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Chat: Jonah Keri

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday November 18, 2003 8:00 PM ET chat session with Jonah Keri.

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Jonah Keri is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Jonah Keri: Hey, everyone. Exciting day of Hot Stovery with the MVP vote and the big A's-Padres trade, so let's get going...

Teddyballgame (Freezer): Hi Jonah, Could you briefly give your thoughts on the Kotsay/ Hernandez- Long trade? First, do you think Giles will be adequate as the Pads' new CF? How will the A's pitching be affected by the joint loss of their pitching coach and catcher?

Jonah Keri: Several people asked about the trade, so I'll try to address multiple angles here.

First off, the most important factor to me is Kotsay's health. A bad back tends to raise the specter of long-term nagging injury. BP's Will Carroll reports that Kotsay, like Vlad Guerrero last year, has progressed nicely with rehab and strengthening exercises and is a good bet for long-term health. There may be a time or two where the A's may have to DL him for precautionary reasons for a couple weeks at a time, but given he's theirs for the next three years, that's small beer.

In Kotsay they're getting a player who'd shown an uptrend offensive trend until last season's injury. You can almost count the number of center fielders who can field the position well and hit on one hand...Edmonds, Cameron, Vernon Wells, Beltran...I'm not even that sold on Torii Hunter's offense. So if Kotsay continues to improve offensively, he could be a huge get for Oakland.

The Pads fill their biggest hole in getting Ramon Hernandez at catcher. Hernandez had his best year this season offensively and is solid defensively as well. He skews toward high-SLG, low-OBP though, so the Pads would do well to bat him behind their Giles/Klesko on-base types. Giles becomes the center fielder now as there's no way TLong gets an everyday job. This could be a bad defensive outfield, with Giles flanked by Nady and Klesko. If I'm the Padres I shop Nevin, or if his no-trade clause won't allow it, Klesko, for a solid starting pitcher at a reasonable price, then sign Mike Cameron to play center and shuffle the other OF/1B types around.

If that doesn't happen, given the Pads don't really save much money with Long and Hernandez in lieu of Kotsay, gotta give this one to the A's.

Mike Green (Toronto): How significant do you believe that Rick Peterson's arrival as pitching coach will be to the Mets in the long term? My own view is that with the Mets' money, the positive influence of Shea Stadium and Peterson's significant abilities, the Mets will likely have as good a rotation as the A's current one within 5 years. What say you?

Jonah Keri: The previous question started to touch on Rick Peterson's departure (along with Hernandez's), so let's cover that here. Peterson can help the Mets. But the key will be how they use him. One of the great strengths of the A's organization was the freedom offered to people like Peterson to implement uniform systems from the majors down to rookie ball. Will the Mets allow him the same freedom? Few franchises have shown this kind of forethought nor offered that kind of latitude to a pitching coach before.

But that's the only way the Mets will get FULL value from Peterson...allowing him to send several pitchers, from the minors and majors, to James Andrews' clinic every off-season for biomechanical testing. Coaching minor league pitching instructors on the training methods and usga elimits he's implementing at the big league level, etc., etc.

That's not to say that Peterson can't have a nice impact without that latitude though--it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Heilman, Kazmir et. al. fare well under Peterson's tutelage.

Walt Jocketty (St. Louis, MO): Edmonds, Tino, Matheny, Drew, Morris, Izzy, Woody Williams. Which ones do I keep on my 2004 roster? Which ones do I cut loose?

Jonah Keri: Tampa's going to graciously take Tino off your hands. Apparently they're hoping to recapture that old Greg Vaughn magic.

Morris and Williams (one of the underrated pitchers in baseball and an amazing turnaround story) are keepers, especially given how thin the pitching is even with them around. Izzy's an overpaid closer so he's highly fungible, but who'd pay his freight *and* offer good returns in talent? Matheny hits like my bubbie, so I'd say he's expendable too, unless he can whip up comparable matzo ball soup.

That leaves Edmonds and Drew, and I don't see why the Cards, at least if the headlines are an indicator, are in such a rush to deal Edmonds. There's been talk both in St. Louis and previously in Anaheim that he's a me-first guy, but dude can mash, he's a great fielder whether or not he slows down to dive for balls, and he's less brittle than he used to be. Everyone keeps waiting for The Big Drew Breakout, but frankly if St. Louis can get a quality starting pitcher for J.D. at this juncture, that'd be a tough one to turn down.

Moribund Brewer Fan (Madison, WI): Do the Brewers have any hope with Ulice Payne, their last chance at respectibilty, being shown the door and promises of Pohlad/Loria-level payroll for 2004?

