Back from Orlando, Christina Kahrl wants to talk about the Winter Meetings' outcome and what's been left undone.
Christina Kahrl: I'm back inside from one of those clear, sunny, ice-cold Chicago days, the sort that even the dingo goes out into, looks at me and says, "Right, I'm done out here, let's get back in to the Hot Stove," and how can you argue with that sort of logic? So, let's talk about Lee's latest surrender and all the rest of winter's and Winter Meetings action.
Greg (Chicago): Did MLB ruin the Rule 5 Draft by extending the time before minor league players have to be on the 40-man roster before becoming draft eligible? I just can't get excited for whatever mop-up bullpen arm gets selected these last few years.
Christina Kahrl: Yes, yes they did. It's easy to see how they feel entitled, since these are their investments, but I'm not really comfortable with a CBA process where the MLBPA was the outfit responsible for surrendering the rights of people they don't even represent. Situational dudes in the pen, and maybe the odd finesse guy picked to help stock a bad rotation, but I don't think we'll be seeing Johan Santana or George Bell again.
Jquinton82 (NY): Would a package of Joba, Banuelos, Nunez, and Romine be enough for the Yanks to get Greinke? I think with Boston's moves and being spurned by Lee, its the move Cashman should make. Yes the down side is horrendous, but the upside is too tantalizing.
Christina Kahrl: Ah, the hangover of not getting Lee. Who's more jilted, the Rangers, the Bombers, or Winfield Scott? The package you're putting up there is fairly tasty, but it's probably Grade B/C pitcher short of getting it done. Even so, this would have to rank among the best prospect piles any bidder on Greinke could mound up. I could see Boston getting in on it--especially with the Yankees looking vulnerable--or the Rangers.
dianagramr (NYC): Marlins' OF Logan Morrison has already dubbed the Phils rotation R2C2.
Shall we start printing up the t-shirts?
Christina Kahrl: Wasn't that the droid with the flat top and a bad motivator?
deberly (Cincinnati): The Phillies are clearly the NL team to beat, now, but have they mortgaged the future (or at least, say, 2013) with the money they have promised to Howard, Lee, etc.?
Christina Kahrl: Of course they have, but why worry? Leveraging this core for all its worth during the time it has left was the way to go, and if Amaro runs up another pennant or two and another title, frankly, who cares what 2013 looks like? For all the talk of Moneyball-style "identification of unappreciated assets," we might owe Amaro (and Kenny Williams) the compliment of identifying one very unappreciated asset: the value of now.
RMR (Chicago): Divisional realignment: speculation of bored media or legitimate possibility?
Christina Kahrl: Bored media. I've already put out my own "bored" argument for a return to two-division alignments and two wild cards, but it's sort of like my curiosity with what might have happened if Franz Ferdinand had lived to form a tri-lateral, more federal empire--we can safely file it under "never ever going to happen, so how bored/boring are you, really?"
The (non-playoff) wild card in all this is Czar Bud the Only, because if he bent his will this way, his picked crew of franchise operators may well yield it to him, along with expanded playoffs, or a statue in front of every stadium built on his watch. The business of the game remains a fascinating blend of feudal and technocratic, the sort of thing Frank Herbert would have loved writing about.
markbhey (STL): More upside at 1B: Freeman, Wallace, or Ike Davis?
Christina Kahrl: I think we can safely consign Wallace to the bronze slot in that argument, but Freeman versus Davis is very interesting. I'd lean towards Davis, but it's close.
Dave (Chicago): So it looks like Matsui may sign with the A's. Where else do you see them finding lineup help because I don't think he'll be enough?
Christina Kahrl: Oh, woe. As color-appropriate as it may be to have Godzilla signed up with the Green Machine, barring something really creative the only lineup slot really left is third base. The Beltre campaign was DOA, but we can always hope they re-sign Edwin Encarnacion to less than he was eligible to make via arbitration (Cust-style). Kouzmanoff won't cut it.
