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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday December 23, 2008 2:00 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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Having spaced her commitment to chat on Thursday the 18th, Christina Kahrl will shamefacedly take a break from working on this year's edition of the annual to answer your questions about the Winter Meetings and deals yet to come on Tuesday the 23rd.

Christina Kahrl: Howdy gang, let me lead off with an apology for last week. Here I am, fidgeting when or if somebody else might forget a chat they were booked for, and then I forgot that I'd scheduled myself. I'll be much more brief today than usual, but let's talk some baseball on a snowy December day.

Mike (Queens): Are the Mets planning on signing a starter? Santana Pelfrey Maine seems like only 3 guys to me.

Christina Kahrl: Not to mention there are reasons to worry about what the future holds for Pelfrey and Maine, and I'm not a big Niese believer. I think if they want to be serious about their shot at the NL East--and their investment in the pen makes it clear that they think they are so far--they have to sign a starter, ideally one who's a bit more reliable than Oliver Perez. Keep in mind that Omar's been busy, however, and can't be everywhere at once--they'll add a starter in January.

cclark131313 (Milwaukee): Christina, What do the Brewers do to patch up the pitching staff? Is it worth trading Corey Hart/J.J Hardy for a young starter?

Christina Kahrl: I have a lot of sympathy for Doug Melvin's lot, but he certainly seems flat-footed after making his play for Sabathia and coming up short. Hart's season really wasn't very special once you recognize it was all counting stats in a massive amount of playing time, and most GMs see that; he may not fetch anything more than a veteran rental. Hardy's very good, but the problem is that however good Escobar is, that's a bit of taking money out of one pocket and putting it into the other--dealing Hardy hurts a bid. Ideally, you want to find somebody who will deal a starter in a package that has Escobar in it, but there aren't that many quality starters available to swing this sort of deal for.

LyleCox (Cleveland): Is the Tiger's payroll so high that their name isn't even surfacing on Brian Fuentes? His price seems to be falling, and would see the Tigers as desperate for a closer.

Christina Kahrl: Skip closers, the Tigers should be desperate for relief help in general, and one high-profile signing by itself doesn't fix the pen. If anything, they're better off penciling in Zumaya as the guy who gets the most save opportunities, accepting that they have a bit of lefty help already in hand, and could use a power right-hander. I'd rather see them chasing Juan Cruz.

Ron (Vancouver): Give me 3 reasons as to why BP 2009 would make a great Christmas gift for a Baseball fan.

Christina Kahrl: Lazy reason: It's full of wit, wisdom, and insight.

Stathead reason: Beyond the usual PECOTA-powered importance from Nate, Clay's inserted a new defensive metric and adapted WARP's standard for replacement level, which tells us a few interesting things about player value.

Subtle reason: Anticipation, it's not just for catsup anymore.

MA (Athens, GA): Congrats again on your acceptance to the BBWAA! Should Braves fans look upon the team's lack of signing Burnett/Furcal as the Christmas present that turns unexpectedly into a good thing later in the year, or as the bitter, brick-like Fruitcake of despair?

Christina Kahrl: Many thanks MA, I'm definitely looking forward to what access will mean for me, and indeed, I welcome suggestions. My own idea is that I'm really going to use the card to try and breathe some life into the game story as a literary device. I'm not Damon Runyon or a Lardner TBNL, but I'd like to blend sabermetric insight with a bit of writing about the game on the field, and use that as a medium to do what I do when I go to the ballpark in the first place: enjoy the action, tell stories, reflect, and relish every element of it. Nothing beats a ballgame.

As for the Braves, I think they really need to look in the mirror. They haven't mattered in a few years now. Furcal would have been interesting, but Kelly Johnson's not a major offensive asset as an outfielder. Burnett's a pig in a (very expensive) poke. They're gunning to win 85 games when they really should be gunning for 95 to lend their immediate future any certainty.

Mike (Chicago): Any notion what Kenny Williams has in mind for the rest of the off-season? Or should have in mind?

Christina Kahrl: I have no real idea what he might be up to--a center fielder might be nice, and so too might be an additional starter on a short-term deal to leave Richard in the fifth slot, but his latest Cuban add-on has promise, and beyond a move to convert Dye into something the team can use for more than just the next year or two, I'm not sure there's much else left that needs doing.

SC (Washington, DC): Have you read/looked at the FreeDarko book? Any thoughts about creating something like that, not as much a comprehensive book but something a little lighter, prettier?

