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Chat: Joe Sheehan

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday January 10, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Joe Sheehan.

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Joe Sheehan writes "Prospectus Today" for Baseball Prospectus.

Joe Sheehan: Good afternoon, and welcome to 2008. (I just got here, actually.) Let's talk baseball.

pjfsks (morristown, nj): Joe - you are the man ! The Mets saved $10 million from Glavine leaving plus '08 revenues will be up. Who are they going to/should they spend it on?

Joe Sheehan: There's nothing out there to spend that much money on. You could assemble a trade for Johan Santana, but it doesn't seem like the Mets will do that, at least at the moment.

Everybody is swimming in cash now. The hardest thing--outside of Miami--is not spending it.

Ed D. (Chicago): Joe, RE: players having a Hall of Fame peak vs. those that are able to sustain it into a Hall of Fame career, my only moment of weakness in denying the former comes when thinking about a player like Albert Pujols. If he began his decline phase in '08 and retired in '13, wouldn't you still FEEL like he should be HOFer based on his dominance through '08, or are you able to eliminate feeling from the process altogether?

Joe Sheehan: Hypotheticals are a slippery slope. If Jim Rice's peak looked like Albert Pujols', then he'd be in already. Pujols is a Hall of Famer as long as he takes the field in two more seasons.

Plenty of guys are in the Hall just for peak performance. Rice's peak simply doesn't rise to that level.

I make this point every year: it is NOT an insult to say that a guy is not one of the 250-odd best players in baseball history. Someone has to be #265.

Jake (San Francisco): Does it ever make sense to dump players with as much service time remaining as Swisher and Haren? Anecdotally, it seems like the trade market isn't efficient with regard to service time - players with two months left and players with two years left seem to bring back similar prospect hauls. Would Beane have received substantially less if he had waited 1-2 years to make those trades?

Joe Sheehan: That depends on the performance of the two players and the vagaries of the market in the intervening two years. If you wait, though, you delay the rebuilding process. By making those deals know, Beane can look to 2010 as a competitive season with the prospects acquired--and hopefully more from some more productive drafting than they've had in recent years.

Marc (San Antonio): Everyone's projections for Geovany Soto seem to be very favorable. Care to dampen this Cubs fan's expectations?

Joe Sheehan: The catching situation in 2008 will be an improvement on the performance Cubs' catchers put up in 2007. I suspect Soto will be comparable in value to Barrett 2005, with a bit more defense and less offense.

PSIllini (Champaign, IL): Is there even the slightest chance the National League won't suck this year?

Joe Sheehan: The Braves, Cubs, Brewers and Diamondbacks should be better. Maybe the Astros. The four best, and maybe the five best, teams in MLB are all in the AL. That's a tough thing to overcome.

What's worse is that the worst teams in the NL are losing ground relative to their counterparts in the AL. The Orioles, Royals and A's/Rangers are better, collectively, than the Pirates, Giants and Marlins.

Ryan (Newark NJ): Who would you prefer, the Goose or Mo?

Joe Sheehan: Gossage. The extra innings are very significant, the ability to use him for longer outings.

If I'm evaluating them in retrospect, Rivera's postseason work takes on greater weight.

big baby (nj): The word on the grapevine for a while has been that that Mets have offered Guerra, Humber, Mulvey, and Gomez for Santana, and that the Twins are holding out for the Mets to add Fernando Martinez. What would you make of this 5 for 1 trade? Should the Mets jump on it? Begrudgingly accept it?

Joe Sheehan: You're trading for one year of a player and the rights to sign him to a market-value contract for six or more seasons. No, I would not make that trade.
Bill Smith is in a bind. I think he's actually handled it well so far, not accepting a bad offer. He has time, still, to find the right one. It may be the most important decision he ever makes as Twins' GM, no matter how long he holds the job.

vtadave (Reno, NV): Joe - thanks as always for the time. How is the Dodgers outfield going to sort out this year? Any semi-knowledgeable fan of the team wants to see Ethier/Jones/Kemp, but can Colletti find a taker for Juan Pierre? There's zero chance of Ethier and Pierre splitting at-bats right?

Joe Sheehan: That would be an awkward platoon, since both are lefthanded. Kemp is the player more likely to lose time in any job-sharing arrangement.

Remember, the Dodgers don't seem to think that Juan Pierre is a huge problem. He played in 162 games last season, started 154 in the top two lineup spots, stole 64 bases, batted .293...there's not much recognition that he's not very good.

