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Chat: Christina Kahrl

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday November 01, 2004 7:00 PM ET chat session with Christina Kahrl.

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Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus.

Christina Kahrl: Hi everybody, thanks for being here, and hopefully, I won't casually mistake J.P., DePo, and some catchily-monikered soccer star to be named later.

namtrahj (St Louis): With your best guess, who should the Cardinals starting 5 pitchers be next season while still being able to resign Renteria at a reasonable contract? We got lucky with Womack this year right? Cut bait now or pay him 1 mil 1 yr?

Christina Kahrl: A good question, since contention-mindedness of the recent contenders should remind us all how the near-misses look to make up for their recent losses.

The Cards' situation is pretty straightforward. Williams, Suppan, and Marquis are all set, Haren's first choice to step into an empty slot, and then Walt Jocketty just has to figure out if he wants one more starter, or to keep Haren in reserve and buy two. (Consider Rick Ankiel to be off in the weeds for the time being.)

Matt Morris' departure as a free agent shouldn't be lamented. The question is whether the Cards want to pick up Chris Carpenter's $2 million option (with $2.5 million in possible incentives), or stalk bigger game. The price seems low enough, but the decision on Carpenter has to be made sooner instead of later, during the free agent season. I'd rather take a chance on Carpenter and then shop for a mid-range bargain, as Ramon Ortiz might be, to keep my range of choices relatively broad.

Womack? Sure, if he can be gotten for a million, he can be endured. I'd spend less and acquire something equally handy, but my distaste for a player with Womack's obvious limitations, especially in the NL, is a matter of record.

DavidCrowe (Canada): Your thoughts on the proposed Kevin Brown + Kenny Lofton + $ for Andruw Jones

Christina Kahrl: If I'm the Braves, I don't do it. Brown's a risk, and Lofton's not a fix for losing Jones in the deal and J.D. Drew to free agency. Does anyone really expect Johnny Estrada to hit like that again?

Will, aka RCS (Fredericton, NB): Of the six-year free agents, who could make a splash in 2005? Of last year's six-year free agents, who made the biggest splash in 2004? Did you notice any team's performing better than most others in signing the right players of this type?

Christina Kahrl: Much depends on who's doing the shopping. Certainly, some teams are more active than others in sifting through the minor league free agent bin, like the Reds, A's, Red Sox, even the Royals. The Yankees could really help themselves, but they barely bother to remember the names of anybody after the first twenty or so players in the organization.

Guys I like in this year's pool: C Mike Rose, UT Josh McKinley, OF Chip Ambres, RHP Brian Rose, perhaps 3B Jared Sandberg for teams with lefty platoonable pop in the infield corners. And Jack Cust, because if Cal Pickering can make it, why not Jack?

Mark Hanson (Belmont, MA): So, who plays SS for the Red Sox in 2005? Cabrera again? Renteria? Vizquel or Larkin for a year?

Christina Kahrl: If, as expected, Cabrera wants a multi-year deal, it does reduce rising prospect Hanley Ramirez to a bargaining chip. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Vizquel's supposedly headed for Chicago's South Side, and Larkin can't play short effectively. For a short-term rental, I think Jose Valentin would be a great pickup. He or Cristian Guzman would be available for a year or a year plus option deal, assuming Ramirez really will be ready sometime in 2006.

Ralph Jackson (California): Who will be the free agent who produces most for the lowest price?

Christina Kahrl: I'm willing to bet it'll be Jose Valentin, but that's because of his unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, and how they'll affect his price tag.

TsaoMan (Colorado): Should I be happy that I'm apparently switching to closing?

Christina Kahrl: No, but it might make you rich and give you a more distant expiration date.

morocco13 (Brookline, MA): Do you ever get challenged to work a particular (obscure) player or popular entertainment figure into a Transaction Analysis? Take Keith Atherton. Or William Atherton. Please. Or perhaps someone might say, "Within the context of a Tampa Bay comment, discuss the assertion that William Atherton is the Keith Atherton of actors."

Christina Kahrl: Keith Atherton was no William Atherton. I mean, c'mon, Keith's bragging right is his contribution to the glum Codiroli era of A's fandom, whereas William was in "Real Genius." I know which one made me laugh with the performance, and not drily at it.

Jay Jaffe (New York City): Hey Chris, I'm interested to hear your thoughts about the A's rotation -- who will be kept, who will be traded, what's up with Mulder's second half (6.13 ERA, sub-5 K/9), why Zito remains so mediocre, and whether it's worthwhile for the Yanks to go after anybody here.

Christina Kahrl: The Yankees are such needy things, I suspect they'll covet anything and everything until they're gorged. Again.

From the A's perspective, if there's a man to be moved, it's Zito, who falls somewhere between Howard Hughes and Turk Wendell on the Goofy Scale. The question is whether, knowing that, anybody decides to take the plunge. He could recover his past glory, or he could wind up like Vida Blue, giving us ocassional reminders of his greatness, but mostly just enduring.