Jonah Keri: The Brewers aren't going to win anything in 2004 anyway, so it doesn't do much harm to cut payroll for next season. What's more bothersome of course is the old Selig mantra of build a stadium or you're a useless market for baseball. As if Detroit, Pittsburgh et. al. didn't adequately blow that theory up, the Brewers apparently want to drive the point home. But hey, at least the Selig family got their public funds for the stadium, and really, what's $300 million and change between friends?

What I do like about the Brewers is their farm system. In two years we could be looking at an infield of Fielder, Weeks, Hardy and Hart, for about $1.3 million all told. That's reason for optimism, even if other factors stink.

Bruce Weaver (Florida): What are the Expos chances of signing Vladimir Guerrero? If they are as dim as the media reports why was he not traded before the deadline to return some value to the team?

Jonah Keri: What's been reported is that MLB may allow Omar Minaya to keep Vaz

Scot (NY state): hi Jonah. In your recent Expos PTP, you suggest that the expos should try to trade Vazquez, dump alot of overpaid mediocrity, and sign Guerrero. Do you really think this is what the expos should be doing? Given that most of the good supporting cast for Vlad (Vidro, Cabrera, Vazquez, Livan Hernandez) are free agents after 2004, and given that the 2002-03 Expos even with Vlad and the good supporting players were basically a .500 team, aren't the expos at the point in the "Success cycle" where it's time to start over? The current players aren't good enough to really contend, and the good players are FAs soon. Wouldn't it be best for the expos to let Vlad go and deal the FAs-to-be for good young talent and prospects to jump-start the rebuilding? You could probably get a fair bit of good young talent for Vidro, Vazquez and Cabrera this winter.

Jonah Keri: Let's try that again...MLB may allow Minaya to keep the core players in-house, but word is they've forced Minaya to take the 5-year, $75M contract they offered Vlad earlier this year off the table.

With a "normal" team this wouldn't be so bad, as you could reinvest that $15 million a year into free agent signees and others through trade. Unfortunately the Expos have signed a grand total of zero meaningful free agents from outside the organization since 1979, with only re-ups like Dennis Martinez and Tim Raines as bright spots. This team isn't going to get Gary Sheffield, or even Reggie Sanders, Jose Cruz, Matt Stairs, or Kenny Lofton if Vlad leaves. They're going to have to trade one or more of their best players for bats, or risk the horror of Endy Chavez or Ron Calloway playing every day.

So let's HOPE they can re-sign Vlad, or this will be an ugly team next year.

Bill Johnson (a dinky town in New Mexico): Horrifying thought: might the uniformity of the drives to cut payroll this year mean the owners were actually telling the truth about financial hardship a year ago? Incidentally, when are you guys getting Doug Pappas back in a chat to field stuff like this?

Jonah Keri: Doug will be back for another Chat in the next few weeks, not to worry.

As for truth-telling owners, there's a grain of truth in there, but it's barely visible. Building a beautiful new stadium with private funds, then running a winning team that fills said stadium year-in and year-out is something only the Giants have accomplished during the building boom. It's much easier for owners to cry poor and demand a new ballpark be built on the taxpayers' dime. That way they can hire drones to run the front office, make little effort to build a winner, and know they're sitting on a money-making deal. A payroll slash here or there not only fattens their bank accounts, it makes it look like the poormouthing has merit. Pretty clever.

Peter (Washington, DC): What do you make of the deal that sent Pierzynski to the Giants?

Jonah Keri: Another trade that has spawned some differences of opinion.

I like this one for the Giants. Pierzynski's not Posada, but he is a durable everyday catcher who hits enough to make himself an asset at a position still a couple of years away from becoming a major league strength (with Mauer, Mathis and the rest coming fast). The Giants can live with a mild arbitration award, so that's no biggie, and Pierzqynskzyi is easily an upgrade over Santiago for the next few years. Some have argued that Torrealba could have handled the everyday job too. If that's the case, one of the two could have trade value that would bring the Giants back more useful talent.

Bonser is a wild, erratic pitcher with good stuff and poor command. Lirian's got significant injury issues. Nathan's solid enough, but a lot more balls are going to drop into play off him next year, looking at his peripherals. Classic Sabean trade, where he gets something useful in exchange for a bunch of question marks.

Alf (Melmac): Any thoughts on who got the better of the Kielty-Lilly trade?

Jonah Keri: This reminds me, I need to switch my provider for collect calls...

