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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday December 09, 2005 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for stopping by. Joe Sheehan's chat today will begin after 1:15 p.m. ET.

Chris (Work): Why do BP chats never start on time?

Joe Sheehan: In this particular case, it's because I couldn't get a later checkout time, and had to handle that stuff first. I'm live from the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in Dallas.

keith (Cary): Any chance the Marlins will play Jacobs at catcher?

Joe Sheehan: There are still some veteran backups floating around, but I have to say I love the idea of some kind of Jacobs/Willingham solution behind the plate, with Matt Treanor-May handling the defensive needs. Very Strat, very unlikely, but it has some attractiveness.

dokomoy (Los Angeles): There were a lot of signings and trades at the winter meetings that seem to be pretty bad, which one was the worst?

Joe Sheehan: Burnett for five years and $55 million is the worst signing of the offseason to date, and there's a argument that it's the worst in some time. He's just not likely to stay healthy enough or be good enough to justify the numbers.

I think on the whole, last winter's body of work was worse, but that may just be volume. Matt Morris, Kevin Millwood and others are still available for overpaying.

Kevin Brown (NY): What team is going to take a shot on me? I had a .380 BABIP last year, thats gotta come down. I'll accept a NRI

Joe Sheehan: This may be a situation where a guy's rep as a person, rather than as a player, hurts him. Every time I mention Brown's name to someone, they make a face like they've discovered the milk is sour on about the second spoonful of Cheerios.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, the Mets seem to be treating 2006 as a do-or-die year. What more would they have to do for you to consider them the NL East favorite?

Joe Sheehan: They have to upgrade the top two lineup spots. The lineup core is very good, the bullpen will be fine, and I can live with the rotation. But if they go .310/.300 in the #1 and #2 slots, it's going to be a frustrating offense.

There's an assumption that they'll sign Grudzielanek, who would work in one of the spots. I'd actually like to see Beltran bat second and Reyes seventh, at least until the latter shows some improvement in his walk rate or proves to be a .320 hitter.

They, the Phillies and the Braves could have one hell of a race next year.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, the Mets seem to be treating 2006 as a do-or-die year. What more would they have to do for you to consider them the NL East favorite?

Joe Sheehan: They have to upgrade the top two lineup spots. The lineup core is very good, the bullpen will be fine, and I can live with the rotation. But if they go .310/.300 in the #1 and #2 slots, it's going to be a frustrating offense.

There's an assumption that they'll sign Grudzielanek, who would work in one of the spots. I'd actually like to see Beltran bat second and Reyes seventh, at least until the latter shows some improvement in his walk rate or proves to be a .320 hitter.

They, the Phillies and the Braves could have one hell of a race next year.

The Ghost of RJ Reynolds (New Bloomfield, PA): My Bucs picked up the Mayor and are in the running for Nomah. If Littlefield signs him, our opening day lineup would resemble: Chris Duffy- CF Jack Wilson- SS Jason Bay- LF Sean Casey- 1B Craig Wilson- RF Nomar Garciaparra- 3B Ryan Doumit- C Jose Castillo- 2B Zach Duke- P We Bucs fans can get excited about this, right? RIGHT???

Joe Sheehan: I have no idea why you would get excited about Casey, who is a below-average first baseman. I'm as down on Brad Eldred as anyone you'll meet, and I'd rather have him and the six million bucks than Casey.

Even if the Pirates sign Nomar, they can't win next year. Too many lineup spots not pulling their weight. They'll be starting over again pretty soon.

ssimon (Pelham, NY): Joe, has Andy Marte fallen so far in the Braves' eyes that he could be traded straight-up for Julio Lugo?

Joe Sheehan: I think it came down to a numbers game with the Braves and Marte. With Chipper Jones extended, there wasn't going to be a role for him, so the best thing to do was make a deal before he stagnated as a prospect.

Maybe Renteria doesn't repeat 2003, but having him at about $8MM/year for his age 28-30 seasons isn't a bad plan. It beats never dealing, say, one of your four outfielders for three seasons while your pitching staff burns.

kprince (beantown): Joe- Great writing, makes me really look forward to my lunch break. Is a fantasy question okay? Who would you keep, Casey Kotchman or Chris Shelton? TIA

Joe Sheehan: Knowing nothing else, Chris Shelton. He'll play.

