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Chat: Jay Jaffe

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday August 01, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Jay Jaffe.

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Jay Jaffe takes a break from the Prospectus Hit List to recap the stories from a big Thursday on the trade market.

Jay Jaffe: Howdy folks, and welcome to this afternoon's post-deadline chat. I believe the most appropriate song would be Gram Parsons' "We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning," (it's still before noon on the West Coast) so without further ado...

johnpark99 (Boston): Jay, are you an actor? You on strike or something? Where's the Hit List been? And what's it looking like now after yesterday's circus?

Jay Jaffe: It's nice to be missed, and good to be back. This is the first weekend I've had at home since the end of June due to various travels (Milwaukee, upstate New York, Seattle and L.A.); the short story is that my wife overestimated the number of weekends in July. The paint is drying on the latest Hit List as we speak, and I've given my quick takes on just about every team's deadline activity there. I'll try to expand upon some of those themes here.

Matt (SF, CA): As a Dodgers fan, are you sad to see LaRoche go? It seemed like he could have had a Dodgers career if he wasn't hurt at the beginning of the year.

Jay Jaffe: As I said in yesterday's roundtable, I'm actually happy for LaRoche, because he deserves to be playing in the majors, in an organization that can appreciate his talent. I predict he'll be raking long after Ned Colletti is nothing more than a textbook example of awful general managing, in a chapter with the Gord Ashes, Dave Littlefields and Chuck LaMars of the world.

Joe (Cleveland): Prediction: The Dodgers will play Jones in left, Manny in center, Juan Pierre in right and finally sit those bums Ethier and Kemp?

Jay Jaffe: Almost nothing would surprise me at this point, but let's face it, while the team needed a big bat (they're 15th in the NL in homers), even the most merit-oriented lineup arrangement results in a defensive alignment of Manny-Kemp-Ethier, which could be a big mess that won't help their pitching staff one bit. And among the myriad things Pierre is not, "competent defensive replacement" is one of them.

Evan (Vancouver, BC): So the Dodgers gave up legitimate talent to add a slugging outfielder, even though there's another slugging outfielder (Bonds) freely available. Isn't this trade deadline the best evidence yet of teams conspiring to exclude Bonds?

Jay Jaffe: Well, it's certain that Manny is radioactive right now, and it's tough to argue that he would bring fewer non-baseball distractions to a given clubhouse -- Boston, LA, Tampa, the Ulan Bator Yak-Spit Guzzlers of the Outer Mongolian Independent League -- than Bonds.

But a conspiracy is tough to prove. This late in the year it's fair to wonder about his conditioning (despite what his agent says about him being ready to play in two weeks or whatever), and even the most open-minded front offices, from the cravenly desperate Dodgers to to the shrewd and calculating Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Rays, have passed him up for one reason or another.

That said, I think the post-deadline environment is actually a better one for Bonds, as teams who didn't land a big hitter or whose timelines for a decision may still be a couple weeks away may eye him more favorably. I'm thinking of the Mets, for one.

Mike (la): Worse signing: Darren Dreifort or Andruw Jones?

Jay Jaffe: Dreifort by a country mile. Five years and $55 million in year 2000 dollars is a much bigger time and money commitment than two years and $36 million in 2007 dollars. It's really tough to do much damage with a two-year deal, though the peripheral decisions around the Jones one -- such as trading LaRoche -- certainly are testing that theory.

jromero (seattle): "a defensive alignment of Manny-Kemp-Ethier, which could be a big mess" Why, exactly? Obviously Manny is going to stink out there, but is Kemp really that sub-par (both relative to Jones and in his own right) in CF, and Ethier in RF?

Jay Jaffe: Kemp is athletic, but he's fairly raw out there, and will never win a Gold Glove (not that winning a Gold Glove is anything more than politics these days). Whatever his faults, Jones can still chase down those fly balls pretty well.

david (dc): So now that Paul LoDuca is _literally_ free talent, isn't a little silly that the NYYs gave up a useful reliever for IRod's former glory?

Jay Jaffe: There's no comparison between Lo Duca and Pudge at this point. Pudge's .271 EqA is his best since 2004, he's throwing out 36 percent of baserunners, and he still rates as a plus defender (8 FRAA). Lo Duca has one year above a .260 EqA since 2003, hasn't been above average behind the plate (according to FRAA) since 2003, and has thrown out 22 percent of baserunners over the last two years (using a larger sample size because he hasn't played much back there this year).