Anyway, the Lilly-Kielty trade is the other shoe in the Kotsay deal obviously. Kielty's a solid on-base guy who'll help an offense that sorely needs more of that. I see a few problems from Oakland's standpoint though:

--Kielty's not cheap anymore
--Billy McMillon could have arguably done a comparable job
--Lilly's a pretty darn good pitcher

Obviously the A's have Rich Harden to fill the number four slot, and they may not lose a beat with Justin Duscherererererer a good bet to grab the #5 slot. But I'm still a little surprised Lilly couldn't have netted more in trade. For what the Jays and A's both have and need, this could be a win-win, but I like the deal from Toronto's perspective a lot.

Jon (Vermont): I see that Derek Jeter received a 2nd place vote in the MVP balloting. Does that mean that Tim McCarver is a card-carrying member of the BBWAA?

Jonah Keri: That or his mom got a vote.

Still, I nominate this line from today's wire story on the NL MVP as the flabbergaster o' the day:

"Florida's Juan Pierre gets $200,000 for finishing 10th."

Wow. The only thing crazier than that happening would be, I dunno, like Mark Grudzielanek getting an 8th place vote...

Phillip (Australia ( Too far from Fenway)): Hi, Jonah quick question. Is there really a need for the Red Sox to chase a closer (Foulke). I thought the bullpen did great in the closing stages of the season. People seem to think if something special does not happen next year then we are screwed for a while. Thanks

Jonah Keri: Hopefully DirecTV and TiVo have made their way Down Under, Phillip, I know I'd be dead without 'em.

I think Theo will pursue Foulke, but do so judiciously; I don't see a Wagner-type contact being laid out here. I agree with you that the Sox have plenty of good arms in that pen. Williamson and Kim in particular were two gets that I thought were perfect--pitchers who'd shown they can log heavy innings and go multiple innings at a time, with great results. They both had their struggles, but Timlin and Embree did a good job keeping things together.

I like the rumored plan to put Kim in the rotation given Boston's needs there, and Foulke would be a terrific replacement for Kim at the back of the pen. If the Sox land him and grab a plum or two from the secondary talent market to cover second base and a couple other slots, the way Mueller, Ortiz, and Millar worked out last off-season, they'll be a serious threat.

Tom Gisriel (Baltimore): Are you going to continue doing Q & A's during the off-season? Do you have any lined up? Who have you asked to do Q & A's who have refused? Do you do them in person, by phone, by e-mail or some combination? Feel free to break these questions up

Jonah Keri: A few Q&A questions here. First off, a note on the recent absence of Q&As...book season is upon us at BP, and we're all working hard to make BP 2004 our best effort ever. Content does slow down during this period, but it has remained busier than last off-season. We'll be ramping article frequency back up as the next few weeks progress. Today's Kim Ng Q&A is the first of several I've got on my plate at the moment. I'm particularly excited about one coming up that will advance some of the Q&As I did late last year and early this year that touched on pitching philosophy, injury prevention, mechanics, and similar issues.

In answer to your other questions, no one has refused, though some take a long time to get back to you. The vast majority of the interviews are done by phone, with the only in-person one being the very first one I did, with Dr. Frank Jobe (whose office is like a museum of cool baseball stuff, floor to ceiling).

bobbailey (Montreal): Just wondering what your take on pitch counts is. There are infinite variables that go into why a pitcher blows out an arm, is the de rigeur focus on PC just because it's the only thing that's measurable? Also, shouldn't being able to throw deep into a game be considered a "skill" just like a killer curveball?

Jonah Keri: Speaking of pitching philosophies...

Pitch counts alone won't win any Cy Young awards any time soon. Pitching deep into a game is most definitely a desirable skill for pitchers. Ultimately when you take risks, you want them to be smart ones. The studies on pitching that we've seen strongly suggest that a 21-year-old is more likely to encounter arm trouble if pushed too hard than a 31-year-old with similar mechanics and build.

Context is also crucial--many organizations won't let any minor league pitcher throw more than a set number of pitches in an inning. So if you're a 22-year-old horse in Double-A with perfect mechanics, you may get pulled in the first inning of a game if you hit pitch #30 or #40 of that frame. The idea there is that pitchers tend to labor when faced with long innings and stressful situations. BP's Pitcher Abuse Points, devised by Rany Jazayerli and Keith Woolner, follows along these lines, assigning higher Stress scores to outings where pitches were thrown under duress.

Pitch count monitoring should continue to play a key role here. But to me the next frontier is intensive pre-hab routines, where teams work with their pitchers at every level, bring them in for rigorous testing of their mechanics, work with them on getting stronger, and ultimately work to ensure you don't hear that sickening snap one July night in Cleveland. A few teams go to these lengths, but far too many still have the same "rub some dirt on it" approach and no real plan of action when it comes to their pitchers, and that's a damn shame.

