Check in today to catch Christina Kahrl, happily gabbling about game stories, transactions, or a Habsburg restoration, depending on what you're asking.
Christina Kahrl: Hi gang, it's a Monday without baseball here in Chicago, so I'm delighted to spend a toasty afternoon indoors chatting about the great game with all of you. Without further ado...
CTM (Houston, TX): Your opinion of the following proposed trade: Astros Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler.
Christina Kahrl: This would be ghastly, especially for the Rangers. Pence may not really stick as much more than a filler in a corner in the better league, and the Rangers already have that on their bench in the form of David Murphy. Putting him in center seems a stretch, so he doesn't fix that problem. And then how do you replace Kinsler, bump Michael Young to the keystone and put Chris Davis at third? Arias and Blanco aren't viable everyday players. And all of this to get Oswalt, an older, shorter right-hander with health issues, coming to the DH league? As Eric Seidman argued this morning, I think any deal for Oswalt's only going to yield pennies on the dollar, given his contract. He's worth more to the Astros as an Astro than as something to dangle and then wangle with.
psychdoc777 (Chicago): At the beginning of the season, who could have imagined such a lackluster group of players making up the American League leaderboard for home runs? Is the National League finally catching up in terms of talent?
Christina Kahrl: It's certainly a weird list, isn't it? Not that I don't enjoy seeing Paul Konerko beating off Father Time, again; I expect that career-ending hip issue Tommy Lasorda conjured up more than a decade ago as a matter of CYA is bound to catch up to Konerko someday. For myself, I think it makes for a fascinating question about what's to come. Does anybody expect Jose Bautista to reach 30? He certainly doesn't have to in order to wind up with a career year. Ty Wigginton's doing enough good stuff to keep attention from focusing on "Garrett Atkins, Needless Expense in Cleats" when it comes to journeymen employed as Orioles. But here again, does this mean he's going to double his season tally with more than two-thirds of the season to play? Anybody expect that?
It makes for an interesting proposition as far as who might end up winning an MVP award: One of the Twins' towers? Somebody who has a great second half for a late-charging contender? A pitcher? But I don't take it for a minute to mean that the NL's caught up to anybody--their list of HR leaders is almost as freaky, with Kelly Johnson and Rod Barajas up there.
dianagramr (NYC): Hey Christina ... thanks for the chat.
Are we seeing a decline in the era of star multi-dimensional CFers (decline of Beltran, concerns over Sizemore, seemingly with similar injuries?)
Christina Kahrl: Hi Diane, thanks for popping by. I don't really think that's the case, but maybe it's just my lasting faith in Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen. It might be too soon to put Desmond Jennings in the conversation, but he's worth keeping in mind as well.
HalfStreet (Fairfax VA): Who the heck do the Nats use in place of Ivan Rodriguez for the next couple of weeks? Wil Nieves as the statrer is bad enough, but there is nobody else available.
Christina Kahrl: As you know, Chris Coste is out for the year, and they've pressed Jamie Burke up to Syracuse to get him back in gear ASAP. And last I heard, Jesus Flores hasn't even tried to catch yet in his slow rehab. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a mercy-minded swap get made if Burke can't be ready in time, but it reflects an interesting industry-wide issue: the lack of readily available free talent behind the plate. It seems worse this year than it has been in recent memory, but the extent to which that's true deserves further exploration.
Mike (Chicago): I know it's a small sample, but as a Cub fan I don't understand what to do when Starlin Castro comes up and outperforms the hype for even a little while. Cub prospects are supposed to fail, doesn't he know this?
Christina Kahrl: Maybe the memo doesn't get published in Spanish? I figure it's just fun to watch. Yes, he's raw in some of the same ways that Dunston was at the beginning, but we'll see how much more comes of his initial campaign.
Rubes (Villanova, PA): With the worst record in the NL, do you think it's time for Houston GM Ed Wade to start performing his flamboyant magic again like he did in Philly? I mean, he took a Philly team that had the #1 draft pick in 1998 and magically turned them into World Champions a few years later.