Bobby Abreu (Philly?): Am I getting traded? Why don't the Phils dangle Burrell instead?

Joe Sheehan: The ongoing Bobby Abreu rumors are, to me, the strangest subplpot of this offseason. He's one of the 20 best players in baseball and he plays for a team that can win now. What is he doing on the market? I don't think you can get enough value for him.

None of the deals I've heard make sense, save perhaps the Manny Ramirez ones, and I'm not going there.

shamah (DC): What do you think of the Marte/Macowiack deal? I think it's another unheralded deal for Kenny Williams--he gives up an underachieving reliever who was in Ozzie's doghouse and wasn't getting any PT, for a really useful ulility guy who carries some stick and can play everywhere on the field.

Joe Sheehan: Mackowiak becomes the best bench player they have, and a very useful cog on a heavily right-handed team that doesn't have a ton of lefty sock, Thome aside. The fact that Marte wasn't ever going to be trusted with a real role again essentially makes it a free deal.

It's not a bad move for the Pirates, either. They actually have a sweet little bullpen, useful for protecting 3-2 deficits.

Brett (Elderon, WI): Joe, what's your thoughts on the Brewers headed into 2006? Heard you call them a sleeper on MLB Radio - are they a bonafide contender for the Wild Card if the Astros plummet because of run-scoring woes? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: The Brewers would be better served by not getting caught up in the hype and planning for 2007 and beyond. They are likely a .500 team right now, and pushing too hard in '06 could hurt their chances to have a real run atop the Central.

The Melvin-led front office really knows what it's doing, though. They draft well, they develop pretty well, and they haven't made mistakes at the major-league level. It's a well-run franchise right now.

ElAngelo (NY, NY): I don't think the swag the Brewers got for Overbay was awful, but was that really the best they could have done?

Joe Sheehan: Think about what Overbay is: a first baseman without a ton of upside, without great secondary skills. He's 29, about to get expensive, and may not age well due to his size and lack of speed.

Don't underrate the package, either. David Bush should have made 32 starts for the Jays this year. He's kind of a Jeff Suppan, league-average innings-eater, if left alone. Given that the Brewers had to deal Overbay, that alone is good return.

Jim (TB): How could you allude that the rays will soon be better than the Jays when you know nothing about how a rookie GM is going to do. Plus the rookie GM is taking over from the worst GM in history and their 2nd starter is Mark Hendrickson.

Joe Sheehan: Actually, I do. See, the Rays are putting together a team of smart guys, from Gerry Hunsicker and Andrew Friedman down through the support staff. It's not about one guy making the calls, but using everyone's skill set to make the right decisions over time.

Given that approach, plus the talent in the system already in place from years of drafting in the top five, and there's a whole lot of upside here. The money will be there as well, when it's needed, as Stuart Sternberg is capitalized well enough to make the investments, as he's going now with Tropicana Field.

The Brewers and Devil Rays are bookworthy teams, the ones we'll be talking about in the latter half of this decade.

silviomossa (Louisville): Is it true that the Devil Rays really could've gotten Andy Marte for Julio Lugo, and passed? If so, are the purported signs of progress in the Devil Ray front office a bit overblown? Thanks.

Joe Sheehan: No, not true. There were three-way deals discussed but not consummated.

Somewhere between 75% and 95% of what you hear at the winter meetings, and what gets out into the press, is wrong. I must have heard two dozen Javier Vazquez rumors in 48 hours, up to the point of being told there was a press conference at 5 p.m. We're still waiting.

The higher the press/decisionmaker ratio goes, the worse this phenomenon gets.

milo hamilton (toronto): are the jays giving up on hinkse? or do they figure they'll need him at 3rd once Koskie hurts himself?

Joe Sheehan: I prefer Hinske to Hillenbrand because of the chance Hinske could peak in the next two years, maybe at .270/.360/.500, and I don't see Hillenbrand doing that. Koskie's edge with the glove probably makes him better overall, but then again, that's more Aaron Hill's problem. Koskie might be their sixth-best option in the infield; whoever could have seen that coming?