I don't see a trade partner on the horizon, but I guess 4/36 for the guy in the last paragraph might look good to someone.

I suspect we're looking at a Kemp/Ethier platoon. Remember, too, that Pierre has a consecutive-games streak of more than 800, and breaking that with a "DNP-Torre's call" will not be easy.

Fantasy Nerd (Mock Draft Lobby): What do you see Tejada doing in the heart of an Astros line-up that also features Berkman, Lee and Pence?

Joe Sheehan: You have to figure he's good for 110 RBI at least. Tejada will be a much better fantasy player than real one.

Caveat: if he ends up batting third behind Bourn and Matsui, and then ahead of Berkman and Lee (a hideous potential lineup), forget I wrote the first sentence.

JA (Chanhassen, MN): Would a package of Lester, Ellsbury, Lowrie and Masterson for Nathan and Santana represent a fair way to get both sides what they seek in the Santana situation? The Twins get both (Ellsbury and Lester) young guys they seek, and the Red Sox get Santana and a monster pen arm who is cheap (6 mil) in 2008 to set up Papelbon. Does that work?

Joe Sheehan: If you have inside information that the world is going to end 10 months from now--insert political crack here--then I guess that's a good deal.

What I don't understand is why the Red Sox would feel the need to make such a push for 2008. They have a core of talent that sets them up as the AL East favorites for a while, a productive farm system, and no desperate need to win the next championship.

Unless the 2008 title is valued above all others, there's not much reason to make a deal like that. The Red Sox have the talent and infrastructure to win three or four of the next ten World Series.

Or (Dallas): Good afternoon, Joe. What's your opinion on prospect quality vs. quantity? Is it better to accumulate a large stockpile of prospects, albeit none of them elite (i.e. Rangers) or showcase a small number of elite guys (see Reds, Cincinatti)?

Joe Sheehan: You win with superstars, so I suspect I'd rather have the latter. One Jay Bruce or Colby Rasmus is worth two or three guys on the next level down.

This runs counter to the idea that you develop pitchers by having a bunch of them and living with the survivors, of course.

I don't think the two ideas are necessarily mutually exclusive, but as I type this my brain is struggling to reconcile the two.

Kevin (Fairfax VA): I understand that everyone now agrees that Tyler Clippard had been overhyped, and the Nationals did pick him up cheap. Has everyone gone too far in beating on him now? Does he have a chance to crack the Nationals' rotation in April, and what is his ceiling?

Joe Sheehan: He could be the Nationals' Opening Day starter.

His ceiling is a #4 starter, a 4.40 career ERA guy.

Those two sentences are most definitely NOT mutually exclusive.

Fred (Houston): What do you think of the Astros "win now" moves this offseason? McLane says his team will never "rebuild", but rather must strive to be "champions" every year. Are they even close to the Cubs/Brewers in terms of 2008 talent?

Joe Sheehan: No.

Hmmmm...you probably want more.

The Astros are in a weird spot in that the combination of execrable drafting and holding to slotting recommendations has given them one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Unlike the A's, they also don't have the kinds of players/contracts they can deal for big packages to start over. No one's trading for Carlos Lee.

I can't say I would have done what Ed Wade's done, and his work isn't going to produce a postseason appearance. However, he is executing the owner's wishes, and it may be the only rational approach to their current mix of talent.

The Astros will probably be the worst team in baseball for a two- or three-year period starting in 2010 or 2011.

Jay (Madison): Given the yankees unique situation, I'm unclear why they should not trade Hughes, Kennedy and 3rd prospect for Santana. Money is really no object to them and however much we love the young guys, the reality is that high % flop or get injured. Santana significantly improves their team in 08 and 09. Losing him to the bosox gives them the double whammy. It is a different situation for any other team (except the redsox). So wouldn't u make themove?

Joe Sheehan: If money is no object, then why pay both talent and money?

That's the core of the argument against trading for Santana. You *have* to pay him market value, so why give up 18 years of performance for the one season you can't get with money?

I think everyone in this neverending play has acted exactly as they should. It's going to take someone breaking character--I'm looking to the L.A. teams, myself--to get a deal done.

Jay (Madison): Should the Orioles trade bedard for A. Jones, J. Clement and another solid prospect?

Joe Sheehan: You could have stopped that sentence after the word "Jones." Erik Bedard's next 400 innings will mean nothing to them. If you can get Jones, it's worth making that deal. Everything else is gravy, and I say that as someone who isn't the world's biggest Adam Jones fan. The O's simply have no talent like him, save Weiters.

collins (greenville nc): Joe, thanks for chatting. Are there any of today's players that you expect to be overrated by the HOF voters, like Rice is?

