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Chat: Matthew Trueblood

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday October 22, 2015 2:00 PM ET chat session with Matthew Trueblood.

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Matthew Trueblood: Okay, let's do this, folks. Gotta find a way through the day without baseball.

M.Zaun (NumbahOne): Hi Matt, I was just wondering if you could list who each team's Michael Conforto is and when you expect them to be called up.

Matthew Trueblood: M is referring to this Tweet of mine from July (https://twitter.com/MATrueblood/status/618124092940550144), in which I defended the prospect team's decision not to rank Conforto among the top 50 prospects in baseball by explaining what I understood to be his limitations. He's grown beyond some of those. He's a better player than many on the BP staff, and certainly than I, thought he would be.
That said, keep Conforto in perspective, folks. If you gave us another crack at that midseason 50 list, he'd probably make it, but he wouldn't be above, for instance, Aaron Judge (13th) or Nick Williams (21st). Even Stephen Piscotty (40th, and maybe also rated too low; his power developed so very late in his overall developmental arc) has a case for being above Conforto. Still, M's snark isn't unfounded.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Matthew, Where do you see Heyward signing, and do you think he could play center field for anyone?

Matthew Trueblood: This is going to be the most delicious question of the offseason. Candidates who spring to mind: Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals, Rangers, Nationals. A lot of the usual suspects there; I'm probably missing someone. I see the Cardinals bringing him back, on the 2015-16 version of the Matt Holliday deal: whatever the market will bear, less five to 10 percent. We'll all howl #CardinalsDevilMagic if that comes to fruition, but they run their organization well and make a great impression on guys in this situation.

For the next year or two, Heyward could be a solid center fielder, especially in a small center field (like the one at Wrigley Field; that's the best argument for the Cubs). Long-term, he's a corner guy, because a body that big won't stay healthy and sufficiently quick in center into his late 20s.

M. Wilson (Chicago): Hey Matthew, thanks for the chat. Was wondering what % of baseball you think is hitting and what % is pitching

Matthew Trueblood: So, run creation is half of baseball, and run prevention is half. That should be self-evident. Run creation is all done by batters and baserunners, with the former becoming the latter as they achieve small successes. So hitting is 45 percent of the game, and the guys doing the batting and the running are the same, so hittERS are 50 percent of it.

Run prevention, though, is a multi-faceted endeavor. There's the pitcher, who still gets the overwhelming majority of the credit for preventing runs. Then there's the defense behind the pitcher, and the catcher who frames the pitcher's pitches and helps him control the opposing running game. In The Hidden Game of Baseball, Pete Palmer and John Thorn estimated pitching was 44 percent of baseball. Given what we've learned about how teams prevent runs, and given the concrete changes we've seen in that over the last 10 years or so, I would adjust their estimate down to something like 37.5 percent-or three-fourths of the half of the game that is run prevention.

Jon (NYC): As the Mets end this series, because of their dominant starting pitching, can you please explain how starting pitching is still grossly overrated? Thanks for the chat! Enjoy reading your Twitter trolling.

Matthew Trueblood: Let's be clear: the Mets didn't win this series because of their dominant starting pitching. They won by playing a bit better than the Cubs were in all areas throughout the series. The Cubs failed to put together good at-bats at times, missed mistake pitches at others. The Mets' team defense provided excellent support to the Mets' pitchers, especially the starters.
More broadly, starting pitching is overrated basically because of what I outline above. Run prevention isn't all about the pitcher, and way too often, the game itself is looked at through the lens of starting pitching when there are two or three other (and often better) ways to explain the same action. It would be silly, for instance, to truly blame the Cubs' starters for the loss of this series. Yes, they made some critical mistakes, most notably the one Hammel made to Lucas Duda last night. The Mets hitters still had to make those mistakes hurt, though, and they couldn't have done much better a job. The pitch Murphy hit out for two runs off Arrieta: there was a ton of narrative around that, "What happened to Arrieta? Is he gassed?" Well, yeah, probably, but that's not why Daniel Murphy took that pitch out. Murphy did that because he just couldn't miss for a week. It wasn't even a bad pitch. Murphy beat Arrieta. Duda beat Hammel. Chris Coghlan also beat Noah Syndergaard in Game 2, only to have Granderson make that great catch. Pitchers aren't nearly the controllers of the action we make them out to be.
All that, plus, the more we learn about the game, the more it seems like starters should very often be gone by the sixth or seventh inning, so the role of the role in the modern game is ever-shrinking.