I'm going to be surprised if the Jays identify and play their best infield, while also getting some value for the guys who aren't in that group.

The Jays still need at least two bats. They're trying very hard.

Jimmy (Jimmy Town): What do you think has been the best move of the off-season so far?

Joe Sheehan: The Thome/Rowand deal was great for both sides. I liked the Giles, Byrd and Furcal deals.

Jawn (State o' Maine): By what month of this season will the Sawx starting infield be Marte, Pedroia, Loretta, and Youkilis?

Joe Sheehan: July, maybe? It's interesting that the Sox have about four guys who either have played, or may have the skills to play, shortstop, but who haven't been a regular there in some time or been tries there at all. Loretta, Pedroia, Cora and Marte all could look like shortstops if you squint.

If you build enough of a strikeout/flyball staff--which the Sox have done--you can sacrifice some infield defense. I have no doubt there's a plan here.

beausox (Eureka, IL): Joe, Do you really think the White Sox will go with one of their prospects in LF? Why not make a run at Damon or move Pods to CF and sign someone like Sosa to play the Carl Everett role (some starts in the OF to give the kids a break and at DH)?

Joe Sheehan: The money isn't there for Damon, and Brian Anderson certainly isn't $10MM/worse a year than he is, anyway. I might bring in a low-cost guy--Rondell White, perhaps--if the money was right, but for the most part, I think the Sox are done making moves.

andrewberg7 (dc): Who do you think will make progress towards the HOF this year? Without impressive new candidates, Jim Rice looks like a better bet and Bruce Sutter is inching closer. Please tell me Andre Dawson doesn't end up in the Hall.

Joe Sheehan: I think both Rice and Sutter get in, as much because there will be writers reluctant to hand in blank ballots as anything else, so those two guys will pick up 20-30 votes from the more conservative voters who have no one else to vote for.

The Hall, by the way, prays that I'm right, because it'll be one quiet ceremony if the BBWAA elects no one.

Andrea (Fridley): Joe, if you were running a team would you take a chance on Milton Bradley? Would he be a good fit in Minnesota?

Joe Sheehan: Yes, I would, but I would have to take the non-baseball stuff into consideration. I would want an environment like the Yankees clubhouse, where it seems strong personalities are reined in somewhat. Not that I'm hinting or anything.

The Cubs have been mentioned. I do not think Minnesota is a good fit for Bradley.

rudd48 (KY): why did the Braves think Renteria (4yrs. at 40mil) was a better alternative than having Furcal (3yrs. and $39) and keeping Marte (at close to league minimum). Sounds ridiculous.

Joe Sheehan: That wasn't their choice. They tried to re-sign Furcal, lost him to the Dodgers, then traded Marte--who wasn't going to play for them--for a 3/24 (or so), Renteria. It wasn't like both of those were on the table on 11/30.

I think Furcal is a bit better than Renteria, but two wins a year (about what the money gap represents)? That's a tough call.

And again, Marte wasn't going to play. This was the Brewers trading Overbay or the Phillies dealing Thome, getting something they needed and clearing a logjam.

andrewberg7 (dc): By the way, we should all mention that Bert Blyleven belongs in the Hall while we're on the subject.

Joe Sheehan: And now we have. Good call, Bert. Those of you with ballots--I know you're out there--don't just reflexively write in Sutter or Rice without considering Blyleven. He's the best eligible pitcher not enshrined.

Handol (Fort Lee): Everyone is talking about the Yankees bringing Bernie for one more year so he can retire as a yankee instead of embarassing himself trying to start elsewhere. Call me crazy, but didn't we already give him that dignity by trotting him out there last year? Why is he insisting on one more year?

Joe Sheehan: As frustrating as it is to watch Williams play center field, I don't think the team currently listing Bubba Crosby as its #1 center fielder has much room to complain about the marginal HoFer with fourth-outfielder skills wanting to stick around.

Evaluate Bernie against fourth outfielders and you'll see that he can still help a team. If the money is right, he'd be a good fit for the Yankees next year, and for 20 or so other teams.

