had confidential information revealed in the conversations.
"I've had conversations with a lot of other teams that were referenced in there and generally they were understanding and supportive," Luhnow said. "I'm sure they weren't happy about the fact, whether they're real or not, the conversations referencing their team or their players were referenced."
When it comes to the parts referencing Rick Hahn, though, Luhnow doesn't really have to worry. The White Sox only make two direct appearances in the documents. Both take place during the first few weeks of the offseason, and both serve as scene-setters for how the White Sox ended up going about White Sox business over the winter.
On Oct. 31, 2013:
[Rick Hahn] asked [Luhnow] if Hector Santiago would entice us. JL said that was not enough for Castro. RH came back later in the day and asked if Bourjos (from LAA) would entice us in a Castro context?
And a fortnight later:
I spoke with [White Sox GM Rick Hahn] today. They have definite high interest in Castro. He said they have four untouchable players - Sale, Quintana, Abreu and Garcia. Other than that, they would consider anything. He said they have had some inquiries about Santiago, Reed, Jones, and may consider moving Viciedo.
None of this is surprising, at least if you paid close enough attention. Let's go through it.
Chris Sale? Yup. Jose Quintana? Mm-hmm. Jose Abreu? They just got him. Avisail Garcia? Likewise. Nobody else warrants inclusion on this list, and I don't think any touchable player would be insulted by that label, given how the 2013 season played out.
Their trading block
Hector Santiago and Addison Reed were both traded in December, and rumors of varying temperatures orbited Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza for months.
Nate Jones is the only new name -- he doesn't even have his own tag on MLB Trade Rumors -- but you could see why teams would ask, and also why the Sox would be open to determining his worth at the start of the offseason. Once the Sox dealt Reed to Arizona for Matt Davidson in mid-December, it made less sense to shop Jones.
The White Sox made no secret that they sought a long-term upgrade at catcher, and Tyler Flowers said he didn't take his second chance at starting for granted. At SoxFest, Hahn referred to Brian McCann as the only free-agent catcher he thought would be that good for that long, but Castro checks out as a trade target -- 26 years old, coming off a breakout season, with three years of team control left but unwilling to sign an extension in Houston.
The off-hand mention of Peter Bourjos surprises even less, because he was in the pool of possible players who fit the description of a player Hahn alluded to during the first day of the winter meetings on Dec. 9:
Hahn spoke of the continued interest in several Sox pitchers, including one deal that came close to being completed before the other team opted for another club's position player instead.
The Angels traded Bourjos to St. Louis for David Freese on Nov. 22. The White Sox ended up trading Santiago to the Angels in a three-way deal with Arizona that brought back Adam Eaton on Dec. 10. It stands to reason that Santiago-for-Bourjos -- or a different three-team trade with those players and teams involved -- could've been the first draft of the trade that eventually resulted in the Angels getting Santiago, and the Sox getting a young center fielder.
Some teams involved may deny or downplay the accuracy of their supposed actions or ideas, but these two snapshots of the Sox slot right into the overall timeline of Hahn's offseason.
If these emails truly represent an alternate reality, the White Sox aren't missing anything. Flowers might be frustrating to watch, but he's not tying the front office's hands.
Finding catchers is hard! Likewise, even though Eaton has missed some time, he still looks like a better bet for the present and future:
|G||PA||BA/OBP/SLG||fWAR||Last arb year|
We can't get too carried away with the what-ifs, because we can't extrapolate an entire offseason from two emails from one club. If there's one thing we can take away from this as interested outsiders, it looks like there's a point in parsing Hahn's offseason answers, as general and unspecific as they're required to be.
(Also, if anybody finds a transcript of Hahn's interactions with Jerry Dipoto across November and December, hit me up.)