Christina Kahrl: You know, I've really been meaning to pick that book up, in no small part because I've always really liked some of the analysis that's been done in basketball the last ten years or so. Admittedly, I was responsible for publishing some of it (John Hollinger, Dean Oliver's "Basketball on Paper"), and I like what BasketballProspectus.com is doing, but really, it's because I was the sort of cross-platform sports geek who was reading all the Tendex stuff 20 years ago. In short, I think yes, something cool like that for any sport would work, and I'm looking forward to digging into a copy sometime soon.

TGisriel (Baltimore): When should the Orioles expect to receive pitching reinforcements from such prospects as Matusz, Arrieta, Tillman, or Erbe?

Christina Kahrl: I hate to think they'll all get bumped up this season, because it might be a bloodbath in some ways, but nature abhors a vacuum, and lordy did the Orioles' non-Guthries suck.

HonusCobb (Hopedale, IL): Who had a better career? Andre Dawson or Dale Murphy?

Christina Kahrl: It would be easy to say Murphy, because he was that special for a slightly longer stretch despite both men having superb peaks, but admittedly part of my take is colored by an overreaction to how awful Dawson was in the field on the downslope of his career once his knees were shot, and bad defense, sporadic slugging, and a huge number of outs just doesn't add up for me.

jnewfry (Chicago): You threw around the idea of a feed in Chicago, is that still in the works? I'm hungry!

Christina Kahrl: January, when the book's in bed and we all suddenly have free time again. But definitely, because it seems obvious that people like pizza and baseball in large doses.

BL (Bozeman): It appears to me that Dayton Moore in essence swapped Leo Nunez, RamRam, and any semblance of financial flexibility for Coco Crisp, Mike Jacobs and Kyle Farnsworth? Doesn't this series of moves seem, um, counter-productive? Do you see a worthwhile plan here?

Christina Kahrl: You left out spending $1.8 million on Horacio Ramirez (IIRC). I like the Crisp move as a win-now kind of transaction, but I savaged the Jacobs move for cause--some might think he's a win-now pickup, but he's just a placeholder, and Farnsworth and Ramirez are even less. This isn't progress, it's cosmetics, and like anything hastily slapped together, it'll melt in the summer sun.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): What's your take on Nolan Ryan's planned pitching expedition to the 1970s? Even if the Texas youngsters all avoid getting hurt will anyone follow them on the journey to 40 starts and 280 innings?

Christina Kahrl: I like what Ryan's saying conceptually, because on some level he's right--one of the causes for today's offensive levels is the amount of mound time going to third-tier talent (or worse). I don't think we're going to see 40 starts any time soon, but he's right to want to return to relief workloads that aren't defined by the habitual pursuit of slivers of situational advantage that handicap your ability to manage and develop actual pitching talent.

chip416 (Chicago, IL): Who do you see the cubs landing for RF this winter? Bradley, Dunn, Abreu? Also was there any statistical proof that players who play in the WBC in March tend to have a poor/injured full season after the March classic? (I know, sample size is small but still)

Christina Kahrl: I'd love to see them go for Abreu, if only because it would be a relatively shorter deal than Dunn and with less risk than Bradley, and he'd offer a nice broad base of offensive skills that they need from the much-desired lefty bat they have to add.

basicslop (Alb): so if Texiera sign with the BoSox today, what sort of deal will Theo be looking to make with Lowell? A straight salary dump or should they look to get something back? It's not like they have a lot of leverage in that situation.

Christina Kahrl: I don't know, between Drew's fragility, concerns over how much ground Papi's lost, and Youkilis' usefulness in all four corners, they could claim they'll spread the work around enough to be able to put a plausibly brave face on things in any negotiation. I'd expect nothing less than that Epstein will get fair value for a quality third baseman.

bianchiveloce (Anderson, SC): In light of today's economy, how would you categorize the free agent market up to this point? Below expectations, about what was thought to occur, or above expectations? Please explain your reasonings.

Christina Kahrl: I think it's worked out about the way that we expected--everyone waiting on something to happen with Sabathia, because the losers in that bidding might then be that much more heavily in on Teixeira. The Meetings themselves were sort of like last year's deadline, in that there was plenty of movement beforehand, and by the time we got to the event itself, most teams seem to be pondering their next move. We've seen more and more January/February activity in recent years, and that's going to continue, and there's nothing forcing their hands to move fast, especially when waiting on a lot of people can drive down their price.

