When she's not looking at the latest roster moves, Christina Kahrl's settling in for a long conversation about baseball with all of you, so fire whatever questions you have her way.
Christina Kahrl: Hail comrades and fellow wage slaves, hope you're enjoying Labor Day as much or more than I have already; nothing beats an early-morning swim in the lake with the dog followed by some baseball, right?
strupp (Madison): Happy Labor Day CK... Do the Cubs spend the offseason rebuilding, retooling or some combination? If they're content to let Harden go, as the rumours insist, wouldn't they need to bring a starting pitcher back?
Christina Kahrl: Happy LD back atcha. Given the relative untradeability of some of the big-ticket contracts they have on the roster, the relative paucity of worthwhile prospects, and the absence of any great team in the division, it has to be a matter of re-tooling. As far as a starter, they might slum about a bit to find a functional veteran for their fourth or fifth man, but it isn't the rotation that needs fixing, it's being able to get better production out of Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, and especially Alfonso Soriano. Sori needs to send thank-you notes to MB on a daily basis, because perhaps nobody else could keep a season so miserable off of the front page.
Tim (Queens): Tim Hudson? Should we prepare for a Big comeback in 2010?
Christina Kahrl: I suspect he'll be a worthwhile third starter again, and as a result, someone on the cusp of getting eight large per annum from his next employer. This winter's free-agent market's going to be a bit fun/funny, in that somebody's going to get a Suppan-sized deal the team will regret; if that's Jason Marquis or Rich Harden, I wouldn't be surprised, but it won't be Tim Hudson.
eneff1 (Berkeley, CA): Does the inclusion of Sean Rodriguez as the PTBNL in the Scott Kazmir trade change your opinion on it at all?
Christina Kahrl: I followed up on that element the next day, and no, not substantially. Rodriguez isn't going to stick at shortstop, and murdilating pitching in Utah in a repeat engagement isn't exactly a rare talent, as good as Rodriguez is. I don't think he'll be the next Jeff Kent, but I do think he can be a solid regular at second. The problem as I see it is that a solid regular at second is an easier commodity to find than a quality rotation regular. For me, the deal still boils down to how good Torres winds up, and that could be very good.
Tim (NYC): Maybin? Reaches full potential next year?
Christina Kahrl: I think so, and I really don't get why the Marlins waited around on him while indulging Emilio Bonifacio's insufferable outiness.
BambinosCurse (Boston): To what extent do you consider Dusty Baker a good manager? In 16 years of managing, his first year was his best, and his record on teams sans Bonds is below .500. He's had Cubs teams with talent and never won more than 90 games, and his record with young pitchers is atrocious. I don't see the substance behind the reputation.
Christina Kahrl: I've been willing to concede that Baker, while no tactician, might have his uses as a veteran skipper of a predominantly veteran ballclub. Paired with a GM with a strong grip on personnel decisions, he can have value. In the abstract, I'd have thought that he and Walt Jocketty would be a good tandem, but then you wind up with Willy Taveras, and it looks more like a murder/suicide pact.
mo (vegas): Hi CK, if the Orioles are to pursue JJHardy, which of Bergersen, Berken or David Hernandez is a win-win situation for both clubs? and how would you rank those 3? thanks
Christina Kahrl: I doubt that just one would make the deal work for the Brewers, not unless they're on happy pills on somebody no named Tillman, Matusz, or Arrieta. From those three you've named, Hernandez, Bergesen, and never mind.
Drew W (NoVA): Andrew Bailey for ROY?
Christina Kahrl: It's going to be a bit of a goofy class in the AL, ain't it? Bailey's got a few things going for him, but so do a few others.
Sweet Lou (Pittsburgh, PA): Andy LaRoche; failure, or too early to tell?
Christina Kahrl: Too early to tell. As I said yesterday in TA, Neil Walker's got his uses, LaRoche has mashed lefties, and maybe that's a 50/50 job-sharing arrangement where Walker also gets some at-bats in the outfield or over at first base.
jlebeck66 (WI): I get it that Iannetta's hitting .220, but why has Tracy started Torrealba six of the last seven games (as of 9/5)? Argh! Sorry... Strat league frustration.