Dave Dombrowski (Detroit): Do you think I should go after Tejada? I'm not sure he's really 27...

Jonah Keri: Good instincts, Dave.

Of course if you, or any other suitor, signs him to a two-year contract rather than shelling out big bucks over four, five years or more, you're significantly lowering your risk. Teams are already getting smarter in this regard, and it's entirely possible that A-Rod's 10-year deal is the last time you'll see a contract anywhere near that length until Mark Prior's regaling his grandkids with tales of his eight no-hitters.

Ricardo (Los Angeles): Who do you see the Mets getting this offseason?

Jonah Keri: How many years past due is their rebuilding program now? Two? Three?

The Mets won't help themselves by signing anymore Glavine-type contracts. If they can get value for Piazza's, that's a no-brainer. They need to start surrounding their kids with more young talent by cashing in their veteran chips. They may be subject to media and fan criticism if they start over, but big, honking deal. It's a GM's job to deal with criticism, and the Mets need to stop pretending and start putting championship pieces around Reyes, Heilman, Kazmir, Wright, and the rest for 2005 and beyond. This is a bad team right now, and Luis Castillo won't win them any pennants.

Paul Mocker (seattle): Thanks for taking the time to chat! I just got back from a public talk given by the Mariners CFO. He hinted that as a result of MLB pressuring clubs to adhere to debt/equity ratios by paying down debt, clubs will not have as much available for free agents, and the players union will charge collusion once again. It seems to me that this is indirect collusion. Your thoughts?

Jonah Keri: Paul, the union can claim whatever they want, but from where we're sitting it looks like the light of smart management has finally started shining through a few ivory tower windows. If teams want to call it adhering to debt/equity quotas or any other Seligian phrase they can muster, it really makes no difference. What it really is is the end of Kevin Young for $34 million era, and it's about time it happened.

As for top-end free agents, I go back to what I said before: teams should still be willing to pay top dollar for top talent. Just cut the number of guaranteed years that in the past had been chucked around like candy. Whichever team successfully offers three years, $50 million for Vlad is going to be thrilled with the results.

ENCORE (Montreal): Who should be the best 1 base, 3rd base and center fielder for the 2004 EXPOS, considering the available players in the Expos system and on the market (affordable for the Expos) ?

Jonah Keri: "Should" and "will" are usually two extremely different concepts for the Expos. They should re-sign Vlad, move Wilkerson to center and play Sledge in left, then go for an ugly but effective (and cheap) platoon of Cordero and Snow at first.

They should then go after a legitimate third baseman, something they haven't had since Tim Wallach's prime. Think Anaheim's getting frustrated with Troy Glaus yet? Think they'd turn over Glaus and Shields for Javy Vazquez? Boy, I'd sure love to find out.

Much more likely they'll let Vlad walk and keep the rest, then sputter around .500 or lower. The path of least resistance works great for MLB, which can argue that it kept up their end by doing everything short of funding a huge Vlad contract. It also works well for Omar Minaya, who's been too busy lobbying for other GM jobs and blabbing to the whole world about said jobs than bothering with little things like trying to build a winner at his current job. The Expos have already missed some cheap scrap heap snags, and the combination of Minaya's indifference and MLB's dithering is going to mean more missed opportunities for roster building and maybe even another Colon-for-Biddles and bits deal. Blech.

strong silence (the 6th chakra): Can the Mariners get Beltran from KC by giving them Meche, Mateo and (TINSTAAPP) Travis Blackley? Payroll is not an issue for the M's, although they want to keep their ratio of player compensation to revenue to 50 % or lower. And KC needs pitching.

Jonah Keri: The Royals have reportedly been holding out for young, major league-ready position players at catcher and third base, and the M's don't have that to offer. So unless Allard Baird is putting on a front, or he gets desperate and goes for the first half-decent offer out there, I don't see a TINSTAAP-tastic with the key component a significant injury risk coming to fruition. As Rany would tell you, the Royals are still far from perfect, but they're getting smarter.

(The preceding statment should be considered null and void if Randa re-ups for three years, $15 million).

Danny (Long Island): How good is Chad Cordero?

Jonah Keri: Pretty good actually. He throws low-90s heat and a good slider from multiple arm angles, has a sound delivery, and looked good in his limited big-league exposure this season. He'll be an asset to the Expos in the late innings, whether or not they grant him the magical Capital C role.

Jonah Keri: Thanks everyone for some great questions, and look for the next chat, coming soon. Keep hitting the site for new content, and save room for BP 2004, which will rock. Thanks, as always, for your support.


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