Shane (Miami): Season's Greetings Christina! How many games do you think Matt Wieters will catch this year over/under 120 and what kind of numbers should we expect?

Christina Kahrl: I'm bet on 100 or so, with a good number of starts at DH to let Aubrey Huff do some damage in the field and continue to be something beyond just a DH.

jerjapan (Toronto): Merry Christmas Christina! What should the Blue Jays wish for under the Christmas tree?

Christina Kahrl: Three starting pitchers? Dave Stieb circa 1981 to step out of the wayback machine? Global warming to swallow up Boston and New York and St. Petersburg? Realignment?

Goose (Chicago): Why do people bring up the current economy when talking about MLB free agents? Since when has MLB played by the same rules as other industries? Apples to oranges...

Christina Kahrl: I think the current economy makes for a ready excuse for teams to act as they've already started to when it comes to signing people late, but I also think it's fair to speculate about how much money some of the owners have lost (John Henry, for example). We don't know, but the really important (and unknowable) factor here is to what extent people who hold the checkbooks feel they have a problem and decide to act on that, as opposed to whether or not they really actually can afford it. It's the madness of crowds and all that, and a lot of people are genuinely frightened. Whether that changes in the next few months is something we can't say; the Great Fear in the French Revolution, for example, had very little to do with actual dangers, but the sensibility captured under that nebulous term had an enormous impact.

Joe (Tewksbury, MA): What do you think the market is for Ben Sheets? I'd love to see the Red Sox get him as I believe he's at least as good as Burnett and will cost have as much in years and dollars. Does 2/30 get it done for him?

Christina Kahrl: Took the words right out of my mouth, Joe, that's about where I'd see his price tag making all sorts of sense to a contender. He's too much of a risk for that third year, but it might wind up being a situation where a vesting option with a reasonable target for vesting--akin to Kerry Wood's deal--gets it done.

Omar Bradley (Valhalla): Sandy Alderson: Still something of a sabremetric hero, or have his services on behalf of MLB and Decepticon John Moores tarnished his image?

Christina Kahrl: I think that latter bit's overstated. The man came into the game as a lawyer who worked on the transition of the Athletics from a team owned by Charlie Finley to a team that had to get busy getting modern. In any role, he's a professional doing a job, and who comes at problem-solving with intelligence. The results--with the A's with MLB, and with the Pads--are all easy to criticize in spots, but that goes with his doing the jobs that he takes on. Nobody gets to ride the white horse all the day every day--why should it be any different in baseball?

David (Sonoma State University, CA): Did my senior thesis on the Holy League (1571) and debated the significance of the Battle at Lepanto. Thoughts?

Christina Kahrl: Pope Pius never had to say "I am the decider." Of course, he also never coined the term "islamofascism" either. A fabuous topic, I hope it turned out well, David.

dianagramr (NYC): Hiya Christina .... Happy Holidays to you and your dingo ... I believe Crisp is a FA after '09. Assuming Melky Cabrera doesn't improve, is Crisp a reasonable pursuit for the Bombers. As for as BP2009 goes, any chance at all that it might be available as an ebook?

Christina Kahrl: Hi Diana, happy holidays to you too. Crisp's actually subject to a club option in 2010 as well, so it's not his call. I don't see the Royals peddling him this July because I don't think that at that point they'll have been beaten around the head with the reality stick enough about how they're still shy of fielding a contender.

Kindle's obviously changing the game on eBooks, so while I was a sensible skeptic six or seven years ago about how that generation of eBook readers would work out, I think the number of other factors in play in terms of what's technologically possible is having an impact on publishers and consumers alike. It won't happen this year, but it is something we're evaluating for the future.

Rich (Columbus, OH): Does anybody want Juan Pierre? Besides the obvious choices of family and friends, there doesn't seem to be any entities known as 'baseball teams' interested. Could you give us Dodger fans some solace? You could even lie to us, and tell us a big 3-team deal is in the works for Pierre. We'll buy it, hoping against hope.

Christina Kahrl: How about trading him to The Netherlands and forgetting to take him back when the WBC is over?

Batterup (Oakland): What's the real story on Swisher's decline this year? Getting adjusted to a new team can't be the excuse forever. BP had said that he was "an incredibly valuable pull hitter perfectly suited" for the Cell. Shouldn't he be hitting 35 HRs? How do you think he will he do with the Yankees?