Joe Sheehan: Man, good question. Obviously the way in which, say, Derek Jeter is overrated will carry over. Jeter is a Hall of Famer, a first-ballot guy, so it doesn't matter much.

On the margins...you know, I have to tell you that I clicked on this question, and now I can't come up with an answer. I don't know that this era has many marginal Hall of Famers who are likely to be *overrated* based on reputation or too-simple stats, such as RBI or wins.

Great question. I wish I had a better answer. The only one I can think of is maybe David Ortiz. Garret Anderson, I suppose, if he has a bounceback.

collins (greenville nc): Joe, do you really think Rice's getting into the Hall next year opens things up for Murphy, Dawson and Raines? Isn't part of the reason that he got in that the voters can't see that Rice is inferior to those guys?

Joe Sheehan: Yes, and once he's in, the fact that he *is* in becomes a huge data point for the better players on the outside.

Dawson is way, way ahead of Rice on merit, as is Raines. Murphy is a closer call, but Rice getting in likely doesn't hurt his case, and the bigger the gray area--adding Rice expands the gray area--the harder it becomes to keep marginal players out.

The Sutter/Gossage example is instructive here. Once Sutter went in, you simply couldn't keep the better player out.

Ryan (Santa Barbara): Do the Cardinals have any shot at competing in the NL Central in 2008? 2009?

Joe Sheehan: No. No.

Rob (Newton, NJ): Do you see Franklin Morales splitting time this season between the Rockies and the minors in light of their recent pitcher signings? What is his best comparable at this point in his development?

Joe Sheehan: He was rushed last season, getting by on talent about half the time, and not so much the other half. Start him back at Double-A, then move him up, and if he succeeds all year, slot him into the rotation in August.

The only defense of the Wells/Redman signings is that it allows then to execute that kind of plan with Morales.

Comp? Hmmmm...Arthur Rhodes? I'm probably getting too caught up in his lefthandedness. He also reminds me a little of Kelvim Escobar, if that helps.

Telemachus (Milwaukee): How soon do you expect Matt LaPorta to be ready, and would the Brewers be making a mistake signing Cameron?

Joe Sheehan: The biggest problem facing the Brewers is a wretched, awful defense. There are a lot of ways they could go to fix it, but adding Cameron to center would clearly help. No, he doesn't hit as well as he used to, but he would be an upgrade and, with Hart in right and a Gross/RHB platoon in left, give them an above-average outfield defense.

I've advocated moving Braun to an outfield corner a number of times. The more I look at it, though, with LaPorta coming, they would be left with LaPorta/Hart/Braun, which is pretty bad. They may just have to suffer Braun's glove and hope he improves.

The Brewers can be the Rockies; however, the path to the success is basically the same: saving a bunch of runs with defensive upgrades. They'll score plenty.

Brian (CA): Which young pitcher is comparable to Mike Mussina?

Joe Sheehan: Zack Greinke, in many ways.

A more traditional comp would be Justin Verlander.

Nick (NYC): Alright, what about any current players likely to be underrated by HoF voters? Craig Biggio?

Joe Sheehan: Lots, I think. Not Biggio, who has the "scrappy" card, and reached the magic number he didn't really need.

A whole bunch of pitchers whose win totals reflect the changes in the game stand to be judged harshly: Mussina jumps out at me as the vanguard of this group.

There are some players, such as Jim Thome, who are more than qualified but who may find themselves struggling to get in as voters overcompensate for the era. Note that this DIDN'T happen for pitchers who played in the 1962-68 period, because preventing runs is morally superior to producing them.

Especially on deadline.

jalonzo (NYC): You are killing me with your Cardinals comment. Obviously 2008 is a write-off, but no chance of competing in 2009 - really? Add Rasmus, Garcia, Perez to that team, Carpenter comes back, a Duncan/Rasmus/Ankiel outfield ... you're crushing my dreams here.

Joe Sheehan: All of those things happen...and the middle infield still sucks, as does the back of the rotation, and I don't know who the third baseman is, or the relievers around Perez.

That's giving you full credit for the notion that a "Duncan/Rasmus/Ankiel outfield" is a positive.

Hey, the Cardinals had a great run. Now they have to rebuild. One of the NFLizations of MLB over the past two decades is this notion that teams should always compete. Sometimes, you have to retrench.

