Chris Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Chris' Transaction Analysis column will provide regular updates through the deadline.
Christina Kahrl: Hi folks... I'm plopped into my chair, powered up on nectarines and white tea, and wondering how much one person can say about the virtues of the mighty Blum. I'm sure we'll all have an eye towards the wires as well as the scoreboard, so this is going to be more of a leisurely conversation for the 30-40 minutes, at least until the mayhem begins. And with that, let's chat about moves made, regretted, or yet to come.
jimadams (Palo Alto): Last night we Giants fans were treated to a spectacle that has grown depressingly familiar: Felipe Alou using five pitchers in one inning, in an effort to get the "matchups" he wanted. I have no idea if this is good strategy, but it sure as hell is bad entertainment. The half inning took over half an hour, and the Cubs scored just one run! My question is: What do you think of Bill James's suggestion that MLB pass a rule limiting pitching changes? Watching the Giants this year has convinced me that James is onto comething. What do you think?
Christina Kahrl: Hi Jim, thanks for stopping by, and it's a worthwhile general question. For myself, I find the in-season pursuit of fractional advantages to be both tedious and ultimately self-defeating. I really think it's easier to find left-handed pitchers who can pitch if you let them pitch, instead of questing to "complete" every bullpen with their own Rick Honeycutt or Jesse Orosco or Tony Fossas. It needs to be remembered that these guys' roles weren't a originally a product of maximizing their talent alone, it was also because it got to the point that it was all they could do. In the postseason, it's a different game, and those fractional possibilities matter in the same way that the ability to execute a great wheel play matters then, but not as much over 162 games. If teams focused on using their pitchers in workloads that gave them the best opportunity to shine, instead of pursuing some statistical phantom of an 'ideal,' situationally-dominant bullpen, it would make for better player management as well as a better product for those of us in the stands.
lentzner (Fremont, CA): So, how much luck is involved with the A's play since June? It's not like they're winning a bunch of sqeakers - they're pummeling pretty good teams. 6 runs to 2 seems typical. Insanely high BABIP on offense or insanely low on defense?
Christina Kahrl: I really think it's a matter of a young pitching rotation coming together in the right way at the right time, combined with the benefits of a younger, stronger, less situationally-driven bullpen. Guys like Street, Duchscherer, or Kennedy are pitchers you can use to shut opponents down, which is a nice change from last season's high wire act the overlapping weaknesses and discrete strengths of pitchers like Chad Bradford or Jim Mecir.
On the offensive side of the ledger, I think it's been equally tasty, because Dan Johnson has earned his keep, Mark Ellis gives the team an alternative to Scutaro, and Nick Swisher's snap-back has been wonderful to watch. I still keep waiting on Jason Kendall's power switch to get flipped to 'on,' but all things considered, it's a lineup that's finally firing on all cylinders, from Chavez on down. They're not an overpoweringly great offense, but they are good enough to put enough runs on the board that they can hand the rotation leads on a regular basis.
Amos (New York, NY): Hi Chris. The draft scale tipped back toward college players, and bringing them to the majors quickly seems increasingly in vogue, from Huston Street to the rumors of Craig Hansen and Ryan Zimmerman coming up this season. Do you think this might lead to overenthusiastic promotions and hindering the development of touted young players?
Christina Kahrl: I'm a bit more agnostic than some when it comes to pushing college players up and into the majors. In every generation, you'll find your Incaviglias or your Streets, and it's a credit to the organizations who make the calls in those situations. It doesn't look like guys like Jered Weaver or Stephen Drew are going to need all that much time making friends or hunting for apartments in the minors, certainly.
As for the adjustments (life without aluminum bats), that's not so much of a big deal if you're a college player who's gotten exposure to wood in the Cape Cod League or Alaska.
The real question is whether or not the level of competition in college is as evenly distributed as it might have been in, say, Inky's day. My hunch is that college talent is distributed much more broadly over more competitive programs these days, and that's without bringing up the burgeoning juco programs. Better distribution of talent means that you're also not simply facing the best players in the country if you happened to be in the Pac 10 or the SEC, which was more the case ten or 15 years ago. That means you're seeing guys hit and pitch to people who might not have been good enough for those conferences at that time. It makes scouting that much more important.
jonrichardson (Ottawa, ON): GM better at wasting resources right now? Dan O'Brien or Chuck Lamar?
Christina Kahrl: It's so easy to flog Chuck LaMar, and in light of what we know about what seem to be his insanely high expectations for what he's going to get for Danys Baez or Aubrey Huff, it's easier still to poke fun. But he did get Kazmir for a journeyman last year, so sometimes the unreasonable stance serves you well.