Alex (SF, CA): Can you confirm that Bay is under Red Sox control until the end of 2010? BP is the first place I've seen that reported.

Jay Jaffe: I don't know where that came from. Bay is signed through 2009, making $5.75 million this year, and $7.5 million next year.

OldBean ((the) Fenway): I know the Bay/Ramirez trade is a good one going forward, but as far as the rest of this season is concerned, do you think it really makes a difference? It seems like the two will basically be a wash production-wise this year. Was anything accomplished beyond sprinkling magical "team chemistry" pixie dust on the roster?

Jay Jaffe: You've got a good point there. I like this deal more for the 2009 Red Sox than the 2008 edition. Bay's advantage in the age department and the huge cost savings are both worth more as time goes on. From a 2008 standpoint, as good a hitter as he is, Bay may be hard-pressed to match what Manny did while moving to a harder league and an unfamiliar set of pitchers. For the current model, this compromises a bit of organizational depth and makes more sense for the non-baseball reasons of curing a PR headache than anything else.

Alex (SF, CA): From Christina's Transaction Analysis: "Bay's already locked in at $7.5 million for 2009, and will even then be a year short of eligibility as a free agent, meaning that the Sox have him under control in his age-30 and age-31 seasons, at which point they can probably afford to let him go wherever he wishes."

Jay Jaffe: I believe that's an error, then. Cots has him at 4 years and 80 days coming into the year, which plus 2008 and 2009 takes him over the six-year hump for free agency.

TLivingston (Sonoma, CA): Any idea why the Mets weren't able to get any of the players they were looking at?

Jay Jaffe: I don't think the Mets were looking very hard, for better or worse. They seem convinced that Fernando Tatis is for real, that they'll get Ryan Church back at some point, that the rotation will magically hold together despite John Maine's cuff strain, Mike Pelfrey's innings limit, Pedro Martinez's assorted ailments, Oliver Perez's volatility and all that.

I'm not sure I want to bet against all of that by sitting on my hands, but as a team that can afford to take on salary, they have some mobility during the waiver trading period.

JoshC77 (Columbus, OH): With the LaRoche brothers manning the corner IF spots and Steven Pearce likely plugged into one of the OF corners spots in Pittsburgh, what do the Pirates do now with Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker?

Jay Jaffe: With the caveat that I'm not Kevin Goldstein, I'll take a swing at this. I don't think you worry about Walker or Alvarez until they're pressing for a spot on the big league roster. Walker is hitting just .232/.266/.421 in Triple-A, Alvarez has yet to sign and begin his pro career. They're both a ways off, and you can always trade from strength to fill other organizational needs if there's a logjam.

R.J. (Las Vegas): Is it possible Manny's intentional "slow down" this past month was a rationale response to the Sox holding the options on him? That is, if it is true that he would make more money as a free agent (questionable, of course but he clearly believes it) the better he played this year, the more likely it made it that the club would exercise their options and deny him his chance for one last big long-term deal. Is it possible he figured that out after his hot start and realized his financial interest actually required him to not play as well for awhile? And as a follow up, do you think teams have been or will become aware of this possibility when negotiating and wanting to put club options at the end of long-term contracts with potential star players?

Jay Jaffe: To the best of my recollection, I don't think any player holding future options has threatened Operation Shutdown in the middle of the season, and despite the tune played by the house organ in Boston, I'm not ready to believe Manny was doing that either. If he was, he'd have been putting his next and likely last big payday at risk.

That said, I don't think any player should be in the business of pressing a club to make a decision on an option that's a long ways off. Like any contract, those things are structured that way for a reason, and for Manny to get himself wrapped up in that situation was a battle he was never going to win on any front.

Aaron (YYZ): Were the Mariners dysfunctional or just greedy with their rumored demands for their players? Some of the stuff I saw floated seemed ludicrous for their mediocre players.

Jay Jaffe: I'll go with dysfunctional AND greedy, but let's face it, as an interim GM and a messed-up situation above him, Pelekoudas may not have had a ton of latitude to do the deals that made sense.

That said, high-salary guys like Beltre and Washburn are the types who can get moved during the waiver period, but the M's will have to decide whether they're looking to dump salary or to get a good return in prospects. They won't get both.

mwanders (Moscow, ID): I am amazed to see the St. Louis Cardinals doing so well this year with seemingly so little. Is this a career year for Tony LaRussa?