EnderCN (Milwaukee): Since the Astros and Cardinals have been covered and I'm pretty sure the Pirates don't have a good shot. Do you think decent years by Votto, Bruce and Bailey put the Reds in the thick of the NL Central race or are they looking at 2009 before they are in it.

Joe Sheehan: I hated the Cordero signing, even as I noted that the thing they needed was a bat-missing reliever in the late innings. There's just so many other ways to get that.

Anyway, the Reds are an 82-win team in my eyes, which means they could win the division with a spate of good luck or just by winning some extra close games against the Cubs. As with the Brewers, the defense is problematic, contributing to the perception that the pitching is worse than it is.

Come to think of it, there's not a single above-average defensive team in the NL Central. *Maybe* the Cards, I guess. The Pirates if McCutcheon plays, perhaps.)

PB (Austin): Who are your early Final Four favorites, Joe?

Joe Sheehan: North Carolina and Kansas are 1 and 1a. I completely agree that Memphis is in the discussion, and I love Calipari's scheduling. However, I'm generally skeptical about a team like that in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, when it runs into talent it's only seen, in Memphis' case, once since December.

Mild sleeper: Michigan State

Deep sleeper: New Mexico

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Do you share Christina's opinion that Swisher to the Sox was a good Kenny Williams move? Seems to me that he somewhat salvaged missing out on free agents, although I don't think it gets them past 3rd place in 2008.

Joe Sheehan: I do. As the Thome deal did, it addresses a significant need, and it doesn't weaken the team in the short term. The White Sox, like the Astros, don't have enough farm system to rebuild, so they might as well focus on the short term.

You are correct, though, that it might not improve them enough to catch one of the big four in 2008. I think this is an underrated team right now, however.

JKGaucho (DC): Joe, I think Bernie Williams might be someone who is overrated because he was on the Yankees and won titles.

Joe Sheehan: There's absolutely no evidence that being on particular team helps you in the BBWAA voting. Cardinals, Giants and Yankees are overrepresented in the Hall of Fame because the Hall wasn't bright enough to do away with the Veterans Committee once it had served the purpose of catching early-baseball players and the backlog of qualified 20th-century candidates.
Bernie Williams is a Hall of Famer to me, although I admit I may be too close to it. Postseason performance does matter, and it matters more now in the era of three-level playoffs. Williams, Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz and Curt Schilling are just a few of the players whose resumes are stronger than a JAWS-flavored analysis would indicate.

Mike (Chicago): Is Brian Roberts a good fit for the Cubs? Does he give us enough of an upgrade over DeRosa that he's worth trading for?

Joe Sheehan: OBP is life, life is OBP. Roberts is a significant upgrade and relegates DeRose to a role--supersub--he's best-suited for. (Playing him every day at shortstop would be a mistake.)

I've yet to see a rumored offer for Roberts that didn't make sense for the Cubs. That's the benefit of not having top-tier prospects, I guess.

Hombre X (Edge City): Joe, thanks for the braincrush you and Keith Law laid on Steve Phillips, that was high comedy. Do you think it's a good or bad thing that the HoF voting populace is becoming more selective (this year's ballot averaged 5.4 players, the fewest ever)?

Joe Sheehan: Lots of comments about Tuesday's ESPNews segment, with similar sentiments as X expresses.

I appreciate the kind words, but it's important to note that there wasn't anything personal going on. I was addressing the arguments, rather than any particular person. We can get caught up in personalities; I want to emphasize the ideas. The better ideas should win out, no matter who is expressing them.

You might argue that Hall voters have become too picky, as a group. On the other hand, most non-BBWAA ballots I saw had 4-6 names on them (mine had four), so it's a tough case to make.

bjlevy34 (Santa Clara, CA): "You're trading for one year of a player and the rights to sign him to a market-value contract for six or more seasons." I've seen several smart people make this as argument against trading for Santana. It seems to me, however, that having exclusive negotiating rights is actually worth something. With the game "swimming in cash" there is a real advantage to not actually have to bid against other teams. Isn't this something like the opposite of the winner's curse? Just curious for your thoughts.

Joe Sheehan: Those rights are worth something. However, they're not worth much when there's no discount to be had, and at that, they're not worth the price being paid.

We can see Santana's past. We can't see Philip Hughes' future. It takes a strong will to argue not only that you're not trading for A, but that B might end up looking like A.

Throw in $150 million with B now. Is that worth the risk? Throw in two other players.

Everyone is acting rationally.