Fishbone (St. Louis, MO): What ammunition does Walt Jocketty have to swing one of his renowned deals that come out of nowhere? The only legitimate prospect who is worth something, A. Reyes, is untouchable. Is he going to be able to swing a deal to get an OF or 2B, or do Cardinal fans have to look forward to Bigbie and Miles clogging up the lineup with their 300 OBPs?

Joe Sheehan: Person: "Looks like the Cardinals are going to get Vazquez."

Joe: "What are they giving up?"

Person: "I don't know."

I had this conversation, with an occasional detail changed, every two hours for four days. I don't know where the Cards are expected to get the kind of players they'd need to trade for a starting pitcher, but there are constant rumors to that effect. Constant.

Loved the King/Bigbie deal, though. Bigbie can still be a .270/.350/.400 guy on the corners, maybe better, and he's cheap. The Cards needed that. Miles is a reasonable sixth infielder and makes David Eckstein feel tall.

Joe (Cleveland): The Indians most pressing need right now is....

Joe Sheehan: ...to tweak their evaluations to care a bit less about character and a bit more about baseball. They might have won the wild card with better choices for third base and right field than Aaron Boone and Casey Blake.

They need to upgrade at least one corner, maybe two, going into next season. The pitching is good, they're terrific up the middle, they have smart guys making the decisions. They can win the Central.

thePTBNL (MN): There are several aging, often injured DH candidates out there: Piazza, Frank Thomas, Rondell White, Durazo... Which would you take shot at?

Joe Sheehan: Pretty much in that order, although I'd note that both Piazza and White can play the field, while the other two can just DH.

I think Mike Piazza is being wildly underrated by the market right now. In the worst year of his life, he had a .268 EqA and a homer every 21 at-bats. The post-Molina Angels should be calling his agent every five minutes. He'd be a terrific fit for them.

BTW, I said in a couple of different places that Durazo was signed for next year. My apologies: he's not.

Mike (DC): A guess as to Boston's bullpen situation next year... Foulke gets first crack at earning the job back, but he's on a short leash. If he falters, Mota gets next shot. If that fails, it's Timlin time again unless/until another name guy is brought in via trade or Craig Hansen steps up. What's your guess?

Joe Sheehan: I think the '06 bullpen looks a lot like the '04 bullpen was supposed to, with multiple guys who can miss bats and go two innings, and the save rule taking a back seat in determining pitcher usage.

Nellie (Biwabik, MN): Joe, did you hear any buzz about the Twins down in Texas? Thanks!

Joe Sheehan: None. You can add the Indians, Royals (two years for Elmer Dessens?!?), Angels and Astros to the list of teams about whom little was spoken of or heard from during the week. Below the radar or just hibernating? Hard to tell sometimes.

Andy Marte (Boston): Will John Schuerholz file this one in the file with the Jason Schmidt deal? That is, is it unreasonable to even suspect that the $5 M per the Braves are contributing to Renteria for the next 3 years might still be too much (The loss of a cheap Andy Marte aside) if his deterioration on the field continues and he's past his peak offensively? Or can Braves fan close their eyes and take faith in the success he continues to bring them?

Joe Sheehan: Will Carroll asked me this, and I'll pass it on: how many times has John Schuerholz traded away a Braves prospect and seen that player blossom elsewhere? Jason Schmidt and Jermaine Dye come to mind, and after that, it gets hazy.

Braves fans really seem to hate this deal, but I think it's a reasonable one given their situation.


WorcesterGray (MA): Do the Marlins look like the front runners for Joey Gathright? Surely the Rays have to deal him, and the Fish aren't going to start Josh Johnson in center. Any details on JG's "snit" down in the DR? I see he put up the usual .300-.340 numbers in any event.

Joe Sheehan: That was the only remotely specific destination I heard for Gathright, who probably does need to be traded.

You know, the Marlins could have a decent top five next season. If they bat Hermida second and get Gathright, Gathright/Hermida/Cabrera/Jacobs/Willingham would score some runs. The 3B/SS/2B sequence is going to be a nightmare, but they're going to be up 2-0 on a lot of nights if they play the right guys.