Jay Jaffe: Well, the guy does have a couple World Series rings, including one won with a team that was barely over .500 after 162 games. But if this is a career year for TLR, it's one for Dave Duncan as well, patching together that pitching staff. I mean, Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer are 1-2 in SNLVAR on that staff, and if I told you that was a playoff contending recipe at the outset of the year, I'd be doing the Hit List for the Outer Mongolian Independent League myself.

themcneills (PDX): Liriano seems poised to start on Monday for the Twins... why didn't they shore up at 3B again? Is 2nd in the division just more comfortable?

Jay Jaffe: If that's true on Liriano, it's about damn time. As for third base, Brian Buscher has been doing a nice enough job there (.313/.342/.438) that the team should be worrying about second base (Alexi Casilla is done for the year) and shortstop (where Brendan Harris is currently playing) ahead of their third base concerns.

I think the Casilla injury is a major blow to that club. He was playing a bit over his head, but he'd really provided a nice spark for them.

Tommy (OutPerSwing): Do you feel the Rays did the right thing by not doing a deal and sticking to their guns of not trading one of their top prospects?

Jay Jaffe: I'd have been inclined to move somebody, since not every solid prospect in their system is going to find a home in the Rays' big-league lineup or rotation, such is their embarrassment of riches. IANOPG (I Am Not Our Prospect Guy) but to me there was enough luster lost off of both Jeff Niemann and Reid Brignac to make that reported deal for a year and two months of Jason Bay to make sense. Now, I wouldn't have shelled out that for a Raul Ibaņez, but I'd have like to see them take a stronger shot at upgrading.

This certainly leaves them open to second-guessing if they wind up missing the playoffs, but I've got a pretty strong hunch this won't be their only opportunity. The window is just opening on their future of being a force.

bctowns (Chicago, IL): Jay, What's with the reference to the Boston media as a house organ? You've used it twice today, and I don't recall ever seeing it anywhere before. Is it the beers I had for lunch, am I just slow, or is that a weird reference to make?

Jay Jaffe: Inside baseball and out, some powers have writers willing to do their bidding, to spin things their way consistently in exchange for more exclusive access. That's a house organ.

jlebeck66 (WI): My five year-old son was getting autographs at last night's Snappers-Loons game in Beloit. He only got three sigs from Loons' players, but one of them was Bryan Morris, who had been traded to the Pirates about six hours earlier. It's funny how my son just randomly dumb-lucks his way into meeting this kid who may never be any more famous than he is right now! BTW, what are the prospects of Morris being more than just a footnote in the Ramirez trade? Thanks.

Jay Jaffe: As somebody who grew up in a Triple-A city (Salt Lake City) and spent a great deal of time in a Single-A one (Walla Walla), I saw a lot of minor-league baseball as a kid, and I still cherish those memories and the random luck of seeing the likes of famous (Tony Gwynn in A-ball, on the same team as John Kruk no less) and infamous (floppy former overall #1 Al Chambers). The only foul ball I ever retrieved was autographed by Bob Geren, who a quarter-century later became the manager of the A's. So I can relate. Tell the kid to hold onto those autographs.

As for Morris' chances of being more than a footnote, he certainly looks pretty good on paper; his numbers are about as good as you could hope for a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery. His upside, from what I can tell, is as a mid-rotation starter or possibly a late-inning reliever. You could do worse when it comes to putting your money on an A-ball pitcher.

tcfatone (new york): Howdy, What has Mussina's current season done to his HOF chances? If he wins 20 (finally!), does he pass the hump with the flat earth society voters?

Jay Jaffe: It's not hurting his chances, that for sure. If he gets the long-elusive 20 wins, he may well get over the hump with certain stick-in-the-mud types who are still using outdated yardsticks to measure pitchers. Plus I think there's a chance he's pitching his way into another two-year deal, if not with the Yankees then elsewhere. He's at 263 wins now, and maybe it helps his cause more with those types if he's at 275 or 280.

I took a longer look at Moose's JAWS-based case in a recent article here.

NealH (Pittsburgh, PA): Jay, what do you see happening over the waiver wires in the next month? And can I still dump Jack Wilson for more prospects, or do I need to wait until the winter?

