Keith Law Q&A

I realized recently that I don’t know a lot about how trades and discussions between GMs actually go down.  Fortunately, ESPN’s Keith Law was able to fill in the gaps for me in our Q&A below.  Keith was formerly the assistant GM in Toronto under J.P. Ricciardi.

What steps does a team take to ensure that trade discussions don’t leak out to the media or to other teams? 

You limit the number of people who are know the details of the discussions. There’s not much more you can do, and you’re always trusting the other side to keep offers and discussions to themselves.

About how many people from each team are privy to a trade discussion with another team?

Depends entirely on the FO. In Toronto, it was usually around a half-dozen people, sometimes as many as ten. I think most FOs play it closer to the vest.

Are intentional media leaks common?

Absolutely, and they’re not all true.

What are the logistics of trade discussions – is it typically one GM on the phone with another, followed up by consulting with the GM’s inner circle before a callback is made?

Every trade discussion that happened while I was with Toronto either came about as a GM-to-GM phone call, or as something that came up at the winter meetings, usually where the two GMs would meet in one team’s suite, occasionally with the assistant GMs there too.

Are emails or conference calls between front offices common?

Not while I was with Toronto, but Ricciardi wasn’t a big email guy. I know of some GMs who are much more comfortable with email and so I’m sure they’re more willing to at least start a discussion on email. But for what is essentially a negotiation, phone beats email, and in-person beats phone when you can swing it.

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