JT (Michigan): With all of the wackiness about Rasmus in STL (his dad besmirching the franchise on a message board?), is there any chance the GM blinks and trades him away? More or less valuable than Upton?
Christina Kahrl: I think the Cardinals are smart enough to realize that Colby Rasmus' dad is not Colby Rasmus, and yes, I'd rather have him than either Upton, which is why I figure they can so easily turn the other cheek.
Jake (St. Louis): Strangest move of the Cardinal off-season: Theriot, Ryan, Berkman, Laird, none of the above, all of the above?
Christina Kahrl: Sticking with the Birds theme, I'll go with Berkman. Initially, I compared the signing to the Phillies' '87 wishcast that Mike Easler would be able to play left; he could not. Watching him waddle around and hurt himself playing first, it's not a matter of Berkman being heavy or out of shape, but the fact that he's old and less nimble than he was seven years ago. You can say that of most of us, of course, but it's sort of like John Kruk's career--yes, he originally played some center field for the Padres. No, that would not have made playing him in left every day seven years later a good idea.
The Dude (Ca): Is that more your confidence in Rasmus or you don't think J. Upton ever lives up to potential?
Christina Kahrl: More a matter of confidence in Rasmus than a slight of Justin Upton. Whether it's fair or not, the expectations mounded atop Upton seem bound to be disappointed, but he'll be an excellent player for a long time.
Brendan (Boston): I'd also been overconfidently thinking this morning of Greinke-to-Boston possibilities. What sort of package might get that done? The Royals seem a bit weak up the middle, so Ellsbury-Lowrie seems an easy starting point, but now-Padre Casey Kelly seemed the Sox' obvious "pitcher who could be Greinke in a year or two." And at what point does speculating about that just become unfair Yankee-needling?
Christina Kahrl: To get Greinke, I think you have to accept that Buchholz is in Royals/Red Sox deal. Ellsbury and Lowrie are nice, but hardly blue-chip talents; they're the add-ons. However, I don't think the Sox can make this deal--or any deal including Ellsbury--until March, when they and their dance partner know more about both Ellsbury and Cameron and how well they're coming back from injury.
singledigit (San Diego): What were the odds that Jason Werth would end up getting paid more then Cliff Lee?
Christina Kahrl: To be sure, we can't say that's absolutely the case--Lee stands to make $135 million if his option vests.
O Danny Boy (New York): A couple of days ago you hinted that you might have a long piece on the Tigers coming. Is that still in the works? I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd love to get your take on what the Tigers are doing to get back on par with the Twins.
Christina Kahrl: Guess what I'm writing about tomorrow? Well, OK, probably Cliff Lee, but what was scheduled was my take on the Tigers' aggressive offseason. It's happening this week, no matter what.
EJSeidman (CliffLeeVille, PA): Christina -- how happy am I today on a scale of 10 to 10?
Christina Kahrl: 11. I don't think there's a Strat four-team all-star league with a rotation as good as the Phillies possess in real life.
randolph3030 (jersey): Hi Christina, thanks for the great work. With Lee off the market, could the Yankees work out a deal with the Dodgers for Kershaw. I'm thinking something similar to the Beckett/Ramirez deal that the Sox pulled off. I'm not sure what "The Divorce" implications are on the LAD payroll, but perhaps that would make him somewhat available. Kershaw + worst contract for Montero + 2 (maybe Joba?).
Christina Kahrl: It's fun to think about, but if I just rated the Lee deal 11 out of 10, I'd put the chances of Kershaw leaving LA this winter at less than zero.
Matt (Chicago): I know this is generally Will's area but do you see Webb as being worth a flier? Shoulder injuries seem particularly tought to overcome.
Christina Kahrl: I think he will be, and the Nats are reportedly interested. Maybe that's a case of trying to repeat the tedium of the Chien-Ming Wang experience, especially if Webb was having a hard time getting his stuff into the mid-80s in instructional league, but an incentive-laden deal isn't the worst idea in the world.