Christina Kahrl: The fascination with Torrealba is like there's a rampant case of popular delusions on the value of some guys, not just the Molinas not names Yadier, but also Rod Barajas, Jeff Mathis... it's like a badge of honor to play catchers who can't hit and won't.
Christopher (Nashville): Is Adam Jones' sprained ankle a blessing in disguise? Will Felix Pie take advantage of his big chance? If so, will the Orioles be able to flip this bona fide everyday center fielder for two infield prospects and a bullpen arm? Or will the musical chairs platoon system continue through next year? (Not such a bad thing)
Christina Kahrl: I'm glad to see Pie establish himself somewhat more than most, but he's not going to bring back that kind of package. Given Jones has gotten banged up in consecutive seasons, and that there's the DH slot available to rotate everyone through, it seems to me the Orioles would do well to hang on to Pie until they get an offer worth considering. They need a shortstop, but they won't get a worthwhile upgrade for just Pie.
Todd (Wasilla, AL): What's a reasonable expectation for Erik Bedard in 2010, given his health?
Christina Kahrl: As propositions go, that's a strange way to ask about Bedard. *If* he were healthy, he'd be a swell pitcher to have, but "if" is a powerful word. If I were fabulously wealthy, I'd take vacations more often than once a decade, for example. Bedard's going to get a better deal than, say, Carl Pavano did last winter, but a heavily incentivized contract makes sense, because if Bedard's healthy, then he'd be good enough to be an important part of a contending team's front three.
Aaron (YYZ): Doesn't the AL ROY almost have to be Elvis Andrus? He's the 8th most valuable SS (by WAR) in all of baseball (and the 9th best SS offensively by wOBA)
Christina Kahrl: Why use wOBA when EqA's testably more accurate? Referring to the following BP sortable-stats page, Andrus is the 11th best by EqA among the 27 MLB regulars at short, and 12th by EqR. Make it a matter of the AL, and he's seventh by EqR, and sixth by EqA. Decent work, certainly, and that's without getting into his value on defense. But then there's also Gordon Beckham, and a few other notables. Andrus' hot hitting in the second half certainly helps elevate his overall case.
James (Georgia): What year do the Nationals start competing?
Christina Kahrl: 2013, assuming the Lerners stay out of the way. If they don't, I'll take "never" with an extra dose of "in geologic time" for flavor.
Bill (New Mexico): Any thoughts yet on post-season roster construction, Christina? The way contenders have been acquiring spare parts, there are clearly going to have to be some interesting players left off the NLDS and ALDS rosters. Who do you expect to be among them? Who should be?
Christina Kahrl: As I'll get into a bit with tonight's TA on the Easts, there's certainly a bit of gamesmanship going on this year, as teams more effectively utilize the fact that the rules basically let you add anyone you were employing as of the deadline; if you want a particular pinch-runner, a fabulously non-descript third catcher, or whatever, you can make it so. Spare starters, almost to a man, should be out of luck if they aren't adaptable to long-relief roles; it seems as if more teams understand that they should only go so far as 11 pitchers, if even that many. The question is whether or not the Jamie Moyers of the world will get sulky where, say, Jason Marquis accepted his lot last season when it came to being left off.
paulbellows (Calgary): JJ Hardy to the Twins for assorted pitching goodies?
Christina Kahrl: The Twins' pitching goodies generally seem to involve limited ceilings and mediocrity. Where that might have worked for the Brewers in some eras, I suspect Doug Melvin wants something more than that, and should be capable of getting it this winter.
krissbeth (watertown, ma): Given the Hall of Fame's inclusion of players who played exclusively in the Negro Leagues, should the Hall induct a small number of the best female players from American professional leagues?
Christina Kahrl: With anything related to the Hall of Fame, I think we need to keep the Hall's real purpose in mind: Will it help get tourists to Cooperstown?
Mike (Utica,NY): What has happend to Matt Wieters, is he an Alex Gordon redux? Also out of all the rookies this year, whom do you think will have the best career?
Christina Kahrl: We can answer that in a couple of ways. Is he like Alex Gordon, in that he's something less than the hype? Yes. Is he like Alex Gordon, in that it's way too soon to give up on him? Also very much yes.