Matt (Chicago): Regardless of what happens the rest of this series, tough to be disappointed by '15 CHC campaign. What optimizations, in terms of diversifying lineup & improving D, do you see front office making? Adding SP is a no-brainer.

Matthew Trueblood: This is going to be a capital-F Fun winter for the Cubs and Cubs fans. The defining characteristic of the organization right now is modularity. You can rearrange three dozen pieces into a thousand different set-ups for next season. With their prospect depth, the young guys established on the big-league team and the questions surrounding them, things could break so many different ways. I'll note a couple things I think are inevitable:
1. Dexter Fowler will be given the qualifying offer, and then the Cubs will very politely stop taking his calls. He was great for them, an absolutely perfect fit that catalyzed their season before it even began, but now they need other things in center field. Namely, they need a defensive anchor, someone who can shore up the outfield defense even if the team decides to go into next season with the big bats of Schwarber and Soler in the corners.
2. There will be some consolidation of multiple useful assets into a single, closer to elite one. The model I'm using in my head is the Cardinals' trade for Jason Heyward last November. They had a good player (Shelby Miller) for whom they no longer had room, and a really valuable pop-up pitching prospect (Tyrell Jenkins) who was due to land on the 40-man roster or be made available in the Rule 5 Draft, but whom they couldn't squeeze onto their own 40-man. For future reference, the Cubs' most notable Jenkins types-not only in that they will need to go onto the 40-man roster this year, but in that the Cubs will have a hard time keeping them-for this winter are Jeimer Candelario and Dan Vogelbach. The thing they need to look for in their trade target is well-roundedness.

Matt (Chicago): Most ridiculous hot take from Cubs-Met series: Javy not a good defensive player??

Matthew Trueblood: Yes, silly. Baez is a good shortstop who had a bad four games. The Cubs are a great team who had a bad four games. No one should draw larger or more damning conclusions than these.

JD (North of Victory): Seriously though, what is the plan for Schwarber now?

Matthew Trueblood: Schwarber is another interesting element of the Cubs' interesting winter ahead. He's a better defensive left fielder than he appeared to be over the last week. He could stick just fine out there. Obviously, he has more defensive value at catcher, and that would help alleviate the jam the Cubs have out there-not only Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan, but Billy McKinney could be knocking on the door by midsummer, and depending how the infield shakes out, Kris Bryant might become an outfield refugee. On the other hand, I can't really see Schwarber being more than an average defensive catcher, especially with regard to framing. (He was exactly average in that regard this season.) The Cubs went out of their way to add Miguel Montero and David Ross last winter, in no small part because those guys are exceptional framers. Both guys are under contract for next season and using Schwarber as a catcher crowds that picture, too. They also have Willson Contreras, who broke out as a prospect in 2015, and might well think he's the catcher of the (long-term) future. I think Schwarber breaks camp as the starting left fielder, but that's nowhere near certain yet.

Steve (Vermont): Cubs in 4. Starting pitching is overrated. You made both of these statements, yet the Mets actually got more WAR (24.9) from their everyday players than the Cubs (23.0), while getting less value from their pitching this season. On top of that, the Mets dealt with more injuries to that lineup, who are mostly healthy now (thanks, Chase), and between health, callups, and trades, have been improving bit by bit well beyond the 7/31 deadline. I know you love to cite the Cubs win% since a specific date as 'evidence' that the Cubs (who were just demolished) are clearly superior, but don't you feel like you should have done a bit more thinking about that silly pick, especially given how much of the Cubs' value this season came from their 'overrated' pitching?

Matthew Trueblood: No. Unsure which WAR you're using, but the Cubs' position players were considerably better by Prospectus's WARP. Cubs' second- and third-order winning percentages (.600, .591) blew away Mets' (.561, .544). The thing Mets fans with whom I've interacted have most aggressively ignored is that the Cubs (and other teams too!) have also steadily improved-even radically improved-since July 31. It's not only the Mets who have done that. The Cubs are better, but the Mets won, and they won by playing much, much better in these four games. No one is trying to diminish the Mets' achievement. It's well-earned.