I suppose the one lesson to be learned here is that no-trade clauses aren't worth it. Pay more in cash and retain your flexibility. If Smith could trade Santana for a package that reflects his one-year value, he'd get a lot further than he has been getting.

Tim (Lansing, MI): Are you as tired of this Clemens thing as I am?

Joe Sheehan: Very. He's better than Pennington, but watching him was just painful at times.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): Keith Law's strong (and in my view over the top) comments on ESPN Tuesday "if Rice gets in, just pull the hinges off the doors" (paraphrased) are more harmful than helpful. When the SABRmetric community gets, excuse me, bitchy, don't we validate however inadvertantly the old school media's view of SABRmetricians?

Joe Sheehan: I never get this right, but there was a line in "The West Wing," during the first election storyline..."If they're going to think you're arrogant, you might as well just use it."

We've reached that point, at least here at BP. The tone and tenor of our content is vastly different than it was 12, eight or even five years ago. Nevertheless, the same tired refrains about "arrogance," which have largely always been about "outsiders," persist.

So screw it. I'm arrogant. It takes a tremendous amount of arrogance to think your thoughts on a topic are so special that people should pay $40/year for them, or pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated, or buy a book, or turn to a particular frequency to hear or see you. All I can do is try to be worth that money, that time, that effort.

My loyalty isn't to "the SABRmetric commnunity"--which generally rips me. It's to the argument, and it's to the people who read, listen and watch BP.

tfierst (MN): The likelyhood of B turning into A? Not very.

Joe Sheehan: Nor was the likelihood of A turning into A.

ElAngelo (White Plains NY): Future overrated in HOF vote: Omar Vizquel?

Joe Sheehan: He's a better Dave Concepcion. Vizquel versus Trammell might be an interesting discussion.

One of the problems with evaluating shortstops for the Hall is agreeing on measurements of defensive performance.

Oh, and the guy I think is going to get hosed is Barry Larkin.

sabotlt (A's Country): Joe, what's your stance on Mark McGwire's candidacy? The writers seem to have really taken a hard-line with him - do you think this will bleed over into the Palmiero/Sosa/Bonds etc candidacies down the road? Or does Big Mac make it in after being properly "chastised" by the self-annointed guardians?

Joe Sheehan: He's gotten my vote the past two seasons, and he'll get my vote the next 13.

His lack of forward momentum this year surprised me, although it my be that the timing of the Mitchell Report hurt him, keeping "PEDS ZOMG!!!" in the forefront of voters' minds.

It really bugs me that the same people who had all the freaking access in the world in "the steroid era," and who hold up their organization as being about access for reporters, have the gall to now say "shucks, we didn't know," and at the same time act as judge and jury on the guys they didn't have the balls to cover honestly when they were active.

It's not having it both ways. It's having it about four different ways.

Call me when they decide to not give out a Spink Award for a decade.

ripfan008 (Baltimore): Hi Joe- Thanks for taking my question. Do you belive Ervin Santana will be able to put it together or is he in need of a change of scenery?

Joe Sheehan: I'm a fan. He clearly still has the physical skills to be a midrotation starter, maybe even a little better than that. Angels Stadium is actually a good park for him, and if they just leave him be, he'll be fine for them, a real asset.

chris (chicago): Rank these third baseman long term: Zimmerman, Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun, Andy LaRoche, and Evan Longoria.

Joe Sheehan: Zimmerman (man, he's about to have a year), Longoria, Braun, LaRoche, Gordon.

I might flip the last two because I'm not sure the Dodgers won't screw up with LaRoche. There are a ton of good young third baseman, huh?

Here's a better question: which of these guys ends up being Hank Blalock?

ChuckR (Addison, IL): Do you think Frank Thomas will be underrated by HOF voters?

Joe Sheehan: Any chance he might have been went away in 2007. I'm going to cheat here and just copy and paste from a file on my computer, one that may or may not be related to an upcoming book.

Any doubt that Frank Thomas would go into the Hall of Fame ended last year. He hit his 500th career home run, had his second straight big season late in his career, and was not only unscathed by the Mitchell Report, he was the only active player to voluntarily speak with the commission. In conjunction with his performance in front of Congres in 2005, Thomas is almost certain to benefit from a halo effect as a perceived “clean” player, something the steroid-obsessed voting pool will use to push him into Cooperstown. He has been qualified since 1997 or so, and the shame is that it may be his position on PEDs, rather than his all-time-great peak, that drives the discussion about his career.

Mark (Manhattan): Shouldn't the Yanks upgrade their first base situation? And if so, how would you about it?