RC Cook (Dallas TX): Was Wally Backman the right choice for the Diamondbacks?

Christina Kahrl: I don't see why not. He had a nifty managerial track record in the minors, played for Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland in the bigs, so he might know a thing or two about platooning as well as the differences between handling kids and stars... it's a selection I certainly like. Also, consider that the field involves so much recycled dreck that would definitely *not* help or provide a sense of direction. Don Baylor? Buddy Bell? Jim Fregosi? Blech.

DrDave (Alexandria, VA): So, you're the GM of the new Washington Filibusters. Your new owners are moderately loaded, but not in the same league as the Yankees or Red Sox, and they want to show some fiscal restraint as they extract stadium funding from tax streams that could have been educating DC youth. You'd love to start rebuilding from scratch immediately, but that doesn't seem like a good PR option in a new town. What do you do?

Christina Kahrl: The Washington Federals (or Grays, anything but Senators, please) shouldn't really get ambitious in their shopping. Sure, they could use an infielder, but consider the lineup:

C Schneider
1B Nick Johnson
2B Vidro
3B Brendan Harris?
SS Maicer Izturis?
LF Terrmel Sledge
CF Brad Wilkerson
RF Juan Rivera
OF Ryan Church

S1 Livan Hernandez
S2 Tomo Ohka
S3-5 Armas? Day? Downs, Patterson, Rauch?

You see the problem. A veteran for third or short makes sense, a veteran reliever, and maybe a starter, but really, no need to get ambitious. Folks will come to the curiosity of Year One. The priority should be on shoring up the farm system and building a team that can play in the East after the Phillies and Mets have choked on their own follies, because the objective is to build a team that can eventually supplant the Braves.

kprince (Boston): Whither all the FA shortstops? TIA

Christina Kahrl: I think the Omar Vizquel to the ChiSox has all the right elements to be a likelihood: spite and vengefulness, plus the money to make Omar happy, and a team desperate enough to take itself seriously.

I sort of expect Edgar Renteria to re-sign, for no particularly good reason. Larkin seems like to wind up with the Giants if I had to guess, while I sort of expect Nomar and Orlando Cabrera to be heavily courted by the Cubs. I'd love to see the Twins do something ambitious, like try to dare Nomar into a one-year deal, but I suspect the Angels or Giants (if Larkin creaks off in some other direction) are the team more likely to try something like that.

pjfsks (morristown nj): How about Glavine to the Yanks for Vazquez? Could Rick Peterson get Vazquez straightened out or is he just not a NY kind of guy? Would the Yanks be desparate enough after watching Vazquez's Game 7 home run derby to take Glavine? If not the Yanks, how 'bout Glavine and $10 million to the Expos for Youpi (pardon my spelling); Mr. Met gets pretty lonely come August and September.

Christina Kahrl: You've hit on an important problem with the Yankees, which is that having an all-star cast of coaches known for little more these days than being an all-star cast of coaches doesn't help when there's serious work to be done. Mel Stottlemyre might be a human interest story, but he doesn't seem to have changed much from the guy who though Dwight Gooden should rely on his breaking stuff. Having passed his MRI, I think Vazquez would be tasty, except for his price, since he's got three years to go. Glavine's only got a year left (plus an option for '06 if he tosses 205 IP), so there's no way the Yankees snooker the Mets that easily without tossing in cash.

Mr. Met, lonely? If you're a single man in New York during the summer, I'd have to think you can do better than an out-of-work hunk of shag carpeting.

Cris E (St Paul, MN): Assuming that the free agent market alone won't get the Yankees where they want to go, who are some trading partners that work? What kind of packages can be assembled? What is George going to do this winter?

Christina Kahrl: I'd be interested to see the Yankees sound some people out to get that CF they still need, but the options all strike me as unlikely. Getting Jose Cruz Jr. from the D-Rays would be nifty, but I don't see how the Yankees could give them anything. Aaron Rowand of the White Sox might be available if Kenny Williams could drink any more deeply of Borchard-brand Kool-Aid, but the Ordonez injury and the Yankees' shortage of worthwhile chits mean both teams have limits.

If the Yankees were a normal franchise, they could trade for Marlon Byrd on the sly, but they're not a normal franchise.

mbrittain (alabama): Do you see a salary cap for major league baseball in the near future? It could help baseball alot by growing its popularity through cities that are not big baseball towns and plus different teams would make the playoffs besides the same ones.

Christina Kahrl: Gods above and below, I hope not. This remains one of the great myths of sports economics, that salary caps do anything but limit player salaries. If the industry is serious about helping teams with lower local revenue streams, it needs to continue improving its mechanims for revenue sharing, not finding new ways to hurt the players.