Paul (DC): Is Michael Conforto the Mets everyday Leftfielder next year?

Matthew Trueblood: I think so. Honestly, the outfield thing they landed on at the end of the year-Conforto and Lagares sliding in and out of the lineup as Cespedes drifts between left and center, based on platoon matchups-wasn't bad. If they bring Cespedes back, they ought to do the same thing in 2016. If not, Conforto's the guy for left field.

Paul (DC): Please play the who's the Cubs middle infield pair in 2016 game.

Matthew Trueblood: I'll say Russell at short and Castro at second, again. Castro's obviously a trade candidate, but I'm not sure the org believes in Baez to the level of being willing to hand him a starting job without a major safety net (and I'm not sure they believe Tommy La Stella constitutes one).

Paul (DC): Does Eric Hosmer have any more room to grow as a hitter, or is this year about as good as he'll ever be?

Matthew Trueblood: Hosmer is interesting. I think there's growth potential left. Maybe he never hits 30 bombs at the K, but I suspect he'll get to 25 at some point. Pitchers were really, really careful with him this year, and he did a good job adjusting to that, chasing less often. That's very encouraging.

Paul (DC): Is Chris Colabello a Ken Phelp's All-Star?

Matthew Trueblood: Late-blooming bat-only guy who proves legit? I... have my doubts. Strikeout-to-walk ratio is a mess. Phelps played back when batters had much better control of the strike zone leaguewide, and he was no exception. Maybe Colabello's stat line is just what a Phelps type looks like in this day and age, with global strikeout and walk rates where they are, but I would wait to see the next 500 PA before jumping in on him with both feet. In fact, even with one foot.

BC (Urbandale): Who's in center for the Cubs opening day? Bryant? Fowler? Hetward? Almost at some point?

Matthew Trueblood: I really don't know. That'll be interesting. I think they'll keep their options wide open for as long as possible, looking for a reliable (because they need production out there in order to come back next season near this level) but short-term solution. I don't think they want anyone totally blocking the way of Almora, Happ, or Eddy Julio Martinez, whoever ends up developing most smoothly. Cameron Maybin could be a trade target. Austin Jackson could come back on a one-year deal.

djstaple (Boston): Best way for cubs to add sp depth. Starters in bullpen, or youth/minor league FA in upper minors?

Matthew Trueblood: They'll probably make an addition (maybe even two?) in free agency or via trade this winter, but the depth has to be organic, and probably can't be reliably amassed over a single winter. They have to keep drafting pitching in bulk, in hopes that they'll eventually have a queue of viable options waiting in the minors when injuries strike. Acquiring those kinds of pitchers through other means will leave one saddled with low-upside spare parts, many of whom are out of options or have a bad contract attached to them. Either way, that ossifies the roster. Wood, if the Cubs tender him for next year, will probably remain stretched out enough in relief to conceivably return to the rotation in a pinch.

Dan (New York): What do the Cubs do with Kyle Schwarber if he can't catch? SSS obviously, but his play in the outfield hasn't been encouraging thus far.

Matthew Trueblood: This is quickly becoming the big question of their offseason, eh? I'm on record with the belief that he'll be in left field to open the season, but I think they'll have him work some (less often than this year, probably) behind the plate before and between games, and he could catch one in every 10 games or so. Keeping Montero fresh is the most important thing the Cubs could do for their catching corps next year; the man is getting older and was absolutely abused in Arizona.
Maybe the most important thing to remember with Schwarber: he's NOT that butcher he appeared to be in the NLCS in left field. He can be a 45 defender out there, maybe better. Underrated athleticism.

Jim R (Chicago): Hey Matthew, what went wrong for the Cubs? I figured they had the better offense and the pitching isn't all that big of a deal. Why did the mets dominate?

Matthew Trueblood: Because anything can happen in four (or seven, or 30) MLB games. I know that's hard to swallow, but the Mets dominated because the Cubs played pretty poorly during the series. I was especially surprised (in the wrong direction) by the quality of the Cubs' approach at the plate.

BigTony (Chicago): How do the Cubs upgrade pitching?

Matthew Trueblood: They have a ton of money and a TON of depth in the farm system. They upgrade by either trading some of their surplus talent or spending big on a free agent. I think they're leaning in the latter direction, though the fact that Price now stands alone as a really, really reliable, non-QO option might change that.