Christina Kahrl: On some level, I think the fact that Swisher's always been seen as a very emotional player, and that didn't fit well with a team that's run a bit... emotionally. Asking him to play center and then later taking him in and out of the lineup didn't do him him any favors. Yes, he should be hitting 35 homers, but I really wonder how well he'll adapt to New York. This isn't Paul O'Neill we're talking about.

Brian (Champaign, IL): It looks like the Cubs have essentially traded Kerry Wood for Kevin Gregg in the bullpen. How worried should I be?

Christina Kahrl: I'm one of the few who thinks that Gregg was doing just fine before he hurt his knee and went to pieces in August, and can do just fine closing or setting up Marmol. I would have rather they also signed Wood to give the team a solid trio, but it seems obvious that multi-year payroll management was a consideration.

David (Sonoma State University, CA): S.I.'s Jon Heyman is reporting that the Yanks have signed Teixeira.

Christina Kahrl: If true that would be a big triumph for the Yankees, because they would have landed the best pickings from both halves of the market (and elected to put Swisher in an outfield corner). That said, I'm still laughing over the rush to assess Rafael Furcal's impact on the Braves.

Dennis (Chicago): Which of Abreu, Dunn or Burrell ends up with the Rays? How many years and how many dollars?

Christina Kahrl: I kind of fancy the idea of Burrell being the one, because he seems to get short shrift, and because of that, he might take less to land than Dunn or Abreu. I won't be surprised if it's three years and $50 million.

abernethyj (Chapel Hill, NC): Your take on the Furcal snafu with the Braves and the Dodgers? Congratulations, by the way.

Christina Kahrl: In some ways, this reminds me of what I remember happening with Bobby Bonilla during his free agency after 1991, in that he shopped an offer until he found someone who could top it; at that time, I think there was concern that the Phillies actually hadn't offered Bonilla the money his representation told the Mets he'd been offered, and that got him a deal the Mets overpaid on while leaving the Phillies a bit miffed. So, the Braves won't deal with this particular agent ever again--so?

hurling (Akron): It looks to me like K-Rod at 3/37 is better than Wood at 2/21 (with option for year 3). Did Shapiro overpay for Wood?

Christina Kahrl: Actually, I take it the other way around--I like Wood's deal being segmented, because if he suffers a major injury in the middle of his first season, say another Tommy John, then the option's almost automatically dead. In that instance, his health would have had an impact on two seasons instead of three; in contrast, if K-Rod blows a gasket halfway through year one, that's two separate seasons that are impacted, *and* you're on the hook for a third. That matters more than the actual performances--they'll be roughly equally valuable in their roles if healthy.

engelhar (SF): What do the A's do now that Furcal is a lost cause? SS was the easiest position to get a lot better, any other FAs they should be looking at other than Randy?

Christina Kahrl: I really worry that they're stuck, because where Furcal would have made a huge difference from what they were getting, that gambit's gone. If anything, they might be better off trying to trade for one of the blocked shortstop prospects. Heck, ask Ned about Mr. Hu.

Gray (Chicago): Milton bradley would play 70 games this season if forced to play RF in Chicago. Why doesn't Jim Hendry realize this?

Christina Kahrl: Because Bradley's hitting really can be that special, and other smart people have taken this same risk. It's almost like a more extreme variation on the bets people made on Cliff Floyd, for cause, and usually with a big of disappointment.

James (San Diego, CA): Which of these three outfielders do you see having a better season in 2009? A.Rios, Granderson or Markakis. Thanks

Christina Kahrl: I guess I automatically put Granderson and Markakis over Rios because both are developing wonderfully well... because of their relative ages, I'd pick Markakis, where going into last year I like to think I'd have picked Granderson. This isn't meant as a criticism of any of them.

Patton1941 (NYC): Any word on who is looking to sign Jon Garland?

Christina Kahrl: Whoever overreacts to not getting one of the premium starters (with the Brewers representing one candidate). A move to the NL might at least help them feel better about getting him.

CC (TN): Assuming 180 days in a season, what is the over/under on the number of days Burnett spends on the DL during his 5-year contract?

Christina Kahrl: Hrm... an interesting calculation. 150 seems a bit low, and I guess I expect something bad happening at some point. How about 270?

mwball75 (Cincy, OH): Yanks Sign Teixeira... thoughts?

Christina Kahrl: It's exactly the move they should have made, perhaps as much or more than Sabathia, and I'm glad for them that making their mistake with Burnett didn't circumscribe their ability to work something out where it might really matter. It seems clear they want to leverage the A-Rod/Jeter/Posada team before having to turn the page, and at eight years and $180M, Tex becomes a key component years after Jeter and Posada are gone.