Christina Kahrl: It's that sort of thinking that got Bill Bavasi his next shot as a GM in Seattle, producing a quandary it took some serious creative thinking to try and work around. I wouldn't bank on reverse-logic magicks in this case. I'm reminded of John Milius' recollection about being flown out to location to visit Coppola out in the Phillippines. At that point, Apocalypse Now is desperately behind schedule and over-budget. Milius is supposed to reign him in and inject a dose of reality; instead, Coppola convinces him that he can make this work. Wade got the job saying he could fend off the collapse everyone was predicting; he sort of did with what I call the "kamikaze run" of 2008, but now it's here, and they're desperately over-budget, and the schedule for a rebuild is a little closer, but the situation's still dire because the farm system has long been something of a stepchild. It's better than it was two or three years ago, but not a lot better. Firing Wade now would be sort of silly, having reaped the transit benefits of giving him his head; this was always going to be a rebuild that was going to rank with the Pirates' in terms of top-to-bottom necessity. Since McLane (and Tal Smith) are as noisily involved as ever, who would even want to walk into that job?
TLivingston (Tampa Bay): Christina, with the A's sweep of the Giants, where does this leave both teams? Certainly, the Giants pitched well enough to win two of the three, but obviously, when you can only muster a single run over three games, it makes their laughable offense seem all the more hilarious.
Christina Kahrl: The problem with the Giants is Brian Sabean's ongoing disconnect between the quality of the performances and the reputation of the performers. He's signed all these former All-Stars! Runs will ensue! Surely they must! That's a lot of money, so surely they surely must, surely! Ooops. I wonder if there isn't something in the water. Aubrey Huff offering to play left so that Buster Posey can play... first base? It's like having how an offense scores runs explained by creationists.
DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): CK- why no nighttime chats? It seems like there might be more readers available to participate. I, myself can't log on to BP during the day. Just wondering, thanks,
Christina Kahrl: If enough of you say "Christina, we want you to do an evening chat," I can make it so. My impression is that we get significantly less participation in our evening chats, but I could be wrong.
huckyoda (New York): Christina - if given the opportunity, do you believe that Carlos Villanueva is capable of succeeding in the closer role long term? How about Evan Meek in Pittsburgh?
Christina Kahrl: Long-term? No, I don't really think so, but that's not an indictment of him as much as I just don't see him fooling enough people enough of the time to really last in the role. But as a single-season fix or as a transient (a la Kevin Gregg), he could pan out just fine. Meek has to contend with the expectation that a wild guy built a bit like a fire hydrant isn't really what most people expect, but I could see him being a poor man's Rod Beck for a season or two, given the opportunity.
Phil (Desolation Row): Max Ramirez appears to have put 2009 behind him and is crushing it since he was called up (.276/.371/.517), albeit in only 30 ABs... Is he the answer at catcher for the Rangers?
Christina Kahrl: I like the idea, if only because he's a better bet to be an offensive asset than Teagarden or Salty ever were, and if he pans out, I could see them sticking with M-Ram and Treanor as a 60/40 offense/defense split, and use one of the fallen phenoms for deadline barter. In such a scenario, I'd expect to get more for Saltalamacchia, but you never know what the shoppers might prefer.
caseyj15 (Medford, Or): What do you think of Elvis Andrus more mature patient approach at the plate? Hopefully it will bode well for him as an offensive on base machine.
Christina Kahrl: The great thing about Andrus is that he's so young that you could anticipate further development, but as you've noted, what makes it especially interesting is how it hasn't been just a static, across-the-boards statistical improvement, but instead looks to be an adaptive change. If it sticks, he'll be the deluxe leadoff option the Rangers have needed for years, and a big part of why they'll rule the roost in the short stack.
Steve (Delaware): Why isn't burke Badenhop's nickname 'Boris'?
