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Hold up a second on those rumors the Padres are prepared to make Eric Hosmer an offer

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This is how fake news happens.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It has been a slow off-season, which means it is easier to make a molehill out of the tiniest morsel of news. But sometimes it can be difficult to separate truth from fiction, or at least, news from non-news.

Yesterday came word that the San Diego Padres were prepared to make Eric Hosmer a six-year, $120 million offer.

Both of these news reports cited TWO reports that the Padres were ready to make Eric Hosmer a six-year, $120 million offer - MLB Network and Buster Olney. The problem is, only one source was linked, this twitter video:

If you watch the video, MLB Network cites Buster Olney as its source. So two sources are actually just one source.

And the thing is, Buster Olney has not reported that the Padres are prepared to make a six-year, $120 million offer. He has not tweeted this. Nor has he written it in article. In fact, his latest report says that the Padres are deeply conflicted on this. From his December 25 ESPN column:

There is a deep split of opinion within the San Diego Padres organization about whether the pursuit of Eric Hosmer is the right thing for the team to do at this time. Hosmer would be the leader of a group of developing young players in 2018 and 2019, but with enormous holes in the rotation, the Padres don’t appear close to contending with the Dodgers in the immediate future. If San Diego gave Hosmer a big-money deal -- and at the winter meetings, the buzz among executives was that the Padres were prepared to invest about $120 million over six years -- then Hosmer might start to decline at about the time the team started to turn the corner.

[emphasis in bold added]

So Olney is saying that there was some buzz that the Padres were considering making a six-year, $120 million offer at the Winter Meetings back in early December. But now they have a deep split of opinion. That got misinterpreted by MLB Network as the Padres were ready to make that offer now. And local news stations ran with it.

There is a lot of pressure to pass along the latest information, and innocent mistakes get made all the time (especially here!) Perhaps the Padres are prepared to make Hosmer an offer, but there doesn’t seem to be any hard reporting of that at this point. Instead, it appears as if an elaborate game of “telephone” has been played, where a whiff of a rumor has become twisted into news.

Lee Judge wrote recently about how trade rumors get leaked in the first place. They are usually done with an agenda in mind, either by a team or an agent. Hosmer’s agent, Scott Boras, is known to be in cahoots with FanRag reporter Jon Heyman. Many of the big signings are done with little information leaking out beforehand. The Royals, in particular, seem to keep things very close to the vest.

That’s not to say rumors are totally irrelevant. They’re fun (in a typical off-season, not this mind-numbingly boring winter) to track, and many times they do reveal something about the process. Just make sure the source you’re reading is reliable and is actually reporting news, not just third-hand information that got misinterpreted along the way.

Anyway, back to the MLB Network report, analyst Joe Magrane makes a good point, when he questions who the Padres are negotiating with at this point. The Red Sox were thought to be frontrunners for Hosmer, but no longer have use for him with the re-signing of Mitch Moreland. The Yankees are now at about $178 million for payroll, around $18 million under the luxury tax threshold, seemingly not enough room to add Hosmer if they want to stay under - which they will considering they want to maintain flexibility for next year’s free agent class.

The Cardinals could possibly be interested, although with Matt Carpenter already in tow, there is no urgency to add Hosmer. The Mets are slashing payroll. I think the Rockies could still be a darkhorse if they move Ian Desmond to the outfield and feel Hosmer is the kind of player that can take them to the next level. Even then, they have young Ryan McMahon who seems Major League ready, and might seek to fortify their bullpen first.

Which leaves the Padres and Royals. If the Padres offer six-years, and $120 million, that seems like the kind of deal the Royals could possibly match if they wanted to keep Hosmer that badly. While the team is looking to cut payroll, they would likely make an exception for Hosmer, and moving a few other salaries (Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Jason Hammel) could make his contract more feasible.

So let’s see what happens. Maybe Hosmer is San Diego bound. But I’m not so sure the Padres are prepared to make him an offer just yet.