If I had to pick on somebody for not making best use of their resources, it might be someone much more surprising, like Terry Ryan or Ed Wade. Picking on bad teams run badly is barrel-fishing; noting the guys who've assembled good organizations, and then fail to put their best foot forward, they're the ones I get really frustrated with. It's a zero-sum game; if you don't beat the other guys, who cares if you put together a nice little team and never leverage it into a team that can actually win the World Series?
Kenny Williams (35th & Shields): Is it just me or are "sellers" asking for the moon (Chuck LaMarr comes to mind)? I am going to sit tight after my Blum deal unless you have any suggestions. I could use a reliever and bolster my weak bench.
Christina Kahrl: The Sox bench is easy to pick on, but Willie Harris just hasn't adapted to a reserve role where he's going stale. Getting another reliever as insurance against Hermanson's possible implosion makes good sense, but what I'd want is an outfielder or a bat that would help replace Frank Thomas now that he's out of action for the year, allowing you to sit Carl Everett and avoid using Timo Perez.
And yes, LaMar's asking for the moon, but running the Devil Rays probably has to involve an active fantasy life.
Andrew (Chicago): How about that blockbuster Jose Cruz deal? Who imagined the Red Sox were in the race for him? How are the rest of the AL East powers going to keep up?
Christina Kahrl: As today's TA notes, I'm not a big fan of the move, but it's understandable on a couple of levels. Start off by setting aside any expectations that Cruz will actually help, and focus on the possible oppo-thought, that the Yankees, desperate for any hominid capable of playing center field (paging Bonzo), might want him. To keep that from happening, does it make sense to trade a couple of your second-tier prospects? Possibly. Then there's the hope that Cruz might hit; I don't share it, but it could happen, and in Nixon's absence, you have to do something. Kapler might not be the answer either, after all, and after years of witnessing him try, the Sox know that Kevin Millar isn't an outfielder you want in the outfield.
The focus is on the Yankees, because the Blue Jays and Orioles are just cat's paws in the AL East's tri-pennant picture.
Philosopher (In a forest): If a tree falls in a forest at the trade deadline and no GM is there to hear it, did it make a sound or are the GMs to busy working on deals to hear it? This has to be the most quiet trade deadline I can remember.
Christina Kahrl: I think the guys are simply busy, although I have to wonder if there also isn't a bit of interference being run, and done effectively. If you keep a guy's phone tied up, you might keep a divisional opponent from reaching him with enough time to get something he can use to beat you with. That doesn't have to be done in entirely bad faith, of course, since who knows, maybe you get a deal you can use out of the conversation. But if I'm the Yankees or Red Sox, and perhaps even the Cardinals (with an eye over their shoulders wondering about the Astros), or Braves (same thing, but wondering about the Mets), I'd want to keep the Devil Rays talking, on the off chance that Chuck LaMar's intransigence leads to his making no deals at all, or rushing into one with you instead of the other guy.
Trade Bait (Various ML Ballparks): Will any of us have a new team tomorrow or do the GMs we work for want too much?
Signed, Danys Baez, Eddie Guardado, Billy Wagner, Mark Redman, Jaime Moyer, Kevin Millwood, Aubrey Huff, Matt Stairs, et al
Christina Kahrl: Just from your list, I'd think Everyday Eddie, Redman, Stairs, Baez, and Huff get moved. I'd also suggest Matt Lawton, but we'll see. I'm less confident of Wagner, Moyer, or Millwood, since I'm not sure the appropriate packages will get offered, and Jamie's decision to be picky won't help (not that I think anyone should blame a lefty for not wanting to pitch in Juicy-Juice Park in Houston).
eric (IL): Griffey out of the lineup.
Rotoworld notes that he's 13-31 vs Woody Williams with 5 HR.
Christina Kahrl: Conspiracy theories abound, but we'll see if the Yankees actually end up making the sort of move that might make me not think so little of Dan O'Brien's decision-making. If the Reds move Griffey and Sean Casey at the deadline and get stuff they can use in the deal, I'd be really impressed. Surprised, but also impressed.
trial lawyer (MA): Which is the worse instance of malpractice? Minaya and Bowden buying or O'Brien not selling?
Christina Kahrl: O'Brien not selling, IMO. Minaya's been a buyer from the point at which he made the two biggest, best signings of the offseason, and needs to keep making the antes on that particular risk. If he gets a first baseman for a price he can afford, he might just get this team into the postseason. Bowden... well, that's life without an owner, from a GM known for his irresonsible management. Working without adult supervision, what do you expect? There isn't much homegrown talent to peddle (Minaya did a very effective job distributing it all over the 29 co-owner's rosters), so a win-now banzai charge might make sense from a marketing perspective, as well as a way to inspire higher bids from the various potential ownership groups.
glass half-full (fenway): despite his mendoza-like ba, Cruz put up a BOB-aided OPS of nearly 800 this year, and has recently said his back feels better than it has all season. [insert grains of salt here] Bottom line: He still gets on base and has pop, so why isn't he a great patch?