Christina Kahrl: A question that desperately needed asking, not least because you can't get enough moose and squirrel references into daily conversation. Kudos to you, I'll certain ape this at the next opportunity.
dcoonce (bloomington indiana): If the Red Sox manage to pry Chris Ianetta away from the Rockies, does that mean the end of Mike Lowell in Boston? And, conversely, would such a trade prove that the Rockies don't have much of a clue?
Christina Kahrl: I'm reasonably confident that the Rockies aren't about to trade Iannetta, and that most of this is about other people's desperation talking. Symptoms of panic in Beantown after the master plan's initial implosion were bound to be interesting, and coveting Iannetta seems to be just that. As for Lowell, as I noted on Friday, I'm already convinced he's a waste of a roster spot. The question is whether or not they've exhausted all of their options as far as finding a dance partner; I'd take as given that they're already pre-booked for a power lunch of eating cash, with a super-sized doggy bag to eat even more later.
paulbellows (Calgary): Who plays where when all the Jays are healthy?
Christina Kahrl: Everybody, because I would hope they'd finally get to sitting Overbay against lefties, and alternating starts between Bautista and Encarnacion and Lewis often enough to keep all of them sharp. Snider should be outside of that kind of mix-and-match once he's back. It's turning into a nice, flexible lineup, but credit Bautista (and Cito Gaston) for having the flexibility to make it work.
JZirinsky (Washington, DC): Hi Christina. Hope the dingo is well. So if Jeter keeps playing the like this for the entire season, does that mean the Yankees will only pay him $20 million per year instead of $25 million?
Christina Kahrl: Thanks, she's doing great. Diving into the lake to get whatever objects I fling into the water is still a bit chilly, but hopefully that changes soon. It's an interesting issue, certainly, because while I'm sure it won't come to the Captain deciding he hasn't been offered "enough" and walking away from the Bronx, given the hardball they've played with lesser figures, a full season of mediocrity could even get the Yankees to offer an eight-figure deal that doesn't start with the number two.
Susan (New York): Combined MLB Career All-Star appearances for Delmon Young, Brandon Wood, Alex Gordon, and Andy Marte, 0.5, Over or Under?
Christina Kahrl: I'll go with an even number: one. I'll even be foolhardy, and take it one step further by saying that it'll be Gordon, because the silly contest requires participation from every team, no Royal is going to be elected by fans, and there's a chance of something like Greinke pitching on the Sunday beforehand or something and doesn't get selected. Of course, by that logic, it could be Young in a few years, once he gets to be a Royal; he's boxed out as a Twin unless he really breaks out, and I remain among the doubters on that score.
Rick (Chicago): Given where the teams stand today and the state of their rosters, who do you think wins the NL Central and by how much?
Christina Kahrl: I'm sticking with the Cardinals, while feeling pretty good about picking the Reds to finish second before the year. If there's a distinction, it's that I now don't think it'll be by 10 games or more.
jlarsen (Chicago): With Kelly Shoppach coming back 4-6 from now and John Jaso playing better then Navarro, could the Rays surprise everyone and option Navarro back to the Minors(he does indeed have options left and is under 5 yrs in) and use the more sensible platoon of Jaso(good vs. LHP,improved D and good OBP skills) and Shoppach(good vs. RHP, power and hbp) than Navarro and Shoppach?
Christina Kahrl: You mean this the other way 'round, of course, and not a bass-ackwards platoon of the lefty-batting Jaso starting against lefties, etc. Me, I could totally see it, as well as the Rays shopping Navarro. But methinks you're over-high on Jaso; he makes a nice lefty-batting complementary player to a right-handed regular like Shoppach. Think Joe Nolan to Rick Dempsey, not Mike LaValliere to Don Slaught.
teflontim13 (Romero): Ricky Romero...is he for real or is he just off to a great start?