James (New Jersey): What are your thoughts on Lucas Giolitto and Julio Urias?

Matthew Trueblood: Hey, those are some sexy pitching prospects! I don't know. Have only seen Giolito live, and then only briefly, in the 2014 Futures Game. They look like the two best pitching prospects in baseball. I'd prefer Urias, for whatever that's worth to you.

Matt (Huntsville(AL)): Top 5 SP candidates for the Cubs this offesason are?

Matthew Trueblood: In some order: Price, Zimmermann, Tyson Ross, Carlos Carrasco, Julio Teheran. (Off the top of my head.)

Josh (Chicago): Which pitcher and position player do you think will get overpaid this off-season? And who do you think could end up being a steal for the team that signs them?

Matthew Trueblood: Pitcher, overpaid: Mike Leake. Could fall right into that four-year, $50-million sour spot for FA SP, alongisde Edwin Jackson, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Ubaldo, Brandon McCarthy.
Pos. player, overpaid: Cespedes.

P, underpaid: I dunno. Brett Anderson maybe.
Pos., underpaid: Dexter Fowler. QO will hurt him, not being a good defender in center will hurt him, but OBP is life and he's got it.

Kyle (San Diego): Do you have a clue?

Matthew Trueblood: Yes

Zonk (Chi Town): Javy Baez can play defense, but are you a believer in the bat?

Matthew Trueblood: Tentatively, yes. His swing only got more complicated when he went to simplify it, because now he has two different timing patterns and I think he can get caught in between. But in the long term, I think he could still develop into a really good player. Might happen at 28, not 23, and in some other place.

Zonk (Chi Town): Who do you think will prove to be the best mid-tier starting pitcher FA investments this offseason?

Matthew Trueblood: Mid-tier pitching investments are, in general, a pretty bad idea. So the lower you buy in that arena, the better. How dented is Doug Fister's value?

Josh (Iowa): Regarding the Cubs lineup, is it flawed in a way that was highlighted in NLCS or was it simply a matter of fantastic pitching and SSS? Is there a need for more contact hitters? Does their "handed-ness" (RH/LH) matter? Read John's piece at Cubs Den yesterday about lineup having too many guys that pitchers can get out the exact same approach.

Matthew Trueblood: Balance is always nice, in terms of skill sets as well as handedness. I'm not sure where the ideal equilibrium between seeking balance and maximizing talent is. No, I wouldn't react to the NLCS by making changes based on the offense's failures there. They weren't systemic.

BigTony (Chicago): yes but will they bite the Price bullet?

Matthew Trueblood: Really don't know. It'll be a big bullet. He's the perfect FA SP target, though, in that he's established a long track record of health and durability, as well as excellence. He's a fit with Maddon. The Cubs' minor-league P coordinator is his college pitching coach. He freezes the running game, which the Cubs struggled to do so badly this year. I would say they're the leading candidate to sign him, but it's less than 50-percent likely.

Q-Ball (North Side): Kris Bryant has awesome power. He also had nearly 200 strikeouts, and .378 BABIP that looks unsustainable. Should we be worried? Will he regress?

Matthew Trueblood: Regress? No. Change? Yes. Bryant's full-season stats capture a player who made several radical changes in his swing and his approach over the year. He might be worse next year, but I'd bet he'll be better. And different.

B-Man (Mountains): Should the Rockies trade Car-Go this offseason? If they choose to, who do you think is interested? What kind of return is reasonable?

Matthew Trueblood: They should. Lots of teams would be interested, led by, perhaps, the Orioles, White Sox, Angels, Giants. Return? I don't know. One headliner of a prospect, then two lesser lights. Something like that. Colorado might have to eat some money.

Matt (Chicago): Glad you brought up Maybin. He'd be a nice defensive addition to Cubs OF. Will Cubs invest at all in pen or mix n match? Wondering if spending on pen will come back into fashion.

Matthew Trueblood: At some point, you might see them roll some money into the pen, just because the short-term payroll is so wide open with these young guys making the minimum and holding down full-time jobs. I don't know that they're going chasing Aroldis Chapman or anything. They're very consistent in maintaining that they want relief depth to come from the farm system.