Earl Weaver (Bodymore Murderland): CK, you are the cat's meow. I've always wanted to ask: What are your top 5 books on baseball?
Christina Kahrl: Well, shucks, I do try. I'm ridiculously fond of Weaver on Strategy, because that's about the perfect synthesis of sabermetrics aimed at a mainstream (or ball-playing) audience, and a reminder that much of what sabermetrics achieves is documenting the previously observed. Dan Okrent's Nine Innings is another '80s-vintage fave, because it's a great example of how individual games can be a lens through which to view larger issues for a team or an organization. I think anyone serious about sabermetrics ought to know its history, so put Alan Schwarz's The Numbers Game on your shelf. A personal favorite is Steve Fireovid's The 26th Man, but I need to read Dirk Hayhurst's book to see if that's what might get swapped in. And while I'm a big fan of The Hidden Game of Baseball and The Historical Baseball Abstract, my fifth would be Baseball Between the Numbers.
dianagramr (NYC): Which agent has done the WORST job for his/her client so far this off-season?
(in other words, why is Beltre still unemployed?)
Christina Kahrl: Beltre will get his money, so I wouldn't tab his representation. Instead, I'll try not to let my disappointment show when I select Don Nomura for this winter's Jody Reed Award, for his failure to get Hisashi Iwakuma signed up stateside.
lionstar1964 (Philly burbs): What do you think Joe Blanton could fetch the Phils back in a trade, assuming they want the salary relief (a fair bet)? Other than Grienke, what starter is being offered for trade that's better?
Christina Kahrl: Beyond Greinke, I figure you might have got a Cub on the block, although Dempster's sort of in the same territory as Blanton, and nobody's really excited and saying, "Boy, do we really need some Big Z-style excitement!" There has been some chatter that the White Sox might deal Floyd or Buehrle. Basically, everyone's shopping mid-rotation innings-munchers, to see what that gets them. If moving Blanton's salary is a pressing issue, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Phillies get less than full value.
DetroitDale (Tallahassee, FL): How Concerned should Tigers fans be about Rick Porcello's drop in K's last year? He's probably not the next Justin Vernlander after all, but is he the next Jeremy Bonderman?
Christina Kahrl: He ought to be more durable, but Porcello has to prove he's more than a one-trick pony, otherwise nobody's going to be swinging and missing. A great sinker is a thing of beauty, but if everyone knows it's coming...
Dan (Brooklyn): Hi Christina, Jason Kubel's full-season OPSes look like this: 785, 806, 908, 750. Is 2009 the outlier in the career of a thoroughly mediocre hitter at a corner-OF spot, or is 2010 an aberration in Kubel's climb towards something like stardom?
Christina Kahrl: As much as relying on a one-year park effect is a flimsy proposition, Target Field looks like it will squelch any shot he had at stardom; as was, it wasn't the strongest bid. If he winds up being a league-average placeholder in a corner, that's not chopped liver. The Sox have a similar issue in terms of what to expect of Carlos Quentin--he's had moments of excellence, but over several seasons, he's really just average. That's useful, as long as you have better elsewhere; the Twins do, not least if Delmon Young's upside finally nears accomplished fact instead of wishcast.
buffum (Austin TX): The Rangers lost out on Lee, consider Elvis Andrus to be a superior defender, and play in Jet Stream Park. Wouldn't this be a good time for the Indians to sing the praises of Fausto Carmona's power sinker and contact Texas? I mean, yeah, Cleveland needs Carmona, too, but this might not be a bad "sell high" scenario for them.
Christina Kahrl: Given the presence of so many other mid-rotation types being shopped, I would have to think Texas is better off seeing if Greinke's available for some package they can put together. Then, if not, they can turn around and comparison shop between the Blantons, Carmonas, etc. And given their depth, they can afford to be picky, instead of overpaying for any of them, in terms of treasure or talent.