Sam M (Fountain Valley, CA): There were theories (true or not) that Pedro might have been used in Game 7 of LCS because it was his "normal day to throw," so it wouldn't screw with his rest schedule. When pitchers throw on the side, how much stress do they induce? My point is this: Could the Giants use Jason Schmidt as a closer on his normal throwing days w/out straining him?

Christina Kahrl: Ah, the Lefty Grove question... whereas it's hard to speculate on how much stress pitchers incur when they throw on the side, I think the proposition is unworkable on several levels. First, we're talking about contemporary fashion in player usage patterns... breaking with that can produce results like Kelvim Escobar's petulant, panicky self-pity fests when he was a closer asked to come into the eighth inning. Second, with the amount of money invested in big-ticket pitcher salaries, who wants to be the organization noted for taking a risk and hurting an ace starter in this situation? Third, it's easier to find cost-effective, useful relievers, than it is to take that sort of risk.

I just don't see it happening, and that's without talking about Schmidt's elbow.

Beyond that, bringing Pedro into Game Seven in the ALCS remains the most hare-brained thing the Sox did in the month of October, but that's me at my most conventional.

Terry Francona (Boston, MA): Am I bulletproof now? I mean, how can Theo ever fire me now that I've won the big one?

Christina Kahrl: Even Douglas MacArthur got fired.

Theo (Boston): Will winning the World Series force me to keep guys I don't really want (aka Pedro) as a PR move?

Christina Kahrl: There's the challenge: will the Red Sox have the courage to make moves aimed at continuing their reign, or just the easy PR moves?

Inquiring minds want to know, of course, but unless Pedro suddenly decides he doesn't want the sun, the moon, and the stars, and settles for the moon and a few comets to be named later, it's in Boston's interests to let him be somebody else's high maintenance project.

dan (dc): With Theo and DePo at the helm of 2 franchises with big payrolls, do you expect to see quite a few LA/Bos series in the future?

Christina Kahrl: I expect both teams to contend into the future, but the long October season after the long regular season should have taught us all by now that it's hard to expect regular dominance in today's game. That does make the recent Yankees that much more remarkable, of course, but the lessons of the Cardinals or Braves or A's provide is that getting to the dance is a nifty feat, after which all bets are off.

sspooner (Boston): Who will be Boston's 5 starters next year?

Christina Kahrl: Okay, another Boston question, and then on to the rest of the world... I sort of see Pedro wandering off, so that leaves you with Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo, and... a much tougher proposition than Walt Jocketty's list of problems. We've all heard to Pavano rumors, and he'd be a great fit. I'd like to see if either Lowe or Pedro would go for a smaller deal, if only for the security, but after that doesn't work, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sox chase a few lefties.

dannew (far away): How low has Sean Burroughs' stock fallen? It seems like he went from potential stud to potential trade-fodder. Will he be packaged for someone like Kendall?

Christina Kahrl: As unfair as it seems considering he's not all that old and had to hit in Petco, Burroughs' non-apparent power does seem to have chilled all sorts of expectations. If I'm Dave Littlefield, and I can make another "helps both teams" multi-player trade with the Pads, I'd want Burroughs as a nifty near-term fix for my third base needs.

Nathan (Bloomington, IL): Which organization will be the next to hire a "Moneyball" style GM? Who are the likely candidates?

Christina Kahrl: Although nobody really calls Tim Purpura a "Moneyball" GM, that's because the term itself is sort of meaningless. He's a bright guy, he's been given a job he's earned, and I'm happy to see the Astros appreciated him enough to still have him available for themselves.

Not all the great GMs of the future are coming out of Oakland, folks. It's not a question of one book or one organization, it's a generation of men (and a few women) raised on the same sorts of information you and I grew up on. It's a Good Thing [tm].

Sean (Champaign, IL): What do you see the Indians doing at SS, 2B, and the OF? Is their window looking like 2006, or are there a couple of moves that could help them challenge the Twins - other than Ed Wading their bullpen?

Christina Kahrl: I think the Tribe's best off sticking with the program, and making room for the kids. The Sox are on the cusp of melting down, and the Twins don't take themselves seriously enough to want to murdilate the rest of the division. They could win now without boldly playing the markets, and they'll be in fine shape for 2006 if they can avoid any really big boondoggle deals.

Nathan (Bloomington, IL): Who'll be in left for the Cubs next year? Any chance the Mets actually take Sammy off their hands?

Christina Kahrl: I have no idea which outfielder will be to Dusty Baker's taste, but make no mistake, that's what it will take to be the Cubs' next LF. I know they want to make a play for Beltran themselves, and that's an objective that would be that much more easily achieved if they let Sammy go off and become the new old post-Reds George Foster. The Mets know how to deal with that sort of thing, they're experienced, donchaknow.