Hail Theo (North Side): With the ever expanding bullpens around baseball (and short benches), it seems like defensive versatility is becoming much more important, and teams can't really carry a bat-only PH type any more, a la Matt Stairs. Is that right? Are teams really prioritizing that now in player development?

Matthew Trueblood: I wrote about this w/r/t Carlos Quentin back in March: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=26010

I know the Cubs' player-dev team is now emphasizing versatility. I'm not sure any team is so concerned about it that they're about to start slowing down guys' offensive progression to make sure they learn a second position.

Q-Ball (North Side): Most large FA pitching contracts seem to turn into a disaster. Jon Lester has his quirks, but overall was pretty good this year. Do you feel like he'll provide $155 mil worth of value on that contract, and does he have a skill set that will hold up into mid to late 30s?

Matthew Trueblood: History says there's very little chance he returns the full value of his contract. His health record is the big thing in his favor, though. I think he'll remain pretty useful and durable for at least the next three years.

Reds Fanboy (Ohio): The NL Central is brutal, our payroll is pretty maxed out, and the team was not good this year. How bleak is the Reds 3-year outlook? Are we talking fairly dark, or black hole?

Matthew Trueblood: Somewhere in between? The Reds need to rebuild and accept that the next few years will be rough. If they do that, and do it well, then yes, they'll rack up losses in 2015-16, but they can bounce right back.

Josh (Chicago): After a year in the books. Rapid Review Reaction to Lester in National League? And his contract?

Matthew Trueblood: He was very good, though he can be even better. He probably will have one better, one similar and four worse (though maybe not a ton worse) years from now through the end of his deal.

Zonkers (North Side): The Cubs just graduated a ton of young hitters. Where do you think their farm systems sits now after all that? Is help still coming from the farm?

Matthew Trueblood: The insane thing is that they're still a top-10 org, no sweat. (I think. I'm not a prospect guru; I just glean what I can from those guys.) The remaining depth, given how much was just pushed up into the big-league space, is staggering.

Q-Ball (Chicago): Should the Cubs trade Starlin Castro this offseason? With 4/40 left on his contract, what kind of value do you think he would return, beyond salary relief?

Matthew Trueblood: Some. Not a major haul. What he could be, especially in a package with one of the team's second-tier prospects, is good pitcher bait. He's not the guy any GM wants to deal prospects for, but he could be a good fit somewhere if the team's needs matched the Cubs's.

SHOULD they deal him? It depends entirely on what they're offered.

Danny (Chicago): How do you feel about a trade match between the Indians and Cubs? Baez to play third base as the centerpiece for Salazar or Carrasco. Maybe Coghlan and/or Hammel with a greatly reduced salary could be involved? Bauer is also intriguing.

Matthew Trueblood: Count me three kinds of out on Bauer. Otherwise, yes, plausible. Baez is a tough centerpiece in a deal, very high-risk, high-reward. You have to find a True Believer to get full value for him.

Zonk (Chi Town): What kind of FA contract do you project for Austin Jackson? What kind of performance would you expect from him?

Matthew Trueblood: One year, $5-8 million? Maybe someone goes 2/$16 or something? I think he's a 1-2 win center fielder.

Josh (Chicago): Going into the season The Nationals looked like World Beaters and also The White Sox looked poised to do some damage... What did work? What Didn't?

Matthew Trueblood: Hoo boy. Long stories here. We all overrated the Nationals. Just were way too into the name value on some of those guys, ignored their downsides. Also, though, hard to forecast the brutal half-season Ian Desmond had, or the sheer degree of Denard Span's injury issues.

The White Sox got some sudden downturns from guys with decent track records, but their biggest problem was a dearth of quality depth and flexibility that would have allowed them to weather that.

Q-Ball (Chi Town): As well as the young Cub hitters performed this year, is it not unreasonable to think next year they will really blow it out? I can see organic improvement from Soler, Russell, Baez, Schwarber, in that order. Is that crazy?

Matthew Trueblood: It's not, but make sure not to treat it as a given. Development is rarely linear.

EF (NYC): So let's assume that BP's 3rd order winning percentage is a roughly accurate read on true talent and that the Cubs are a .600 team and the Mets are a .550 team. In any given game, the Cubs chances of winning are roughly 55% using the log5 method. This is a modest advantage, but in no way translates into a Cubs sweep having been likely. And saying that the Mets were only 53/47 favorites after being up 2-0 definitely doesn't fit this.

