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Theo Epstein shoots down report that Brandon Kintzler was Nats’ clubhouse leaker

Brandon Kintzler, center, jokes with Max Scherzer during simpler times. | Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein came out swinging Wednesday against a report that claimed Brandon Kintzler was traded by the Nationals because they believed he was the source of leaks from their clubhouse.

In an appearance on ESPN 1000, Epstein said that Jeff Passan, the writer of a recent story in which an anonymous source is quoted describing the Nats’ clubhouse as a “mess,” called him Wednesday morning to directly deny that he had ever talked to Kintzler before.

“Unsolicited, Passan called me this morning to tell me he’s never spoken to or communicated with Brandon Kintzler in his life,” Epstein said to hosts David Kaplan and Jordan Cornette. “So that was clearly a false report, and we knew it was a false report because it wouldn’t be in character with the reputation that Brandon has.

“We do our due diligence obviously when we acquire players, and we spoke to a number of teammates who shared the clubhouse with him over the years, and everyone fells strongly that he’s a big positive in the clubhouse. He’s a bright guy who cares about his teammates, who is easy to talk to. He cares, he takes the ball. So he should do nothing but enhance our culture. We’re happy to have him.”

Kintzler also denied the accusation that he was the source in a radio interview following the trade, telling 106.7 The Fan in Washington that he had never talked to Passan in his life.

The present controversy stems from a Washington Post report Tuesday that said the Nationals traded Kintzler to the Cubs because they “believed he was responsible for anonymous reports that painted Washington’s clubhouse culture as iffy.” A new story posted Wednesday afternoon also says the club thought Kintzler was “too free with clubhouse information and criticism.”

However, there may be some confusion over which story had members of the Nationals upset. According to Grant Paulsen, the issue is not Passan’s recent story on Yahoo! Sports, but a July 19 story in the Washington Post about the club’s bullpen. (This appears to be the story.)

It was initially believed the issue was about Passan’s article, which was published Monday and described issues that have led to the Nationals’ disappointing season, including communication problems between certain players and manager Dave Martinez. That’s reflected in Epstein’s response to questions Wednesday, in which he’s clearly referring to Passan’s article. If it’s actually about the July 19 article, which was written by Chelsea Janes, then Passan’s denial to Epstein may not be so relevant.

Still, the Cubs are happy to have Kintzler in tow. “He’s actually a really good clubhouse guy who we welcome with open arms into our culture,” Epstein said of Kintzler. “I think he’s gonna fit in great here.”