Joe Sheehan: Give Carlos Pena shot in camp. He's probably good for a .275 EqA and plus defense.

Wait...what? Oh.

It's peculiar that a team with such a large payroll would have such a problem finding a first baseman. Me, I'd run Giambi back out there at the start of the season and see how it played out. I don't think there's a viable trade option worth pursuing until midseason.

Dan (NYC): Do you see Jeremy Hermida making the leap this year?

Joe Sheehan: Didn't he already do that in the second half? He's a terrific hitter, probably going to end up somewhere between Shawn Green and Lance Berkman. Too bad no one will notice.

LindInMoskva (DC): Isn't the real difference between Roberts and DeRosa about 30-40 base hits saved on defense? Robert last 2 OBs = .347, .377 DeRosa last 2 OBs = .357, .371

Joe Sheehan: Oh, Roberts is a defensive upgrade, no question.

Say, I don't suppose going back THREE years would affect your argument, would it?

Gary (NJ): I guess you didn't hear the Jason Lane rumors?!

Joe Sheehan: I can't fathom a world where Jason Lane, at 31, coming off three sub-.320 OBPs, with 14 career innings at first base, is the answer. I have to assume it was a slow news day.

bjealous (New York, NY): Recent reports indicate that the Bucs are making an effort to sign LaRoche and Capps longterm, but have not made a similar proposal to Sanchez. If you are Huntington, which of those three would you try to lock up, and, given the low payroll and dramatic increase in revenues, wouldnt it make sense to use the cash that is usually burned on the Burnitzs of the world and sign all three?

Joe Sheehan: I guess. The Pirates' problem is that those three guys are their best options. Let's break it down:

LaRoche: 28 years old, one season of noteworthy performance for a first baseman, minimal projection left.

Sanchez: *30* years old, value almost entirely tied up in his batting average, plays second base, where guys get hurt all the time.

Capps: 24 years old, 3.08 career ERA, so-so strikeout rate (123 in 163 2/3 IP) for a high-leverage reliever.

You know, I like the idea better when I selected the question. That's a TERRIBLE core. I wouldn't sign any of them long-term. Just go year to year, and if they play well and you have to pay them in arb, so be it.

What a terrible franchise.

SaltyGoesYard (Dallas): If you had to bet your house payment on the year the Rangers make the playoffs, what year would you pick?

Joe Sheehan: I would be thankful that I rent.

2012.

Joe (Cleveland): Joe, I can't shake the feeling that with all that the Tigers and White Sox have done this offseason, that the Tribe is behind the eight ball now. Am I overreacting on this?

Joe Sheehan: The core talent is still so good that they're better than the White Sox. With that said, it is a little disappointing that they haven't shored up the corners at all. Left field, right field and third base are all "eh," and that's a lot of holes for a nominal contender.

Roger (Brooklyn): But Lane bats right and throws left. That has to be worth something.

Joe Sheehan: He's practically Rickey Henderson.

Bill Smith (Twin Cities. Both of them. At the same time.): Instead of moving Johan, should I go after Bonds and try to make a run? I could always use the revenue boost from a pennant run to resign him...

Joe Sheehan: Yes.

Now let's all try to envision the marriage of one of the most determined "family-friendly" organizations in baseball and the crown prince of evil.

shamah (NYC): Salty or McCann in 2008?

Joe Sheehan: McCann. He was over his head in '06, and if you throw that out, he looks fine. He's definitely a catcher, too, and Salty...might be one.

basicslop (Albuquerque): Who do you like in CF for the Braves to start the season? IF they decide to go with in house options how much are they putting thier playoff hopes in jeopardy?

Joe Sheehan: There's no good out-of-house options left, although I suppose they're one team that could wait a month for Mike Cameron to return. Gregor Blanco is a pumped-up fourth outfielder who wouldn't totally kill them.
Josh Anderson is the wrong answer, I know that much.

patsen29 (Toronto): How long can Atlanta keep posting competitive seasons, before they must withdraw to rebuild?

Joe Sheehan: Until Chipper Jones and John Smoltz act their respective ages. I can't answer it past that, but those two guys make it hard to not try and win each year. There's talent around them as well.

Last Braves note: I think Jeff Francoeur could go nuts this year, have a .320/.380/.550 kind of season. He improved in a lot of ways in 2007, and he's now 24 with a ton of experience.

djackson (New York): Joe, do you thing Rice would be the worst BBWAA choice ever? I think he might be better than Brock, but Brock had enough mitigating circumstances (3000 hits, stolen base record, 3 really good world series) that it is sort of understandable.