JT (Michigan): Yo, Christina: Is the biggest mistake the Yankees could make now just spending to spend? (AKA who knows who comes available between now and July)
Christina Kahrl: Absolutely. As should be obvious from the Yankees' actions before 2008, Cashman plays a deep, multi-year game; he didn't spend for spending's sake, not when he knew that the major commitments worth making would come the following winter, with Sabathia and Teixeira. I figure losing on Lee is a setback, with the additional problem that 2012's class isn't exactly loaded with aces, which is why I would anticipate the Yankees getting very, very serious about Greinke, instead of just throwing cash at... well, who? It's sort of amusing to note that Carl Pavano might be the best starter left in the free-agency pool, when he's perhaps the one person on the face of the planet less likely to be signed by the Yankees to fill their rotation needs than myself.
George (Charlotte): Who wins the AL Central next year?
Christina Kahrl: A couple of weeks ago, I would have said the Twins, but their inaction as far as their pitching staff combined with the White Sox's aggressive patch-up leaves me thinking the South Siders are the team most likely to be playing in yet another a division-deciding 163rd game. The Tigers have their shot as well, but I'm not wild about their rotation options beyond Verlander and Scherzer.
Bill (Omaha): Could the Yank's plan B really include Carlos Zambrano? Is Chicago willing to just dump the contract, or would they need/want a good amount of talent back?
Christina Kahrl: The Cubs might be willing to deal the contract to get it off the books, and I could see one scenario where Big Z becomes a Jumbo Wells-style beloved competitor in the Bronx, balanced against another (less likely, IMO) scenario where he winds up like Ed Whitson. I think the downside is enough to keep this in the realm of entertaining speculation.
The Cool Breeze After Ryan Howard Misses a Slider (Philly): Will the Phils lose more games 2-1 or 3-2?
Christina Kahrl: The latter, but there won't be that many of them.
philsfan (NYC): Christina,
Thanks for your excellent analysis and style. Based on what's being reported, I believe Lee stands to make $147.5 million (120 + 27.5), rather than $135 million as you stated, if the option vests.
Christina Kahrl: Just ran with the latest comment reflected in MLB.com's reporting on the story, since I'm anticipating getting more deeply into the subject later today.
uptick (st. louis): Hi Christina,
With the Yanks signing R. Martin, does that increase the likelihood that they'll swap Jesus Montero for a stud starter?
Christina Kahrl: The problem there is who's available; while depositing Montero in a Greinke trade offer might seem sensible in the abstract, the last thing the Royals need is a first baseman, and there is still doubt over Montero's long-term future behind the plate. (In the meantime, Martin's a fine patch and an appropriate indictment of Cervelli, not Posada.)
JZirinsky (Washington, DC): Hi Christina. It's almost too cold to walk my dingo today, so I'm asking you a question (or two): doesn't it make sense for the Yanks to wait until the trade deadline to do anything? Second question: Should I sell my car and buy a motorcycle?
Christina Kahrl: Cashman has already stated he's going to wait out the inevitable "you didn't get Lee, but I have this shiny bauble I'll give you for the low, low price of 'gottahaveit!'" So yes, I think he'd be wise to wait out that sensibility, but I don't think waiting until July is the best answer. Right now, the Yankees could use one of those mid-rotation innings-eaters, as long as the price isn't too high.
As for motorcycling, you know, I've given that same issue a lot of thought. I'd love to learn how to drive one, and the image of jumping on a chopper and zipping down to either ballpark here in Chicago sounds like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I wonder how much my reflexes in my 40s would just get me squished. Now, YMMV, because in DC, the congestion on major thoroughfares and highways is even more galling than it is here. Use iGo or ZipCar or whatever for big grocery runs, and you're good to go. Conceptually. ;)
JT (Michigan): Losing out on Lee/Crawford/Werth will signal at least that the Yankees will have to trade, for sure though, right? I mean, they won't be quiet until this time next year.