As far as the rookies and the best careers, between Andrew McCutchen, Fowler, Hanson, and Beckham, that's a really hard question to answer. Hanson's the one who makes me really wonder, even with the understanding that pitchers are the least predictable commodities.
cbelford (Chicago): Thanks for the chat Christina...Are the Rays actually considering trading Carl Crawford?
Christina Kahrl: It would reflect a more studied commitment to true salary dumping than the Kazmir deal, since he's only under control for one more season before free agency (via a club option), and they'd be forgoing the pick(s) he might instead engender.
philliesopher1 (NY NY): decisions for Phillies in the offseason to upgrade on Ruiz and Feliz. Ruiz has shown something more this year, so that might be static, but what about a M.Taylor for Alex Gordon swap?
Christina Kahrl: As much as we could have just as easily have asked the same question as far as needing upgrades at third and catcher last winter, that's interesting to think about. The Royals did just trade away a problem child in Danny Gutierrez, after all, and maybe this is what Dayton Moore's feeling empowered to do, deal away prospects he's not all that wild about. I'd certainly love to see what Gordon could do in the weaker league in a bandbox with Charlie Manuel giving him pointers on hitting, since that would all equal good stuff, but somehow I doubt the Royals are really about to ditch Gordon.
David (Wisconsin): Who is the Colorado CF next year and beyond, Gonzalez or Fowler?
Christina Kahrl: Fowler. He's a better bet as an everyday solution there over the long term, and I figure CarGo's arm will get him put into right field eventually.
mattymatty (Philly): What can the Red Sox do to solve the gaping hole at shortstop this off season? Is Jed Lowrie really the solution?
Christina Kahrl: Call the Brewers. What's the point of having muscle in terms of cash and talent if you can't go out and get the best available option?
Johnny (Florida): Can we officially crown Ryan Zimmerman as the best 3B in baseball yet?
Christina Kahrl: No, we can't. A-Rod's still great, and this is an era when we have Evan Longoria and David Wright both going strong. As much as I really love watching Zimmerman, especially afield, it's just not a cut-and-dried proposition.
strupp (Madison): "With anything related to the Hall of Fame, I think we need to keep the Hall's real purpose in mind: Will it help get tourists to Cooperstown?"
Would you like to remind your fellow BBWAA members of this over the next few years, especially if the threat of not voting in anyone who may or may not have been in the steroid era comes to fruition... Cooperstown needs Induction Day to make money.
Christina Kahrl: I find the threat noxious, especially coming from some folks who apparently have no compunction voting for and burnishing the images of amphetamine users. Re-read "Ball Four"; the suggestion that the game was ever "clean" strikes me as yet another bad/fanciful notion invented by Baby Boomers who have so busily invented some perfect past that never was. The game's the game, ugly and beautiful, shameful and great, all at once, and always has been.
Jacob (Kentucky): Josh Willingham- Fluke or legit? His numbers are among the top 3 OF in all of baseball.
Christina Kahrl: I don't see it. Even if you limit the proposition to just left fielders, he's fourth behind Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez, and Ryan Braun. His performance at this specific level is fluky, but he'll be a good contributor for the next several seasons.
Dan (Denver, CO): Where would you rank Tony LaRussa amongst the offseason's Free Agent class?
Christina Kahrl: A very specific fix for teams with very specific needs, and as such, very valuable to a very few.
Sharky (The Deep End): Christina, can you offer your take on two NL outfielders, Raul Ibanez and Garrett Jones?
Both had surprising performances this year. Ibanez has been AWFUL in the second half. Maybe he's injured?
Garrett Jones just hasn't let up. When the clock strikes 12, will he be a pumpkin again? Or is he here to stay (sort of a Ryan Ludwick type late-bloomer)? Thanks!
