The Houston Astros keep a "bare-bones" database of trade conversations, and it was apparently just hacked. Via Deadspin, you can find details about who was interested in Bud Norris here and who was talking with the Astros this winter here.
This is skeezy. This is gross. This is unavoidable and fascinating. We finally get to see the internal workings of a front office, unfiltered. It also looks like -- for a month before the deadline, at least -- the Astros are hoping one team out of 29 will panic and offer Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, so to speak. It seems crazy until you get Kazmir.
Note: You have to appreciate how little information there is here. According to this leak, the Blue Jays were discussing Marcus Stroman for Bud Norris, which seems moderately insane. But it could have been a part of a larger deal for Jason Castro (who is referenced in connection with the Jays in the offseason), or maybe there's a key piece missing from the entry. It's probably a good idea to assume there's a sentence left out of every entry that explains everything.
But let's dig through the dumpster for a bit. Here are six especially interesting notes -- six proposals, counterproposals and general discussions -- that were included in the leak. All typos from the original sources:
6. Lucas for Lucas
"7/26/2013"," Rizzo called JL (Jeff Luhnow, Astros GM) to inquire on Harrell. JL told him we would still need a headliner like Giolito because we still value Harrell highly. Rizzo did not respond immediately."
Ask for the moon, just in case the universe is willing to sell. That would be Lucas Harrell whom Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was inquiring on. Harrell was pretty solid in 2012, but as of July 26, 2013, his ERA was 5.17, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was almost even. He was 28. Naturally, you ask for a team's top prospects in that kind of situation. Lucas Giolito is one of the 20 or 30 best prospects in baseball.
Note that the best comedic moment of the leak might be "Rizzo did not respond immediately," and that the next clause was probably "because he threw his phone into a lake and made a sign of the cross."
5. The Marlins might be nuts
"12/9/2013"," MIA said they need a 2B or 3B in exchange for Morrison. Inquired on Altuve and Dominguez. They also expressed interest in Folty, McCullers, and Carlos Perez."
Miss that guy.
This is one of those things that probably could benefit from a little more context. It probably wasn't "Will you trade either Altuve or Dominguez for a Logan Morrison-based package." It was probably, "We're looking for help at second or third for Morrison, which reminds us, do you guys have any interest in dealing Jose Altuve or Matt Dominguez?"
I love that the Marlins are interested in Dominguez, though, less than two years after dealing him for a half-season of Carlos Lee in a season in which they weren't contending. That deal was amazing then. It's even better in retrospect.
More importantly, the Marlins might have offered Giancarlo Stanton:
"11/15/2014"," JL talked to DJ and said we had interest in Stanton. DJ said he doesn't think he'll trade Stanton and the only deal he could think of from us that would work would be Springer and Correa. JL said that would not work. JL posited a deal around Cosart and Deshields."
No one looks bad, there. The Marlins wanted two top-20 prospects for one of the best young players in baseball; the Astros didn't feel like that was a good fit for their rebuilding plan. No biggie.
Except, the Marlins doubled down and called the Astros liars.
There isn't a chance that the database leak was forged, with the Astros apologizing and releasing a statement. So instead of, "Sure, we'll see if other teams will give up their entire farm for one player. Why not?" the Marlins' position is that someone in the Astros' front office is making up trade discussions to enter into the database. Somehow, the Marlins found a way to look bad, when there was no possible way to look bad, especially when the attention was on another team looking bad.
Edit: The Astros gave the Marlins the out by saying that some of the material was fabricated. The Marlins weren't unilaterally calling them liars. Apologies.
(Still, Matt Dominguez for Carlos Lee!)
4. The Dodgers have an idea of which outfielder they would want to trade
"11/5/2013"," DS talked with Alex Tamin: LAD is looking to acuire some back end SP depth and up the middle infield depth. They believe they have depth in the pen and would be willing to deal from it (AT mentioned Belisario and Guerra). LAD also has four OF for three spots and would be willing to talk about Crawford"
It makes sense that if the Dodgers had their druthers Crawford would be the one outfielder they'd move, but there was still a question. Andre Ethier might have had more value before the season, and Matt Kemp's contract might be something that could move without as much financial relief as Crawford's. Still, it looks like Crawford was the odd outfielder out, at least as of last November.
3. The Rockies offered Jose Abreu $63 million
"11/5/2013","COL is looking for a corner bat (they bid $63 on Abreu), a starter and bullpen help. They want to keep their core together and so would rather address their needs through free agency, but they may be pushed into trading Dexter Fowler. They have received inquiries (KC is one) and aren't ruling it out."
Unless they bid $63 -- in which case, I'll bid $64 if he's willing to watch my kids for the weekend -- the Rockies almost had Jose Abreu. He would have had 40 home runs by the All-Star break.
2. The Astros really wanted some of those Red Sox riches
"7/24/2013"," JL told BC that it would have to be one of Boegarts, Webster, Bradley, or Cecchini to get in the conversation at this point."
This was for Bud Norris, who is usually fine in the back of a rotation. That would be Xander Bogaerts (No. 2 prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America), Allen Webster (No. 88), Jackie Bradley (No. 50) or Garin Cecchini (No. 74). If you're not willing to talk about one of those four a week before the deadline, then Bud Norris might not be for you.
Then the Red Sox won the World Series. I so, so want to believe there's an alternate timeline with Bogaerts in the middle of the Astros' infield and Norris a sub-Buckner goat for the Red Sox. It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is "no," my mom always said.
Later, the Red Sox asked if they were interested in Ryan Lavarnway, which is about the best possible response.
1. The Attempted Fleecing of the Orioles (before a deal actually happened)
"6/26/2013"," DD called JL and expressed continued interest in Norris. JL said that for us to consider it at this point it would have to revolve around Bundy or Gaussman. DD said no on Gaussman but did not dismiss Bundy out of hand. DD said he ahd to talk to his doctors to really see what was going on."
A month before the Orioles actually acquired Norris, the Astros were saying either Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman would have to be in the deal. The Astros eventually acquired Josh Hader and L.J. Hoes.
I love this. This is inside the collective brain of an organization like nothing we've ever seen. The Astros weren't asking for the outstanding prospects because they were really anticipating the other teams giving in. They were asking for them because you never know how desperate the other team is. You ask because you don't know how at odds the internal reports on a prospect are with the external reports. You ask because there's time, and you never know when the next Kazmir-for-Zambrano is going to come.
I'm reminded of a NSFW David Cross routine about a garbage collector hitting on a woman while driving his truck:
Maybe I get 99 "no"s. That's fine. Slide it on, slide it on, whatever. Maybe that 100th (woman) likes to (become amorous) on a pile of trash.
It's a shame that it took a shady hacking job to glean that kind of information, but now that it's out there, it's fascinating to parse. If you're laughing at the prospects the Astros were asking for, that's missing the point. You should be marveling at this example of a deadline strategy, which is something we've never seen in such detail. The Astros were asking for the moon, then they settled on an orbiting satellite with some interesting technology. That's how it works.