Christina Kahrl: No, but I think they have to wait out Pettitte's final answer, and other than getting in on Greinke, there isn't a lot that demands immediate action. I wouldn't be surprised if they do nothing major until after New Year's Day.
mwball75 (Cincy, OH): Hey Christina, you're one of my favorite writers at BP or anywhere, IMO 2010 was a breakout year for you and I hope we have many more to come just like it.
My question is this. You know how people have that conversational topic "If you could have dinner with 3 people who would they be?", and people always one-up each other with who they would select?
If you could go to a baseball game, with any 3 people, who would they be?
I choose Joe Posnanski, my Grandpa (who had a minor league career, but passed before I was born) and Bill James.
Christina Kahrl: I'm flattered, to be sure, and it's a fun question to ponder. I'd probably start off with Earl Weaver and my great-grandfather (a big NY Giants fan, and this past September I found a pic of him hanging out with a bunch of guys in Giants garb on a practice field in the '20s that deserves closer inspection), and then... hrm. I've had so much fun going to games with some of you, with old friends, and I even took my hairdresser to his first Cubs game last summer. It seems a bit self-indulgent to make it about me, when you're given the chance to give the gift of a ballgame, and my favorite single game is still the day in '87 when I went with my youngest brother to his first game. So whether it was a nephew or a niece or a cousin/cousine or a friend's son or daughter, I'd want to pay it forward, corny as that might sound. And even if that means ixnay on the f-bombs.
jmcfall (Dallas): Any chance the Rangers pick up a Jenks/Fuentes type arm and move Feliz to the rotation? Does Lee's decision make that any more likely to happen?
Christina Kahrl: It's the most interesting and most promising solution to their Lee-less future, but there was so much certainty to the declarations that Feliz is a reliever going forward that I'd be even more impressed if they climbed down from that stance and made it so. And a one-year or one-plus-option spin with Jenks wouldn't be such a bad idea, for the Rangers or several other teams. If the Rangers can't get Greinke, moving Feliz back into the rotation represents the next-best solution for the near term.
RAWagman (Toronto): Christina - thanks for chatting. On cold days like this, the hot stove can be the only way to avoid frostbite. How delusional am I to think that the Jays have more than a puncher's chance at finishing 2nd in the AL East this year? Do the Yankees have as many holes (lineup, rotation and bullpen) as it appears up in the North country? Has the Rays' window closed, if only temporarily?
Christina Kahrl: I don't think you're crazy for thinking it, because I do think the Yankees need to do something about the rotation, and the Rays look like they're going to come up short on offense in 2011, however good their rotation. The problem is that this best-case scenario for the Jays might at best be a transient phenomenon, and it wouldn't automatically involve their having a great shot at the wild card; lots of things going wrong in the Bronx and Tampa Bay does not mean the other two divisions won't be providing three or four 90-win teams.
LPD (Chicago): What do you think of Lars Anderson in the Boston system? Trade bait, maybe he comes back strong this coming season?
Christina Kahrl: Trade bait. The Adrian Gonzalez extension is going to happen, and the sooner the Sox convert Anderson's increasingly stale plaudits into something they can use, the better.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Just wanted to throw the Reds out there as a team with enough starting pitching to consider trading someone away. In fact they've got a pile of youngsters that would be very valuable if Jocketty wanted to do some business. What are the chances they turn that direction when they appear close to contention?
Christina Kahrl: That was one of the keys for why I suggested in a column last month that the Reds should be making a play for Greinke, because converting depth for decisive advantage makes sense, and because they're never going to be able to get in on open bidding for the Lees of the world.
Jed Hoyer (SD): I'm dancing as fast as I can, and I can dance pretty damn fast. But when the music stops, what's the over-under on our 2011 record?