Christina Kahrl: Now that he's in a BOB-free work environment, if he can't crack the Mendoza line, and slugs closer to .400, it's going to take a lot of walks to get him to usefulness as a right fielder. I'm not holding my breath.
Andrew (Chicago): I don't know whats with me and Red Sox questions, I'm a White Sox fan, but is there any chance we see Roberto Petagine?
Christina Kahrl: Sure, although I think flights to Pawtucket aren't cheap.
This just in... Jamie Moyer has rejected a trade to the Braves. The nerve... I'm surprised, but maybe he just really doesn't like batting. Or the South. I'd be willing to forgive him both.
eric (IL): Suppose Lamar actually gets smart and accepts Madson or any of the other offers for Baez.
Who do you think would go into the closer's role? Borowski now until his .233 BABIP regresses?
Christina Kahrl: I know I'm on record for loathing fantasy questions, but I'll try after first noting that the question of who gets saves in Tampa is sort of like the question of who the best manager of a Taco Bell might be. I'm sure somebody does it and does it well, but if you don't like the final product, does it really matter? The D-Rays need to treat their closer's role as a way to generate value for peddling to the Ed Wades of the world, so that they can swing a deal for a Ryan Madson as many times as possible, for at least as long as suckers like that are running franchises. Borowski? The chances of getting something of value for him are slight... I'd think that the better choice would be someone like Lance Carter or Jesus Colome, who sometimes strike people's fancies. Sure, it screws a guy like Chad Orvella, but why pay extra in arbitration because he got the statistical footnote and the closer's cape?
trial lawyer (ma): from rotoword: According to FSN Northwest, the Marlins have acquired Ron Villone from the Mariners for Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery.
Christina Kahrl: Interesting if true... Flannery's an organizational soldier and relief pitcher who had a good first half in Double-A, while Bazardo's the name talent in the deal, although he hasn't had an awesome season pitching for the Mudcats, being a little more homerun-prone than you'd like. Villone's a good arm to have, assuming you have a specific role for him. In this case, it's probably the pen, although as Joe Sheehan noted a couple of days ago, the wheels are popping off of the Scuffy Moehler bandwagon.
eric (IL): second hand source:
Farnsworth to ATL per TBS.
Roman Colon & Zach Miner to DET
Christina Kahrl: Interesting, and not just because he still has his suspension pending if I recall correctly, so it's almost like the Joaquin Andujar World Series suspension that was assessed in '86 (when he was an Athletic, and no longer a Cardinal). It's a perfect move for the Braves, since Farnsworth's hugely underrated courtesy of Dusty Baker's mismanagement, but also a decent package to have received in return, since there are reasons to like both Miner and Colon as more than your standard-issue "live arms"
Marc Normandin (Dracut, MA): Hey Chris, thanks for the chat.
Didn't Ken Griffey Jr. say he would rather retire than play for the Yankees a few years back? That isn't my question, just something that comes to mind.
Kevin Youkilis or Bill Mueller, who do you think the Sox will end up shipping for Romero if they do, and do you agree that Youkilis needs to stay put for the future?
Christina Kahrl: I'm not a huge Youkilis fan, so I'd peddle him for the right reliever. The cynic in me makes me believe that if you trade a player like Youkilis to a team that may not recognize his virtues, he ends up getting benched or run down, not that that's your problem, but you do end up looking smarter than the guy you traded him to.
As for ballplayers and their sworn convictions, in some ways I see this as somewhat akin to Moammar Qaddafi's Line of Death. It's amazing what facts and convictions can be negotiated away with cash and a show of strength.
Theo (Boston, MA): Am I lucky that the Ramirez deal fell through?
Christina Kahrl: That was just standard drama for an organization that's used to it, and used to Manny's being the center of his own universe (I'm thinking it's one more like that of the idiot god Azathoth than, say, Zeus' Olympian remove). I'm more impressed with the chutzpah of coping with your morning-after regret and massive case of buyer's remorse by blaming John Henry for a failure to execute the Bigbie swap with the Rockies. Nicely done, if a bit on the wicked paperwork side of evil deeds.
Livan Hernandez (Miami, FLA): I just bunted in the top of the 8th. I am at 131 pitches. It appears I may go two more innings. How will I survive?