Then again, I'm higher on Gathright than most.

ligtreb (Queens, NYC): As a Met fan I am sickened by the aging team that Minaya has put together at the expense of farm system. I'm not even clear that ... when all minuses and plusses are weighed ... the team is improved over last year. What do you think?

Joe Sheehan: Well, let's see, last year the first baseman was Utility McSuck, and next year it'll be Carlos Delgado. The best short reliever was Braden Looper, and now it's Billy Wagner.

I can argue that the money isn't worth it in both cases, and certainly Yusmeiro Petit is as close to a pitching prospect as I'll concede exists, but I would never argue that the 2006 Mets don't look better than the 2005 Mets.

When you have Pedro Martinez, you have to try and win immediately.

rawdon (Silicon Valley): The Angels should be calling Piazza's agent every 5 minutes? You're not a believer in Jeff Mathis, I take it? (Of course, Piazza might still be a nice DH, or replacement for Erstad at 1B. Though no doubt he wants to continue catching until he just can't do it anymore.)

Joe Sheehan: That's just it; the Angels can use Piazza as a C/DH while working in Mathis. I'm not sold on Mathis. This is a way to find out while limiting the exposure if he McPhersons.

It's a good fit. Platoon Kotchman and Jose Molina, with Piazza sliding between C and DH.

ScotMartin (Bedford, TX): I've read a couple of places today that Rangers GM Jon Daniels is stubborn and is placing too high a value on his own players. Is this a justified complaint or just other teams crying sour grapes?

Joe Sheehan: The guy just traded Alfonso Soriano for Brad Wilkerson and got the other guy to put stuff in the deal. I'll take that kind of stubborn.

Blaine (Key West, FL): Any more of my Marlins going to be a part of the fire sale?

Joe Sheehan: Billy is being shopped around, possibly as part of a deal to acquire two younger mascots. I think Baseball America has the best sources on this stuff.

Marcello (Bay Area): Were any of the Mets signings/trades sound? Do you think LoDuca was the worst?

Joe Sheehan: They overpaid for Wagner, of course. I liked the Delgado deal, and Lo Duca...hey, I'm not a fan, but if the alternative is a four-year contract for Ramon Hernandez, it's not the end of the world.

They made these moves and kept Lasting Milledge, giving them one bullet to fire at midseason to acquire a #2 starter.

Elaine (San Diego): If you owned/ran a team, what would you think about your players playing in the world baseball classic? How much will it affect injury/fatigue?

Joe Sheehan: I would do everything in my power to discourage my pitchers from getting anywhere near the thing, up to and including paying them. I don't want my pitchers throwing competitive innings in early March. Period.

I'm less concerned about position players, although I think the Classic is going to make it hard to evaluate teams come next exhibition season.

trickydick412 (Boston): The Clemens decision: It strikes me as dumb (I think you could trade him if he accepted) and a testament to Bagwell's contract. In any event, it seems time to start over in Houston. Your take?

Joe Sheehan: It was an awful spot for Purpura, who spent last offseason with his hands tied, which may have cost him Beltran, and probably didn't want to do that again. If you make the offer, you simply can't do anything, because Clemens would be 20% of your budget, maybe higher, if he accepts.

You have no guarantee that you can trade Clemens because there's no assurance that, if dealt, he'll play.

I said the Astros should start over in June of 2004, and they've won three postseason series since then. I can't imagine they can be a .500 team in '06, but I may not be the guy you want making that case.

Lightning round...

echalek (Here): Why Ramon Hernandez when the O's already own Javy Lopez?

Joe Sheehan: I was told that Lopez and Mazzone aren't a viable combination, and Lopez would likely be dealt before the season.

tddewan (Torrance, CA): What should the Mets do with Benson?

Joe Sheehan: Nothing. He's got two years and $14 million left on his deal, making him a perfectly reasonable mid-rotation guy in this market.

Dennis (Newark): It seems that incentive-based contracts are only used in the extreme cases (david wells, etc). Why aren't they used more often? In the AJ Burnett case, if he had confidence that he was going to be healthy, wouldn't an incentive based contract (even if it was just "games started") be ideal?

Joe Sheehan: Well, no, you'd rather have the guaranteed money if you're the player. We don't see these clauses in major deals largely because players usually have enough leverage to avoid them.