Christina Kahrl: 75 wins.
russadams (St. Paul): Am I crazy to think that the Twins can put together a darn good bullpen even with losing Crain, Guerrier, Rauch, and Fuentes (assuming they all leave)?
I think it's very funny that Twins fans complain that Jose Mijares is inconsistent but also worry that Crain will leave; call for Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney for nearly two years, but now fear the bullpen will be awful when they might get a chance; and don't trust any low-cost options when a guy like Guerrier was originally claimed off waivers.
If the Twins can sort through the many options, they could piece together a very effective group. That being said, any established relievers you would recommed for relatively cheap?
Christina Kahrl: You're not crazy, and you can find the next Matt Guerrier. I think Grant Balfour's worth getting, and Arthur Rhodes and Chan Ho Park or even Kevin Gregg are names worth spending seven figures for. Kerry Wood, Dan Wheeler, an NRI for Justin Duchscherer... it's still a buyer's market as far as finding relief help, given the multiplicity of alternatives.
Matt (Chicago): As a Chicagoan, do you have faith in Ricketts to pony up when some of the Cubs' bad deals expire? I'm getting a little skittish about him.
Christina Kahrl: I don't think it makes sense to get skittish, at least not yet. The Ricketts bought a team whose hand had been dealt, with one of the worst assemblages of long-term, no-trade-protected commitments conceivable. Even then, they were willing to let Hendry sign Byrd, which was a complete success within the limited upside that adding Marlon Byrd gets you. I'll be interested to see what they do with A-Ram and Soto, because they're the team's two toughest calls as far as who to sign to extensions.
ekanenh (Capitol City): Nothing like taking someone to their first game. The first time I did it, a Cubs-Mets game for a Swede in NY on business, the game featured multiple intentional walks & stolen bases, an escaped third strike, and a failed bases-loaded hit & run in extra innings (ordered by none other than Don Zimmer). But I digress . . . .
Do you think a left-handed pitcher would look at the left side of the Yankees' infield and think, "Two guys with the range of Chief Ironside, why would I go there?" or are their concerns much more of the food, clothing, shelter variety?
Christina Kahrl: More the latter, because as-is I don't think most pitchers, let alone most lefties, think in terms of "wow, poor me, I've got to pitch in front of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez."
S R (Boston): Does the Lee signing improve the Mets' chances of competing in the future. Is Alderson going to be able to stick to the plan and just pick up a couple of cheap pitchers this winter while retooling the team for 2012-3, or will it be even longer term?
Christina Kahrl: It doesn't help them in the short term, because I figure they're stuck with the wild card as their target in their last year with Reyes and Beltran on the team. Expand the window to 2013 and beyond, sure, but you could say that about the Marlins or Nats too.
EricJ (SF): Would it be feasible to groom Casey Kelly as a SP and defensive specialist at SS? Have I been thinking entirely too much about baseball this cold winter?
Christina Kahrl: I bugged Kevin with exactly that kind of question a couple of years ago, and got reality-checked for my trouble. I'd put it in that bulging "ain't gonna happen" file.
Will (Mactaquac): Best of '10 questions (unless you make my day by saying you're back for another chat this year): Best song, album, movie, show, book, and commercial please. No skippees.
Christina Kahrl: Best song: theSTART's "You, Me And a Knife"
Best album: Erg... I know classics usually win out here, but it's a tough call between several Who or Bowie choices that I couldn't pick between them if I tried, so I'll bug out of that and go with Bjork's Post
Best movie: The Third Man
Best show: Battlestar Galactica (the new one, no Lorne Greene need apply)
Best book: A different day of the week would yield a different answer, but let's give Christopher Hitchens his due--read Unacknowledged Legislation, you won't regret it.
Best commercial: Hrm, aren't we supposed to skip these? I really don't have an answer, and the best I might be able to do is say I used to see Clara Peller at the same hairdresser's salon, and I knew who she was.
singledigit (San Diego): What's in the water in Philadelphia? Do MLB star pitchers think it's San Diego? Halladay signed for what many considered was a "lesser" deal, and now Lee. Should I move to Philadelphia? Is it that nice?