Christina Kahrl: Some people survived the various Retreats from Moscow. Just eat Henry Mateo, nobody will miss him, and keep moving.
Disappointed (7/31/05 3:00 PM CDT): Worst trade deadline ever? Blum, Cruz Jr., Winn, Olivo, Nevin, Park the "highlights".
Christina Kahrl: Let's see what comes in as the press conferences start up, and/or announcements get made just under the gun. Admittedly, the lead-up has been less than impressive, and the fact that we might have only Farnsworth and Villone to talk about would certainly lighten up my evening schedule tonight.
Andrew (Chicago): Have you had a chance it check out Google Earth? Its really neat. Where should I look to find Baseball Prospectus HQ?
Christina Kahrl: While we wait (mostly to see if the Twins-Red Sox rumor pans out), I have to admit that I didn't know what this was about, until one of my various smarter colleagues pointed it out to me. The nice thing about BP is that it's modular; Homeland Security is no doubt fussing about the proliferation of Prospectus cells all over the place, with particular densities in Chicago, Washington, Seattle, the Bay Area, and the LA/San Diego strip. We're still working on infiltrating New York, but like the Legion of Doom, I expect something to rise out of the muck of New Jersey's swamps and take Metropolis for us.
dukeandduke (From Will's Mill): Sunday, July 31, 3:55 p.m. ET: There's a rumor currently circulating that the Twins and Red Sox have a deal. Instead of Bill Mueller, the Twins would get Kevin Youkilis in return for J.C. Romero. They would also get the recently acquired Jose Cruz Jr., someone who could help fill in for Torii Hunter. This likely will get completed in some form before the deadline.
Christina Kahrl: So far, it's wait and see... I'd be impressed by both teams, since the Sox would get a top-shelf reliever (and would hopefully use him as such, instead of in a situational role), while the Twins would get a third baseman who would help them win games now and into the future. Cruz, feh...
This also in, it looks like Matt Lawton is a Cub, and Buddy Groom is a Snake. No, not simply in Joe Torre's book, but an honest-to-goodness Diamondback.
trial lawyer (ma): FWIW: Twins have Romero warming in pen as we speak -- could they have traded him and still pitch him today? be kinda neat...
Christina Kahrl: It would be sort of cool. I wonder what the ethics are should Gardenhire work him into the ground in a Twins sendoff? If Bud Selig's go-go management of MLB is any indication, a rule would be made up on the fly, or not, depending on who's currying better favor with the Czar between Henry and Carl Pohlad.
Mariano Rivera (On the mound right now): Do I deserve Cy Young consideration?
Christina Kahrl: Just answering questions as they get them, while waiting for further details on some of the trades rumored to have been pulled off, but I'd say 'no.' To be a Cy Young winner as a reliever in my book, you'd really have to have tossed a significant number of innings and made a larger impact on your team's games than a ninth inning closer generally gets.
The problem with the AL CY is that the two leading candidates will have missed significant time before all is said and done, Halladay to injury, and Kenny Rogers to his tantrum. That probably leaves Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland in the front rank, but they could be victims of vote splitting. Will Barry Zito or Johan Santana finish hot, and clinch it? I wouldn't bet against them.
Brett (chicago): Do you think Ryno stacks up with the greatest 2nd basemen of all time?
Christina Kahrl: Yes, but keep in mind, I'm a bit biased in favor of players since integration, which basically culls people like Eddie Collins, Tony Lazzeri, and lowers Joe Gordon and Bobby Doerr in the grand scheme of things. For me, Ryno's on the short list of all-time second basemen, not decisively better than a peer like Lou Whitaker, and behind the under-heralded Bobby Grich, and everyone's in back of Joe Morgan. Jeff Kent and Craig Biggio certainly belong on this list, of course, and Robbie Alomar. But Ryno is like Morgan or Alomar in that for a moment, however brief, you could argue that he was the best player in the game, and those were fun days for anyone to watch him play, not only Cubs fans.
eric (IL): When is Saarloos going to get replaced in the Oakland rotation? Also, do you see fatigue as an issue for Haren or Blanton as we get to Sept/Oct?
Christina Kahrl: I don't expect Blanton or Haren to wear down too badly, not in this organization, but that's the nice thing about having a choice between Saarloos and (presumably) Joe Kennedy, which is that if anyone has a bout of fatigue or tendinitis, you can plug whichever one of them isn't your fifth starter into the other guy's slot.
It's a formula for a solid stretch run, but perhaps even more importantly, for re-jiggering your rotation come October, and having your starters lined up for postseason series.
NL West (Under .500): Will 79 wins take the division?