Dave (LA): Wanna play in the 200 NL tourney at the Bike Saturday at 4:15?

Joe Sheehan: Thinking about it.

Kirby (Alabama): Why are so many teams after Kevin Mench?

Joe Sheehan: Because no one realizes how good a hitters' park Ameriquest really is.

Billy (LA): Is Texas keeping Brad Wilkerson?

Joe Sheehan: Good question. I know they've gotten calls on him, and because they still need pitching and a true center fielder, they'll have to listen. I would not at all be surprised if he were moved, and possibly soon.

sriramk1027 (San Diego): Can Dustin Pedroia handle SS?

Joe Sheehan: Yes.

Joe (Cleveland): How do you rate the Indians signing of Paul Byrd? Am I crazy or does $14+ million over two years seems a tad high?

Joe Sheehan: Seven million bucks looks like the going rate for a league-average starter. That's what Byrd is.

What's interesting is that the going rate for a league-average starter has doubled in two years. After '03, Suppan got #3MM/year, Jason Johnson got a bit more than that, a couple of other guys signed for 2/$7MM, if I remember correctly. Lots of money coming into the industry, and that tends to flow down to the players.

Look for calls to restrict the labor market--payroll caps, penalties for player investment--to pick up in 2006.

Peter (Long Valley): When will see a baseball tonight esque show comprised of stat heads?

Joe Sheehan: When there are more statheads who look like Tom Gorman and James Click, and fewer who look like me.

Timmy (Woodbury, MN): Please, please tell me that Justin Morneau will turn things around next year!

Joe Sheehan: I think so. I'm willing to write the year off to injuries, because his track record just doesn't support that 2005 line. This would be a McCarty-esque disappointment.

Three more...I want to go to Dealey Plaza and the JFK Museum before I leave town...

davelamb (SF): How many seasons of mediocre San Francisco Giants baseball will it take to get Brian Sabean fired?

Joe Sheehan: I think Sabean will move on not long after Barry Bonds does. The Giants should do everything they can to win next year, because once Bonds retires or moves to the DH league, they are going to be bad for at least three or four seasons.

Jeff (Grand Rapids): Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers to the Tigers? Good or bad?

Joe Sheehan: I'm not a fan. What does adding two very old pitchers who, aside from 2005, look like slightly-below-average contributors do for them? It's a lot of money for performance that won't push them closer to the Sox and Indians.

How they could make the Percival mistake twice is beyond me.

Nancy (Minnesota): Joe, is it a mistake for the Twins to assume that Jason Kubel will ever get back to what he was before his knee exploded?

Joe Sheehan: They might have to think about him as a DH or a liability in left field, but most people I speak to--and we had a long debate about this in assembling the '05 prospect list--think Kubel can still be the same hitter he was on track to be before the injury.

I've lost count...a couple more...

Justin (NYU): What were the Orioles thinking when they signed Hernandez? During the decent years of the contract, he won't nearly be enough to make them competitive in that division. By the time they might be competitive, Hernandez will no longer be worth the money.

Joe Sheehan: I just wanted people to see that.

Lisa (Missouri): Do you think the Rangers would be making a mistake by trading Hank Blalock, or should they deal him now while his value is still high?

Joe Sheehan: Blalock's value slipped a bit in 2005. What makes him great trade bait is that contract he signed a few years ago that makes it nearly impossible for him to be overpaid through 2008.

The Rangers are focused on pitching, but dealing Blalock for a comparable center fielder would be a good idea. A big chunk of their "pitching" problems in Arlington are really outfield-defense problems.

George Foster III (Cincy): You alluded to them earlier in the chat, but do the Reds have a plan? Could a Larue non-tender free up a few more bucks for an arm or two?

Joe Sheehan: Sure, but consider that the price for league-average arms is $7 million a year, and even those are going fast. The Reds need to get lucky with some internal guys like Belisle, not look to the market for help.

Joe Sheehan: Two hours in, I have hundreds of unanswered questions. Sorry I can't get to them all today, but I appreciate the interest, and I will be covering more of the week's activities in a column that goes up tomorrow. Have a great weekend and a happy holiday season!


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