Matthew Trueblood: EF is not wrong. I went about forecasting that series somewhat irrationally. I went through and decided I felt the Cubs had a slightly better chance to win each game, so I projected them to win each game. Had I taken a moment to consider the way people would consume that prediction, I would have softened it (even more than I did) and picked the Cubs in five or six. In other words, while I did think the sweep was the most likely outcome, I should have thought about the whole thing more probabilistically and more politically.

EF (NYC): BaseRuns on FanGraphs estimated that the Cubs were 4 games better than the Mets this year. It's very legitimate to argue with that estimate, but I just don't get how you could be so confident that the "Cubs are a Whole Lot better a team" -- at least acknowledge that there's some uncertainty.

Matthew Trueblood: And here's EF going on about that. I won't take back the Whole Lot better bit. The Cubs were and are a whole lot better than the Mets. Maybe capitalizing was a bad idea.

Matt (Chicago): Are there any SP candidates coming off injury -namely TJ- who could be interesting buy-low candidates?

Matthew Trueblood: Not really. Anybody want Cliff Lee?

Ziggy (South Sider): What should the White Sox do this offseason? We have 3 good starting pitchers, Jose Abreu, and mostly junk beyond those guys. We cant' possibly go into 2016 with Avisail Garcia and Tyler Flowers in a starting role again....right?

Matthew Trueblood: I actually have already written a piece, though it won't run until after the season, advocating that the Sox blow it up and use Sale, Abreu, and Quintana to reload fast and brilliantly. The core is good, but way too small, and there's way too little around it.

Reds Fanboy (Ohio): Should the Reds trade Joey Votto? Do you think anyone would agree to take on the entire contract?

Matthew Trueblood: No, Cincy would have to eat major money. Which is why I think you just keep him and build around him. He's a robot; he'll age fine if he stays healthy. He can still contribute to a good Reds team in 2017 or so.

Ziggy (South Sider): The 3 worst player contracts in baseball are:

Matthew Trueblood: Justin Verlander's? Hanley Ramirez's? I'd have to take a longer look. Victor Martinez? Old guys signed to long deals and anyone signed a year or two before the real decision point.

Denard Span (Washington DC (For Now)): What kind of contract should I expect this offseason?

Matthew Trueblood: Total derailment of 2015 by injuries really sets you back, Denny. (Can I call you Denny? No?) Nard Dog, I don't think you'll get more than 2/$20, and it could be less.

B-Man (Mountains): Old, venerable Turner Field will be torn down after next year. Can you believe President Clinton threw out a pitch there when it was new? What ancient ballpark will next meet it's end via wrecking ball?

Matthew Trueblood: Dodger Stadium? Maybe they get a big new downtown park built? I don't know that there's an obvious candidate there.

Q-Ball (Chicago): What current player or players do you think are most likely to be a manager someday?

Matthew Trueblood: David Ross. I don't know. Probably a lot of them, since teams are just dead certain completely inexperienced former players are the best people for those jobs.

Friar Lover (San Diego): So, what does AJ Preller do for an encore? Plan A didn't work, the roster has several holes, and not a ton of payroll room. Double down, or rebuild?

Matthew Trueblood: Ugh. Rebuild. Please. What a mess he made of things out there.

Mike Leake (San Francisco): You said I would be a bad investment? Why, how much money do you think I will get? You try pitching in Great American Ballpark, BTW......

Matthew Trueblood: I think you'll get precisely that deal (4/48-52) that NEVER works out. I think you're a pitcher with few weaknesses but no obvious path to sustained dominance. I don't fully trust you to stay healthy.

Josh (Chicago): Speaking of the White Sox issues. Ventura as manager. You buying or selling? Can they win with him at the helm?

Matthew Trueblood: Absolutely not. It's staggering that they basically acknowledged how far he's been from what they need him to be, but still have chosen to keep him. That organization makes a lot of bad decisions.

Danny (Chicago): As far as pitchers coming off of Tommy John, what becomes of Zack Wheeler? The Mets were willing to move him at the deadline for a controlled player, will they still consider that? That rotation will be fearsome with or without him.