Joe Sheehan: He's better than Bruce Sutter and a little bit better, I think, than Tony Perez. The BBWAA has some older weird picks, too. I think Herb Pennock is their nadir.

Brock has markers Rice doesn't.

NC (West Coast): Overrated marginal HOFers - Schilling.

Joe Sheehan: Hardly. His regular-season work puts him in the gray area, admittedly at the low end. Then you have to consider the postseason, and to some extent, the narrative. Those things push him over the top. Postseason matters in a Hall of Fame discussion.

What the Jack Morris people don't get is that those of us who don't think he's qualified *do* consider Game 7 and his postseason record as part of his case. The problem is that even with those things, it's still not enough. His overall postseason record is good, just not fantastic.

I would also strongly argue that the people who don't think he's qualified give more credence to Morris' postseason work than Morris' supporters do to the mass quantities of evidence that his win totals were a function of durability and teammates, not special skills.

Anyway, Schilling will make the Hall, and deserve it.

Kottke (Memphis): Is it crazy to say that Rickey Henderson was one of the ten best players of all-time? I think no. Talk me down from the ledge.

Joe Sheehan: Yes. It's very hard to get there without being an up-the-middle player, or without having incredible power.

The argument for Rickey as the third-best left fielder ever is interesting. Musial edges him, but Stan spent so much time at first base that you have to think it through.

Without looking it up, I'll say Rickey is between 27 and 32 on the greatest players ever.

alskor (Rhode Island): Somebody asked KG this yesterday, what's your take: "Joba, Clay, Phil. Who's the best in 08 and who's the best beyond?"

Joe Sheehan: I'll take Hughes in both cases, mostly because, 2007 aside, he seems to have the best chance of staying healthy, just based on body and mechanics. He also will throw the most innings of the group in '08.

Stephanie (Lawerance, KS): Hi Joe! Schools back in session (boo!) but spring training is next month (yay!) Any good reccomendations for baseball books to help pass the time? Thanks ;)

Joe Sheehan: The classic answers, for me, are _Ball Four_ and _Lords of the Realm_. Both are a little dated, but remain excellent reads.

I got the Johnny Pesky book about the '07 Red Sox as a gift for someone. I think it's a tragedy, but not everyone will agree.

_The Baseball Economist_ was the last baseball book that really grabbed me.

Jonathan (Springfield, MO): Joe! Love the work you do. During class, I just think about baseball (which helps explain my grades last semester). Can you answer this question for me- John Smoltz: Hall of Famer or not?

Joe Sheehan: Yes. A stronger version of Curt Schilling's case, with a little Dennis Eckersley thrown in.

basicslop (Albuquerque): If, and I know it's a big if, the Royals were in the NL Central, would they finish in the top 3 this year?

Joe Sheehan: I don't think they would as presently constituted. However, if they were in the NL Central, they would likely have managed their offseason differently and would perhaps be positioned to do so.

The gap between the leagues right now is just ridiculous. You know who's lucky? The Angels, who have pretty clear sailing to postseason berths the next two years, while one of the league's top four teams stays home.

JimBeau (Left Coast): Do you think there is any reasonable package the tribe could put together to squeeze Bedard out of Baltimore?

Joe Sheehan: You could assemble something, but it would be a misguided effort. The Indians have to upgrade their offense, which is barely passable for an AL contender.

Jack_Morris (Candyland): So being able to pitch to the score gets me no respect?

Joe Sheehan: I assume this is someone just asking me to run the link.
Jack Morris didn't have any ability to prevent runs based on the score of the game:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1815

Jessica (Utica, NY): The 5 most influential figures in the history of baseball are...?

Joe Sheehan: Babe Ruth Branch Rickey
Walter O'Malley Jackie Robinson

I can't settle on a fifth. Either a prehistory pioneer or a TV exec.

costa24 (Montreal): Wow, I got pulled away for over an hour on something here at work, and I come back to find you still here. How long before major league baseball comes back to my fair cité?

Joe Sheehan: Fifty, 60 years.

No, I'm not kidding. A lot of people will have to die before MLB will head back there.

nghunter (NYC): Would Bonds to the Indians for one year, $12 million be possible and make sense?

Joe Sheehan: Yes and yes.

See, however, my Twins comment from an hour ago. The Indians are, if anything, MORE conscious of "character," as they define it.

They also have a DH, which means you're asking Bonds to play left 100 times.

jlebeck66 (WI): What's Inge's fate?