Christina Kahrl: Can I choose both? When I went through my vote for last year's RotY award, I was impressed by the fact that Romero's 2009 was not just that great April, which suggested to me some staying power. Now that he's delivering again, it seems to me like he's making a great case that he's going to be around for awhile. Give J.P. Ricciardi and company credit: this was one pick that worked out, however long it took.
J.P. (Hartford): So when Beltran comes back, he goes into Right Field and Franceour goes to the bench, or Kansas City? Right? Right?
Christina Kahrl: He does have that former Braves thing going for him, but I somehow expect it's the bench for him.
Charles (New York City): How do you assess Neal Huntington's job in Pittsburgh so far?
Christina Kahrl: Not very differently than how I would have a year ago, or six months ago. Pedro Alvarez will arrive shortly. The organization has a long way to go, but they're more competitive now, and they're certainly creative enough in terms of trying any number of things with their players. Getting worked up over the returns as far as what was received for breaking up a bad team would have been a mistake; sure enough, acquiring a collection of washouts and mid-list prospects hasn't yielded massive returns. If there's cause for massive disappointment, it's that Andy LaRoche flopped, but LaRoche was a prospect nobody saw flopping this badly, so it's hard to fault Huntington the decision to acquire him. I'd still fidget over the decision to deal McLouth as early as he did, but that may not have been entirely in his hands. Basically, I remain a cautious optimist where the Pirates are concerned. I cautious, patient optimist.
Yatchisin (Santa Barbara): Are you and/or BP still planning some event around the All-Star game? Or do we need to draft a new Onate agreement to have a BP event in California?
Christina Kahrl: I plan on being out in LA for more than a week, so that I can catch games in both Dodger Stadium and the Big A, as well as do a number of other things, so I would still welcome the opportunity to do a pizza feed (even if, tragically, I can't eat pizza). I believe John Perrotto's also coming out for the game, and these are Steph Bee's stomping grounds, so I expect we'd have a BP contingent that would be more exciting than just me. But since I frankly don't know LA all that well, I'm totally up for suggestions as far as the venue -- please, feel free to e-mail me any that you might have.
teflontim13 (St.Louis): Leake, Cueto, Volquez, Bailey, Chapman...should the Reds collection of good young arms concern us Cards fans?
Christina Kahrl: Yes, in the long term. Of course, you do have Dusty Baker in charge of said collection, but it's still a lot of talent on a single divisional opponent.
Dennis (LA): Hi Christina, thanks for the chat. So is Carlos Lee through as a productive hitter? That sub-.200 BABIP has to start coming up...right?
Christina Kahrl: Can he produce better than he is at present? Sure, but remember, BABIP is a symptom as much as it is a predictor of anything. I just don't see him living up to the Carlos Lee contract, but you already knew that. ;-)
beta461 (SF): If Eric Chavez's career is indeed over what will you remember him for?
Christina Kahrl: On the positive side, watching him glide around at third base, because he was fun to watch when he was more himself; there was also the sound of the ball coming off his bat, one of those visceral things that helped you understand how easy it was to get excited about his perceived upside. On the negative, a few too many short at-bats in the postseason leading to too many 4-3 rally-killing grounders. That's without a ton of reflection, but I'll miss him. I guess there's the mixed blessing of not seeing him knock around in other people's unis, like Jose or Big Red or Stew, my faves from the previous great A's team, back when I was an uncomplicated fan.
ekanenh (Capitol City): Trevor Hoffman. Dead or just restin'?
Christina Kahrl: I probably shouldn't touch this one, since I figured Hoffman was dead going into last year, and I was dead wrong about that. Even so, it doesn't look promising.
Richard (RTP): What should be made of the rumors the Phillies are trying to acquire the White Sox bullpen en masse?
Christina Kahrl: That Ruben Amaro's talking to the right guy. You might be able to get Jenks at a reasonable price, and Linebrink, Putz, or even Pena are worth asking after, depending on what you want to spend. Thornton's the real prize, which is why I'd expect he'd be the one the Phillies can't afford.