Matthew Trueblood: I think they're going to trade Harvey this winter, not Wheeler. It's what I'd do. Harvey is now a 3+ guy with Boras for an agent, with TJ on the resume, gonna get very expensive this winter. I'm not enamored. Wheeler is just a decent mid-rotation guy, but that's all they need behind deGrom and Syndergaard.

Zonk (Chicago): OK I see your point on Leake, but Liriano got 3/39, and that seems to be working out. Are the Pirates just smarter?

Matthew Trueblood: Yes, at least in this case. Here's what I wrote about Liriano last November, before he signed (and I loved the deal they got him on): http://www.banishedtothepen.com/in-a-market-stacked-against-him-francisco-liriano-will-be-the-winters-best-bet/

Strikeouts. Strikeouts at that level are reliable and augur really well for the future. The difference between Liriano and Leake is strikeouts.

Friar Lover (San Diego): I can see why you think AJ Preller made a huge mess. You didn't have to watch that outfield all year. But what can the Padres do to unwind this?

Matthew Trueblood: Trade Kimbrel, and... that's mostly it. The main thing is to trade Kimbrel, and then to avoid giving up draft picks and prospects in the same way they did last winter. A little conservatism would be a good thing for Preller.

Q-Ball (Chicago): So, what's the best way to build a bullpen? And why are bullpens so volatile, anyway?

Matthew Trueblood: The best way to build a bullpen is not to ever try to build one. Build six-deep rotations full of good young arms in the minors, grab guys off the waiver wire, move struggling starters into set-up roles. Bullpens just happen. The ones that are carefully built tend to fail, and when they don't fail, they still cost too much given the risk that they might have failed.

Joshua (Chicago): To follow up on the Ventura question. Who is Managing a Major Leaugue team right now that shouldn't be?

Matthew Trueblood: Fredi Gonzalez, Ventura, Bryan Price, Walt Weiss, Brad Ausmus, Paul Molitor, Craig Counsell, Mike Matheny.

Zonk (Chi Town): Kyle Hendricks.....cheap rotation filler, or reliable #4 on a winning club?

Matthew Trueblood: The second one. Underrated guy.

Steve0 (VT): On your answer to Danny's question, who do you think could honestly afford the asking price for Matt Harvey? He's a top 5 pitcher in baseball when healthy, with three years of under market-market value control remaining? The Mets are a team whose window will clearly be open for that entire time frame, so they're pretty clearly going to ask for an astronomical package. Do you honestly think there would be anyone out there willing to meet it?

Matthew Trueblood: If the asking price is as high as you describe, no. I think it'll be lower. I think Harvey's going to cost $34 million or more over the next three years, and with the QO tamping down the top of the market in free agency, that's not as cheap as it once was, relative to FA options. I think the Mets can patch one of their key positional holes by dealing Harvey, though, and I think they'll do it.

Q-Ball (Chicagao): Speaking of bullpens, the Cubs got good mileage this year out of Clayton Richards and Trevor Cahill in the pen. Richards in particular was up to 95 mph on a consistent basis, which was a big jump for him. Are you a believer? Should the Cubs bring these guys back if they can do so cheaply? (Richards is arb eligible)

Matthew Trueblood: I believe they both CAN be useful relievers. I wouldn't go wild to retain either. They're perfect illustrations of just how easily and cheaply good bullpen help can sometimes be found. (Certainly, you tender Richard.)

Zonk (Chi Town): Brad Ausmus? Mike Matheny? Craig Counsell? But they are highly regarded as far as I've heard. Why do you think they are overrated?

Matthew Trueblood: Zero managerial experience prior to taking their jobs. Habitual mismanagement of the roster and the game strategically.

Zonk (Chi Town): Good points on Liriano from your article...so who is this year's Liriano? The best SP Value available?

Matthew Trueblood: Liriano Theory leads you to Samardzija... gotta believe you can fix whatever the White Sox broke with him. But I will be interested in what he gets. If it's in the James Shields neighborhood, or anywhere below, that could be a steal.

Ian (Toronto): Estrada? Will an NL club overvalue?

Matthew Trueblood: I doubt it. I think he'll get three years and very low eight figures per year. That certainly can't kill you, and in a roomy park, especially, Estrada might sustain this success.

Matthew Trueblood: We've slowed to more than a second between pops, so I'm turning off the microwave before the popcorn burns. Thanks for chatting.


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