Christina Kahrl: Perhaps, and it will be an embarassing first. (In the same way that I don't count '94 for the Braves and Expos on the NL East titles question, I don't count the possible ugliness of who could have won the AL West that year.) My hope has always been to return to two divisions per league, and hand out two wild-card slots, since that plus an unbalanced schedule ought to prevent something like a sub-.500 division-winner.
Joe Vari (NJ): Why cut a player with a 5.00 ERA who lefties have a .290 OBP against, for a 8.00 ERA with a .319 AVG allowed against vs. lefties? And keep Wayne Frankin on the team th whole time while cutting Graman?
Christina Kahrl: Wayne Franklin has photographs of strange Satanic practices in the Yankees front offices, and has threatened to blow the whole thing to the Post. At least that's what a Red Sox fan told me...
The Ghost of Eddie Collins (35th & Shields): My WARP 3 175.5 vs. Sandberg's 105.9. Is there any White Sox alive or dead BP will give props to? LOL
Christina Kahrl: Like I said, stats generated playing in stunted leagues featuring Washington Generals-caliber opponents and all-white talent just don't do it for me. My throwaway line is that I think we ought to consider the stats of pre-integration baseball as sort of akin to pondering the attributes of Norse gods. It's a matter of legend not too different from the problems in assessing the greatness of Negro League ballplayers, and best to leave in the realm of speculation when it comes to comparing those guys to people who played after the game was fully integrated.
Andy Phillips (NY): I've been in the game for an inning, and already been robbed of the game winning hit, and robbed Cabrera of the game winning hit. When will Torre play me consistently?
Christina Kahrl: When you're all grown up... say, when you're 35.
For Matt Lawton, the Cubs gave up Jody Gerut. A nice exchange for them, and a little bit of a disappointment for David Littlefield, to be sure.
mreedy (KC): Any chance Mike Sweeney plays out his contract somewhere other than KC?
Christina Kahrl: Not the way things are going, although I have to think it's one of Allard Baird's to-do items. Sweeney is stil under contract through '07, and if he gets one or both of those seasons off of their payroll, it should gain him some extra measure of job security.
eric (IL): Speaking of the NL West, where was LA during the trade deadline?
Do you think LA has a reasonable chance at this division?
Christina Kahrl: Issuing another DePology, I think the Dodgers have the talent on hand to actually win the West right now. It won't be a major bragging right, not when it might only take 82 wins. The Dodgers would have to go 35-23 to do that, and that's not impossible, not with Bradley back. Actually getting Drew back during the regular season is a bit more dicey, but it would make a huge difference, in that I'd then be much more certain that this team could win games at a .600 clip in the time left.
trial lawyer (ma): Here's how this nothing-doing trade deadline is good: after people like Lamar and O'Brien get canned, the next set of crappy GM's overseeing the same crappy teams won't be so shy about liberating their good players in 2006. Oh, right, a question: how long would it take the D-Rays to contend under a Beane: 2006 or 2007?
Christina Kahrl: I like to think that the way in which LaMar and O'Brien blew it might come back to haunt them in some other way than what they'll have to field in '06, but I'm not all that confident it will happen. O'Brien seems to be a nice enough suit-filling biped in a Carl Lindner operation, and whatever his many faults, LaMar has never had a bad case of deer-in-the-headlights the way Bill Bavasi or Cam Bonifay have had in the past.
Contend? In the AL East? It hasn't worked out so well for Ricciardi, and he's done all sorts of smart things, or even the Orioles duumvirate, who've also turned things around. I wouldn't invent a timetable for that sort of thing without pondering the competition.
Liam (Canada): Do you think the last place team in the NL East will have a better record that the winner of the NL West?
Christina Kahrl: I'll say 'no,' but mostly because of scheduling (divisional play comes to the fore down the stretch), and somebody's going to be losing to a hot team in the East, and somebody's going to have the Rockies on the schedule more often than other people in the West.
Christina Kahrl: Well, there we have it. So far, it looks like all we got out of the deadline was Farnsworth, Lawton, Villone, and then we get down into the Blum-Groom deals. If the Twins and Red Sox have pulled off a trade, it would appear to be awfully slow in the announcement of it, although that might also be a matter of letting the active Twins-Red Sox game finish first, and then make the announcements in the postgame press conference. Clearly, the Braves did something they had to do, while I'm less impressed with the D-Rays failure to leverage Huff or Baez into anything in the big scheme of things, as well as disappointed that other moves (Geoff Jenkins to anybody?) didn't happen. But it's certainly been fun, and I hope everyone's enjoyed this as much as I hope they'll enjoy tomorrow's deadline wrap-up edition of TA. Thanks again for popping in, everybody.