Christina Kahrl: Re: Ibanez, I'm reminded of one old Strat opponent who always liked to mildly observe, "it all evens out in the end." I never really bought into that (Willingham's season is going to look insanely great relative to the rest of his career no matter what, for example), but it certainly seems that somebody's applied a leveller of some sort. Jones might be a latter-day Paul Sorrento of sorts, in that he's always had employable power, and simply needed the opportunity; Jones has helped himself by being employable enough in an outfield corner, but first base is really the position he'll wind up at, sort of the same way Sorrento had to diversify. That's the nature of first base, if you're not someone like Pujols (superstar moving from another position) or Prince Fielder (drafter to be a superstar), you need to make a great impression with what opportunities you do get. Witness what's happened to Daric Barton, or how long it took Carlos Pena to finally stick; if you blow an opportunity, competition for playing time at first base is *fierce*.
mattymatty (Philly): "Call the Brewers. What's the point of having muscle in terms of cash and talent if you can't go out and get the best available option?"
Isn't the best available option a bit farther south in Miami? Or maybe he's not available, but considering their attendance, might he be?
Christina Kahrl: He's not.
Tommybones (Brooklyn): Hughes to the rotation and Joba back to the pen in 2010? I'm tired of these guys dominating in the pen, then falling apart in the rotation. What gives?
Christina Kahrl: Leave it to New Yorkers to be nervous nellies. Guy has a bad month, and people freak out? Welcome to baseball the way it is most everyplace. Let Andy Pettitte scram, move Hughes back to a starting role, and let Joba be Joba in the rotation. And then enjoy the results, because they'll be good.
Nick (Allston, MA): There's been a lot of chatter lately about what the Mets need to do going forward. If some deep pocketed team (like say the Red Sox) came along and was willing to take on the $80M owed Beltran, Reyes and Perez the next two seasons, and give the Mets some ready-now guys to plug in (say, Reddick, Lowrie, Tazawa), does it make sense?
Christina Kahrl: That's not going to happen. I guess I look at what's in place and who they're committed to, and I don't see the Mets being able to tear-down all that effectively. They're essentially built to win or die; this season's death aside, they've still got the kernel of a contending team in the weak league, and taking middling talents like Reddick and Lowrie does them very little good, now or well into the future.
HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): The Nationals are so far down that it's hard to see the light at the top of the pit. However, it seems to me that the transactions the Nats will need to concern themselves with first are those that continue to dismantle the Bowden/MLB structure that led to this mess.
Mike Rizzo has let a few player personnel people go already, and hopefully will continue that work. Do you believe, like I do, that Jim Riggleman should also be thanked and dismissed, and replaced with Bobby Valentine? Valentine seems to last only so long before he grates on his colleagues and leaves, but in the meantime he seems to be able to pull teams out of the cellar.
Christina Kahrl: You're assuming Bobby Valentine would touch a job offer from the Nats with a ten-foot pole, and I sincerely doubt that. Given that the club has no internal candidate intimately familiar with the prospects they've got already, I'd actually suggest Riggs as a decent placeholder for the time being. He's a decent tactician, and familiar with the dissatisfactions of slow, ugly rebuilds from his days with the Padres. If Rizzo's comfortable working with him, you could do worse.
Shawne Merriman (Jail): If I played baseball, everybody would hate me for using steroids and domestic assault. But I'm a hero in football.
Christina Kahrl: Ding! I'm always amused how people rail on baseball (and really just the hitters, nobody seems to want to talk about steroids and the saves record, or steroids and strikeout rates), yet nobody's bemoaning the fact that the Steelers won their first four Super Bowls on steroids, or that the Raiders made it to their last Super Bowl on steroids. If it was *just* a double standard in play, whatever would we make of it? Golly.
mattymatty (Philly): Christina, big fan. What do you make of the recent success of players like Smoltz, Penny, and Lee (and many more I could mention) who have gone from the AL to the NL and just dominated as soon as they go there? Is the difference between the leagues really that massive?
Christina Kahrl: The difference can be exaggerated in individually small packets (or even Penny-packets) of playing time. Penny had a great day--swell, so did Mike Warren upon a time. Jose Contreras blew a lousy Snakes lineup away. Shocking, really. Smoltz had great gigs against two bad teams, and had trouble with the Brewers. Can we draw a conclusion? No, not really, not on this level of granularity. The NL's weaker, and Jay Jaffe recently did a nifty piece on how that's not a simple "by this much" proposition, but I don't think this means we should expect stardom from Smoltz or Penny or Contreras.
Andy (Chicago): What are your thoughts on the NL Cy Young, who *should* win it and who you *will* win it?