Christina Kahrl: Stable lineup, win-now sensibility with win-now possibilities, plus a smart skipper who never shows up his players, popular in its market, and it's cheaper to live there than New York? Put it that way, and hell, I might sign with the Phillies. ;)
mravery (Raleigh): How much does Lee improve the Phillies odds of taking the NL East? Something like from 50% to 80%? I realize the effect is dramatic, but people are acting like this essentially gives them the division. That's a team with a lot of aging players, including a pitching staff that's logged a TON of innings over the past few seasons. Am I crazy to think that the regular season is still worth playing?
Christina Kahrl: Of course it is. The Phillies are perhaps one major Chase Utley injury away from offensive mediocrity, and examples like the '84 Pirates or the 2010 A's serve as useful reminders that winning the league's ERA title doesn't automatically put you in the postseason.
ColonelTom (Richmond, KY): If the Phils can't deal Blanton, do you think there's a chance they'd move Cole Hamels instead? It's right out of Amaro's playbook - get the bird in the hand (Lee locked up long-term) instead of waiting to see if Hamels re-ups before he hits free agency. If they try to move Hamels, where does he end up? Arizona in a deal involving Justin Upton, perhaps?
Christina Kahrl: It's possible they'd move Hamels, but I can't see them putting somebody in Domonic Brown's way as being the objective. Of course, they do have just one more year to go with Raul Ibanez...
Andy (Chicago): Any guesses on what blackmail material Tony LaRussa has on John Mozeliak in order to force him into make all these moves (Trade Ryan, keep Skip, sign Laird, etc)?
Christina Kahrl: One way to think of it is that this is one of those slow-motion divorces where one side's going to give the other everything it wants, so that he can choke on it. Schumaker has no business being a starting second baseman in the major leagues, but Laird's a fairly reasonable fall-back position in case anything bad happened to Yadier Molina, because he's at least durable, and if you're down a starting catcher, that's handy.
comish4lif (Wash., DC): What about Lars Anderson to the Nats for a reliever not named Storen?
Christina Kahrl: I'd take a pass; the Nats can do better than settling for Lars Anderson.
Tim (Santa Fe): The Yankees miss out on Cliff Lee, the Mayans predict the world will end in 2012. Coincidence?
Christina Kahrl: That's the thing I love about Yankees fans, everything's navy blue or white, no room for shades of (road) gray. ;)
Stacy (Newark): Hello! In between finals today, I've been trying to think of the last time a team features 4 "number one" pitchers in their rotation. The Braves in their 90's peak (Maddux, Smoltz- when healthy, Glavine, and Millwood) come to mind. What rotation does the Phillies remind you of the most? Thank you.
Christina Kahrl: If not the Braves of the '90s, how about the Orioles of '71-'72, with Cuellar, McNally, Palmer, and Dobson? Finding top trios is easy, but quality quartets are a tough act to match.
colbylee (LA): Am I the only one that thinks passing on Cust to sign Matsui is silly? The Dek costs more, is 5 years older and was outplayed by Cust last year. Should we restart the free Jack Cust campaign?
Christina Kahrl: I can see where you're coming from, but the guy's been a regular for four years, and just got a contract to do so for somebody else in a fifth. Keep in mind, Cust was just OK, in that he was and is a platoon DH with modest power. The A's decided they wanted a DH who would produce similar or better power, a healthy share of walks, but one who could also more consistently deliver hard-hit balls in play. As easy as it is to accept that RISP walk as a positive result, the A's lineup didn't have the kind of depth to cash in on those opportunities passed along. (Adding DeJesus helps, as getting a full season from Crisp might help.) That's not Cust's fault as much as it represents a particular problem in what you wanted or needed from him, but squeezing a platoon DH among the near-standard 13 position players is a tough fit for a lot of teams; the A's decided they were one of them.
ted (the cubicle): Four pitchers -- Does the 2001-2002 A's with Mulder, Hudson, Zito, & an underrated Corey Lidle rate?