Jay Jaffe: I have it on good authority that Jeff Conine will come out of retirement for the express purpose of being included in a waiver deal.

Beyond that I think we can expect to see action on some of the aforementioned Mariners, maybe some junk from the Orioles (Millar, Payton, Mora, Huff) or the Giants (Aurilia, Winn). Paul Byrd, Greg Maddux, maybe either Pierre or Andruw if the Dodgers are willing to eat a whole lot of salary.
Jack Wilson can probably be dumped for prospects if you're willing to eat salary, but given what he's locked in for ($6.5M this year, $7.25M in 2009, $8.4M/0.6M club option in 2010) I don't think he's all that appealing or will draw much in the way of prospects. Thank your predecessor once again.

Rich (Columbus, OH): Jay, what's all this talk about factions in the Dodgers front office. Everyone seems to allude to it, but nobody directly says what's going on. Is it Logan White vs. Ned Colletti? What's the deal there?

Jay Jaffe: Those in the know say White appears to have the ear of McCourt when it comes to the prospects, and that many of Colletti's potential deals have been scuttled because of objections from the player development side.

Nick Stone (New York, NY): Manny Ramirez in a Joe Torre clubhouse? That should be interesting... ...Or does Joe not care anymore?

Jay Jaffe: Hey Nick! I think it will be fine so long as Manny's in the lineup instead of Pierre... He got what he asked for, so it's put-up-and-shut-up time for him. And let's face it, the only time Torre's really appeared to have had a problem tamping down on what was going on in the clubhouse was circa 2006 with regards to Alex Rodriguez, who's still bigger and more radioactive than Manny is right now.

zstine1 (baltimore): after hearing about the your bad GM hall of fame...isn't gord ash now with the recently successful brewers front office? is it possible for a bad GM to be a good assistant GM due to an ability to specialize, or does an assistant GM not have enough power to ruin the rest of the front office?

Jay Jaffe: Yes, it is absolutely possible for a bad GM to be a good AGM, and Ash has gotten high marks for his time in Milwaukee from what I've heard; he oversees the team's upper-level minor-league clubs in addition to his other front-office duties, and to be sure the Brewers have gotten some good milage out of those mid-season callups. Some execs are better on the player development side or on the contract/transaction/administrative side and are stretched when trying to oversee everything AND deal with the media, as a GM generally has to do. Having been smacked in the face by the Peter Principle, they find more success a bit further down the organizational ladder.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): With all the pitching prospects, plus Zimmerman and now Bonifacio (and even the atty general now) would it make sense for the Nats to try to be a "pitching/defense" type team? The A's and Angels type success may be easier for them to accomplish than anything else.

Jay Jaffe: Well, you have to have the right talent to make it work, and the Attorney General and Mr. Good Face (isn't that the translation of Bonifacio?) still don't add up to Chone Figgins and David Eckstein, to say nothing of the relative merits of the two pitching staffs.

What the Nats really need are for their high-upside hitters to stay healthy. With Johnson, Dukes, Peņa, Kearns, Milledge and Zimmerman all seeing significant time on the DL, it's a tough row to hoe.

OK folks, one or two more and I'm out of here.

collins (greenville nc): In a Hitlist from a couple weeks ago, it was said that the NL could gain ground on the AL, although IL games are over. How can this happen? I'd have thought that NL vs NL games would be zero-sum, re: Hitlist, so a league couldn't gain other than through IL.

Jay Jaffe: This is something I have to look at more closely in a future column, but most of what goes into the Hit List Factor is about converting runs into wins and run elements into runs. When I've compared the mid- and end-of-season data from past years, it seems apparent that the larger the sample size, the more these things tend to iron out and the closer the two leagues wind up.

Mike (NJ): Yankees in the playoffs. Yes or No.

Jay Jaffe: Two weeks ago I'd have said No, and firmly. A few trades and non-trades later, plus an eight-game winning streak out of the break, and I'm more ready to allow for the possibility that they might just pull it off.

Put it this way: with Posada down for the year, Wang and Matsui threatening to be in that same boat, and Melky and Cano lost at sea, I'll be far more surprised if they make it than if they don't.

Jay Jaffe: And that's it for me. Folks, thanks for showing up to talk more baseball after what's been an exciting week with no shortage of chatter, here or elsewhere. It's always a blast to spend a couple hours chatting with you all.


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