Bill (LA): Bigger series finale, Lost or 24?
Christina Kahrl: The Pacific, hands down. Frankly, I was much, much more interested in the seventh episode of Treme.
paulbellows (Calgary): Do you think the position switch for Figgins and Jose Lopez have helped derail them offensively?
Christina Kahrl: I don't think we can say. Causation's a tough proposition. Could Lopez have taken it badly? Sure, maybe. Could it have been too much for Figgins? Sure, maybe. But I'm not going to claim to know that the one caused the other. At this point, they're coincidental. Naturally, everyone involved is usually going to say "no," because saying "yes" would feed the media beast something juicy and create a controversy bigger than Napgate, and most of the involved parties are decidedly not in the business of doing any such thing.
Paul (DC): Till what age does the 43 year old Wakefield dangle his knuckler? Does he make a Charlie Hough-ish 46? Or dare we dream a Phil Niekro-esque 48?
Christina Kahrl: I really wonder if the challenge is how long Wakefield wants to pitch, not how long he could pitch, and whether he has any interest in pitching for anybody other than Boston. Not that he'd pitch really well, mind you, but he can be a serviceable fifth starter, and there would be plenty of opportunities if he wanted to avail himself of them, should the Sox ever tire of keeping him around indefinitely as their rotation's safety net.
stately (atl): do you think ibanez will bounce back from this terrible start, or continue to play like we expect 38-year-olds to?
Christina Kahrl: I've been an Ibanez skeptic for a while now, so I suppose this is where I get to say I knew this day would come, but to do so would be to lose sight of the fact that he's fooled a lot of people before, and playing in the weaker league in a park that rewards power, I'd be reluctant to say he's done for a while yet.
tommybones (brooklyn): Is Brad Lidge finished as a closer? And do you see Contreras holding the gig for the rest of the year?
Christina Kahrl: I'm not a big believer in whatever Lidge has left. In the meantime, I like the idea of going with Contreras, which isn't to say I think they shouldn't be looking at other White Sox. Contreras still throws hard, and there's something about his deliberate pacing (some might say tedious) which seems like he'll never get carried away or rattle.
Jeff (Topanga): Are you as excited as I am with the Brewers recent infusion of bullpen talent?
Christina Kahrl: I think it's a matter of relative improvement. The Brewers have been getting by for so long by retreading journeymen--Brian Shouse, Todd Coffey, Claudio Vargas, Mark DiFelice--that seeing actual upside-oriented prospects like Axford or Braddock enter the picture certainly brings new meaning to the term 'sweet relief.' How effective they are is something we'll have to see, but it all beats Jeff Suppan. Not that everything doesn't beat Jeff Suppan, but you know what I mean.
timelesselegance (durham): might the red sox get something from trading darnell? or is he on the way to a cut and a thank you when Cameron comes back?
also, apropos of nothing: since you love history, have you ever checked out the memory palace podcast? Short history stories. This american Life-ish. It's kind of amazing...
Christina Kahrl: Nah, nobody's going to give them anything for Darnell McDonald, so it'll have to stick with a polite thank you. Since I routinely enjoy "This American Life," it sounds as if I'll definitely have to check out the Memory Palace podcast, so thanks for the tip.
beta461 (SF): Are the Giants one (Berkman sized)bat away from being the NL West favorites?
Christina Kahrl: Something like that, yes, and whether he's a bopper at first base or from either outfield corner, it would certainly do quite nicely.
Christina Kahrl: With that, I've got a TA on the Wests and another on the Easts to wrap up and publish today, and there's some doing in the Centrals to pay attention to as well. So forgive me for an uncharacteristically brief chat today, but thank you again for the questions and the quality time. Here again, if anyone has great suggestions as far as venues to do a BP Pizza Feed in LA around the time of the All-Star Game in Anaheim, kick'em my way, and let's see what we can make happen.