Christina Kahrl: As good, but not as good as those Orioles and Braves, or these Phillies. It's like nominating the '89 A's--sure, Storm Davis was useful as a fourth man behind three excellent starters, but R2C2 should be better.
Jed Hoyer (Collapsed against the gym wall in a puddle of swea): So does it make sense to pay Ludwick and Bell in hopes that fans don't give up on us, or should I seize the best preseason offer and accept the beating next season?
Christina Kahrl: I'd see about trading Ludwick sooner rather than later, but Bell might be best swapped for value at the deadline if you find an appropriately desperate near-contender.
Christopher (Nashville): Speaking of the Orioles, is what we've seen this offseason part of a Grand Plan, or just a wild stab at .500? Forgive me if you've written about this recently.
Christina Kahrl: As long as the years past have been a crawl towards an indefinite horizon, beyond which some unquantified respectability is supposed to be, I could see Buck Showalter getting this team into the range of 78-82 wins next year. I don't expect that's going to lead to a ticker-tape parade, and I don't know if there's a way to leverage this group into a real contender, but I'd take their late-season finish seriously. There's just too much talent on hand for them to not improve.
ekanenh (Capitol City): Is the Saltalamacchia/Varitek duo destined to be a problem?
Christina Kahrl: Maybe the Red Sox have the drill bit to dig down into that untapped potential geologists have long suggested is deep down in Salty's hide, but I think we're all beginning to wonder. It's certainly telling that the Rangers, who take their prospects seriously and give them their chances, looked at what some thought was a great collection of young catching talent, and opted for "none of the above." Tek figures to be overexposed or break down if he's asked to be more than a part-time sensei, and Salty's a doubtful proposition. Don't be shocked if neither man's playing regularly by August, and the Sox do likewise in choosing off the printed menu.
goiter6 (MN): I have Wilin Rosario and Jaff Decker in a keeper strato league - what do you feel are the odds for each one to get 50 or more at bats next year in the majors?
Christina Kahrl: Decker's chances for that many PAs rate pretty low, I'd think, given that he hasn't reached Double-A yet. In contrast, Rosario's chances are fair, even if the Rockies wind up signing some veteran third-man backstop type, and Iannetta and McKenry both disappointing expectations doesn't hurt his chances any.
EricJ (SF): Has any team in the NL West improved this off season?
Christina Kahrl: It's a valid question, because the best you can say about the Giants and Rockies is that they're hoping to reap the benefits of full seasons from Bumgarner or Burrell and De La Rosa, respectively, but the Rockies did get Jose Lopez from the Mariners, a move that seems to have gotten far too little attention for its upside possibilities.
biglou115 (AR): Back to the Phillies: Why do people keep insisting that Lee took less money? Is it just the romance of it or is it time for a BP primer on AAV?
Christina Kahrl: It's definitely a strange phenomenon, plus I think it's worth looking at the differences in taxes in NY versus Pennsylvania, not to mention the cost of living. In some ways, New York must offer a guy more, and not just because they have more. Living in New York or the surrounding area six or seven months out of the year isn't a negligible expense for the player, and not to play the Mike Hampton card, but maybe that's just not a choice every family can make. If the Yankees and Phillies offered similar money for similar years, going to Philly should leave you with more money in your pocket, and perhaps even better surety as far as getting some post-season pay and glory during the best years of your career. The Yankees needed to outbid all of that, and they don't seem to have. If there's blame to be laid at anyone's doorstep, I wouldn't lay it at Lee's.
Christina Kahrl: With that, I need to shut this down and change gears to work on tomorrow's column. I'm glad for the questions, and hope everyone enjoys the holidays as well as the columns to come. Until the next time, happy baseball...