Christina Kahrl: It should be Lincecum again, but that might not be story arc-sexy in the same way that voting for Chris Carpenter would be.
Carlos (CA): Which of the Angels' impending free agents - Vlad, Lackey, Figgins, Abreu - should the team zero in on resigning? If none of them, who do you think their top off-season target should be?
Christina Kahrl: I guess I put these in three categories: Lackey (who you try to keep, even at market prices), Vladi (who you offer a low-end one-year or year-plus-option deals, or he's gone), and Figgy and Abreu, who I'd go multiple years on if they're willing to sign relatively cheaply.
Akneeland (Arizona): Who do you see in the Minnesota rotation next year? Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn are almost givens, considering their manager/pitching coach. But will Manship or Duensing stick? Will Pavano stay in town? How about a free agent signing this winter?
Christina Kahrl: Betting on Carl Pavano seems dodgy; I like Duensing as a fourth or fifth guy, and with the other in-house options, I'd be totally unsurprised if the Twins don't add a token veteran for camp competition.
jtreadway (Caribbean Sea): You're Snakeskin Boots Colletti for a day at the winter meetings. Given that your major league rotation and upper level minors are relatively thin at the moment, are you still trying to get Adrian Gonzalez, and if so, how hard are you trying?
Christina Kahrl: First off, maybe it's growing up on a ranch talking, but if I'm wearing boots, they better be of a kind I'm not afraid to wear outdoors. Second, I keep after Adrian Gonzalez with a passion, because he's signed through 2011 for a lot less than it will take to sign a similarly valuable bat.
paulbellows (Calgary): Could Randy Ruiz be the next Ryan Ludwick?
Christina Kahrl: I very much doubt it.
JoshC77 (Columbus): Hi Christina...Love your work, it always brightens my day. Quick question on my beloved Reds.
The Reds haven't had a legit SS since Barry Larkin retired and they have no real prospects lined up at the position (particularly with Chris Valaika struggling mightily in AAA). What do the Reds do for 2010 if they can't bring in a FA or trade acquisition? Could they move Brandon Phillips back to SS or is he too valuable at this point at 2b? It just seems like the franchise has a number of guys who would be better fits at 2b. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Christina Kahrl: Hi Josh, thank you for the kind words. I've been suggesting Phillips as their best-possible answer at short for a couple of seasons now, especially given that they play in a bandbox and can't really afford to wind up with some slick-fielding offensive non-entity when they're already shy of star players in the lineup. An infield with Votto and Rolen at the corners, Phillips at short, and Todd Frazier at second might not be enough to carry that outfield, but it's a start in the right direction.
mpayton (Manassas Park,VA): I hope you are having a great restful Labor Day. Is it possible that MLB will realign its leagues/divisions to get more of a level playing field? It appears that if Balt-Cle-Cin-Pit-Was were in the same division, most of those teams would be competing for that division's title. It sure would energize the fans bases in those cities. Across MLB there would be more interest with NYY-NYM in division, Rays-Marlins, etc. What do you think?
Christina Kahrl: I guess I'm not really buying what you're proposing, although I do like the idea of going back to two divisions and inviting two wild card teams per league as a way to actually give some hope and faith to teams like Baltimore and Toronto (among others). Let's face it, we're beyond the Rubicon as far as introducing the Wild Card to baseball, so why not make a stronger case for each league's best teams to make it to the postseason? Of course, I'm an anti-interleaguer, so my two cents are perhaps not even worth that much.
tommybones (brooklyn): What are your thoughts on the Kendrick/Izturis platoon? Who's the 2B going into 2010?
Christina Kahrl: Talk about a nice problem to have... me, I keep them both, and favor Kendrick as far as the playing time at second. Izturis can be patched in at third if Figgins doesn't come back and if Wood flops, and he can also man short if Aybar gets hurt. He's another year away from free agency, so he's a great example of the kind of guy you keep and go through the nuisance of arbitration with; he'll be 29 next year, after all.
Christina Kahrl: With that, I've got an Eric Seidman article to edit, Joe Sheehan filed a Prospectus Today a little bit ago I need to run up as well, and there's some TA writing to do. Who said Labor Day's a holiday, anyway? With that, hope you're enjoying some baseball, and enjoy the stretch run.