HRF (Milwaukee): Hypothetical: Say you have a player with a slash line of .250/.285/.900. Yes, none of that line is a typo. Where does he bat in the order and what is his actual value?

Christina Kahrl: This is sort of cute, but for me, if you're telling me a guy can slug .900 no matter what, I bat him first or second (depending on the league). That's a near-automatic four runs per game, and nothing's keeping you from scoring more from the other eight slots. Not that such a player would wind up with an OBP of .285--people would start walking him in ways that not even a bad-ball masher like Vladi Guerrero might be able to combat.

Eli (Brooklyn): Now that the Yankees have Tex, what do you think of their offeason? It seems pretty good, albeit insanely expensive. What would their ideal lineup be, with the Matsui/Damon/Melky/Swisher/Nady outfield mess?

Christina Kahrl: I like it, and I like that mess--Nady gets used as a platoon player, as he should be, Damon and Matsui DH a lot, and you mark time in center until Austin Jackson's ready.

doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Would you rather have the next 7 years of Jon Lester or Zack Greinke? How about Clay Kershaw or Francisco Liriano?

Christina Kahrl: Lester and Liriano, but that's as much about who they're with as it is a comment strictly about their talent.

Eric (Denver): If the A's sign Jason Giambi, how would that impact Jack Cust, Daric Barton, and Travis Buck? Does Giambi play first with Barton going to the bench or minors? Does Giambi DH with Barton staying at first and then Cust moving to the outfield, thus displacing Buck, or does Cust go to the bench?

Christina Kahrl: I think this potentially impacts Barton more than anybody, because while the A's don't see Cust as unplayable in the outfield, it seems more likely that he'll get more DH time than outfield play, and that means Giambi'd be playing a lot of first base.

Ken (Los Angeles, CA): Now that the Yanks have Tex, is there anywhere for Manny to go but the Dodgers?

Christina Kahrl: There's certainly an element of logic to it, because I don't really see him getting anything resembling his wished-for compensation almost anywhere else. It might be funny to see the Angels get in on him, though, with Kendry Morales at first and Vladi and Manny alternating between their respective corners and the DH slot, Juan Rivera bouncing between right and left depending on which one's DHing... that's be fun, if nothing else.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Who should start for Cleveland's outfield this year? Should LaPorta be starting in left with Choo in right?

Christina Kahrl: I figure LaPorta gets into the left-field picture at some point, with Ben Francisco holding the fort in the meantime before moving to right and platooning with Choo once LaPorta's up.

kevin (boston): hypothetical: say the yankees start off the season 15-20. Which of the following will happen first: girardi gets fired, hank punches a the first hole in the wall at yankees stadium, or he orders a hole dug in the yankees dugout to re-plant that redsox jersey they dug up?

Christina Kahrl: After this spending spree, I think that, yes, the dangers that Joe Girardi's in waters Yogi Berra once swam are very real. Nothing like that much money getting spent to make a statement that nothing short of success right now this very instant is acceptable.

Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Is there anyone the Nats should be pursuing?

Christina Kahrl: If they're intend on spending money where they might get value *and* have someone people might give you good stuff to get for themselves at a trade deadline in the next few years, maybe you give something multi-yeared to Garland or Randy Wolf, or something in a one-year flavor for Bartolo Colon.

mhixpgh (Pittsburgh): What baseball related items do you hope to find in your stocking or under your tree this season?

Christina Kahrl: Heehee... I may as close on this note because I have to get back to working on the book and working out what we might do to cover Teixeira's signing, but I'm always hopeful that I get a copy of Light's "Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball" some year. Sokolove's book on Darryl Strawberry ("The Ticket Out"?) has always been on my wish list as well. I'd also love to get a copy of Dan Levitt's biography of Ed Barrow and Lowenfish's bio of Branch Rickey.

Christina Kahrl: With that, sorry to cut things short folks, but I've writing to get done before turning my attention to the holidays for about 48 hours or so. I hope everybody has a wonderful holiday season, safe trips all around for those of us hitting the road, and that you get a chance to spend time with loved ones. And thanks as well to everyone who's taken the time to congratulate Will and I (and Rob and Keith) for the recent turn of events, I really appreciate it, and would that I had the time at this time of year to write back to all of you to show my gratitude.


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