Joe Sheehan: Utility player and defensive replacement. He earned that by not hitting in 2007.

Gump (ny): How about Curt Flood as the fifth?

Joe Sheehan: Curt Flood was a tremendous baseball player and a good human being. He gets FAR too much credit in the timeline of history, however. His case went nowhere. Put everyone else--McNally, Messersmith, Hunter, Seitz, Miller--in front of him as far as influence.

My #5 would be Marvin Miller. He was the perfect man for the job.

For those who think baseball was made worse by him, consider that the need to compete for players and pay them market salaries woke up an industry that was a generation behind the times in terms of marketing itself. I dare say that if not for Marvin Miller, we would not enjoy baseball in the many ways we can today.

kevin (maryland): So if the Cardinals have to rebuild and if they're not going to do it the Tigers way (several key free agents), then when does Pujols go on the trading block? And for what?

Joe Sheehan: Good question. He has four and $64MM(assuming the option is picked up) left on his deal, with a limited NTC and 10-and-five kicking in after 2010.

It's not inconceivable that the Cards could assemble a winning team in the last two years of his contract. On the other hand, Pujols could attract offers that would make the Santana packages look like something the jerk in your fantasy league would offer for your best two players.

Trading a Hall of Famer in his prime is a very difficult thing to do. However, doing so correctly would aggressively position the Cardinals to be a great team at the other end of the rebuild.

I would have to consider it.

Lightning round...

TomTerrific (NL Central): The Cubs had a .712 Def. Eff last year. That was good for third in baseball and first in the NL. Soto, Pie and Fukudome should actually be an improvement.

Joe Sheehan: Lots of people bringing this up. I concede the point. The Cubs had a good defense last season, and will likely have an above-average one in 2008 as well. Thanks for calling me on that.

Glenn (NYC): What teams say, "Screw character, he can rake" and can sign Bonds?

Joe Sheehan: Generally ones that have the DH slot filled. Not that Bonds can't play the outfield, but you'd prefer that he does it once a week.

I had a crazy idea that the Devil Rays could sign him. They won't, but it was fun to think about.

Dave (NJ): How 'bout Dr. Frank Jobe?

Joe Sheehan: He's in the top 25, maybe top 15. How many innings is he responsible for at this point? 10,000? 20,000?

Peter (Toronto, Ontario): Lillibridge for Braves' CF? He had a wicked 2nd half.

Joe Sheehan: I much prefer him at shortstop. He's a better player than Escobar.

Joe (Chicago): So what would you give up for Santana?

Joe Sheehan: It depends on the team. I would try and limit it to two of my top four prospects, and not the top two, and maybe one guy below that level.

If Santana is willing to sign a deal of four years or less, that would get me to trade a bit more.

Tim (DC): With Kuhn going into the HOF, what are the chances of Uncle Bud?

Joe Sheehan: He's in.

JKGaucho (DC): McGriff, in or out?

Joe Sheehan: In for me. I suspect in for BBWAA, if for questionable reasons.

Mike (Rochester): Lots of people are high on Zimmerman - I know you're not Will, but does that mean you are not overly concerned about his recent wrist surgery?

Joe Sheehan: I'm not, but honestly, Mike, I don't completely understand what happened. Wrist problems can hamper power; I'm just not clear--paging Mr. Carroll--exactly what Zimmerman's injury was. It almost seems like a stress fracture.

Mike (Utica,NY): How good can you see Colby Rasmus becoming? Is he Sizemore good or better?

Joe Sheehan: That's a pretty good comp. There could be more power, although in fairness, I expected more power from Sizemore.

He also could grow out of center end up like...hmmm...peak Magglio Ordonez?

statham (Toronto): Are we getting regular enough updates from Hank on which way he is leaning on a Johan trade? Should we ask for more?

Joe Sheehan: The chain of events that led to the Steinbrenner sons running the Yankees will, a half-century from now, be seen as the beginning of a very dark period for this Yankees.

They don't know what they're doing, and they're very aggressive about it.

Peter (Toronto, Ontario): T or F: D-Rays finish 3rd this year?

Joe Sheehan: False.

Fred Bird (Springfield, Illinois): Is Lee Smith deserving of a Hall of Fame induction?

Joe Sheehan: No.

cjbuet (madison, wi): big breakout season for rickie weeks in 08?

Joe Sheehan: Very much. Love that guy.

Joe Sheehan: Thanks for all the great questions. I'll be back next month to celebrate pitchers and catchers reporting!


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