TGisriel (Baltimore): Hi Chris: Some O's questions from Baltimore: 1. Your thoughts on the $3 million/1 year re-signing of Palmeiro and slating him as DH- Was September 04 (good) for real or should we expect him to play like June 04 (stinko)? 2. Speculation is that the O's will go after Sexton or Delgado for 1B. Are they good choices? and what are the O's chances? 3. Also there is speculation that Gibbons will be non-tendered. Was 04 just a year ruined by injuries? What is his future? Was he overated in the past? 4. Would you go after Ordonez, or does his injury make him too much of a risk? 5. Will they get a pticher, and will he be worth a damn?

Christina Kahrl: Hi Tom, always a pleasure to hear from you.

I think the Palmeiro deal's terrible, particularly if the O's want to hunt bigger game at first or DH, like Sexson or Delgado. If Palmeiro needs the job (and with only 13 DH jobs to go around), why pay him so much?

But that sort of brings me to another problem, which is that the Orioles do have this crowd of young veterans who haven't lived up to expectations. Matos, Gibbons, Hairston, Bigbie, they're all not young, they're in the tail end of what's supposed to be their peak years. The Orioles would be right to lose patience, but Palmeiro is not the answer.

Anyway, I'd give Gibbons another chance, or take a chance on him if he pops loose.

Will the Orioles get a pitcher? I hope so... as much as I like and have hopes for guys like Riley or Chen or Bedard, let's face it, there are hopes, and there are wishes. Unfortunately, when you're already banking on Sid Ponson...

comogatas (Oxnard, CA): First female GM? Which organization? How far away?

Christina Kahrl: I don't think we know her name, but I'm guessing it's closer to fifteen years away than five.

comogatas (Oxnard, CA): Mr Kahrl, Who do my Dodgers go after in the post-season? I'd love to see Carlos Beltran roaming the outfield with Milton Bradley. Does Steve Finley come back? I'd rather say thanks for the memories than risk any kind of money on him at his age. When is Shawn of the Dead's contract up? Will Choi FINALLY become a regular player and help put some pressure on opposing pitchers with his power/walk combo? Is Penny going to be healthy and available next year? All year? Do you think the Dodgers could lure Shaq back to LA by making him a backstop?

Christina Kahrl: Everyone would like to see Carlos Beltran on the hometown turf, but the Dodgers seem as likely to win as anyone else, especially if the new tax breaks on owning teams makes their payroll situation a little more flexible.

In brief: I don't see Finley coming back, I think the worst thing about the Dodgers' season was how quickly they bailed on Choi, I have no idea what to expect from Penny considering how many injuries he's endured or rumored to have, and it's Ms., not Mr. Kahrl. ; )

ACE (DC): Getting the Lead out of the NY Yankees. They haven't been performing up to snuff for the past 5 years. Other than trading Steinbrenner (send him to the new DC team), and getting some GOOD pitching staff, what do you think needs to be done to this overgrown dynasty????

Christina Kahrl: Hi Ace, I'm not sure Steinbrenner's the worst baseball owner in New York. If Joe Torre doesn't mismanage each of his final series in the last two seasons, this would be a very different conversation.

And if you give me a choice between two different men with Nixon-tainted backgrounds, as Steinbrenner and prospective Federals owner Fred Malek share, I keep wondering if Bob Johnson might not be availed upon to enter the fray and spare the franchise a few Watergate gag lines.

Scott (Seattle): Is Derek Lowe really going to get a big deal? What teams could possibly be interested in him?

Christina Kahrl: I never cease to be amazed by how some pitchers get liberally compensated over a full season... Brian Anderson last winter comes to mind. But if a guy can give you 200 IP and an ERA around 4.00, that's worth multiple millions per annum. Lowe's durable, and not a bad bet if you have a tight infield defense. He'll get the big money.

andy (toronto): Any theories on what happened to Josh Phelps and Eric Hinske this year. Both had a world of promise, one's now been traded, the other rumored to be. What gives?

Christina Kahrl: My thought, which is pretty widely shared in stathead circles, is that both players are guys with "old player" skill sets: slow sluggers with not a lot of potential for careers that extend deep into their thirties. Add in Phelps' apparent unwillingness to listen to any sort of hitting instruction, and we start moving into that area of the business where predictive models leave off and the brass tacks of who the guy in the uniform is becomes important.

Keep this in mind about the analysis community: I don't any of us have said that things we can't measure don't matter, we just don't think we can measure them. Professionals within the industry need to know about their player *and* know about their ability to perform; the good ones do exactly that.

ckorol (Derby, KS): 1) Will the Angels find room and enough playing time to keep Dallas McPherson in the majors all year....and 2) If you were choosing would it be Dallas McPherson or David Wright at 3B for you

Christina Kahrl: 1) Yes, I think they will, and 2) I like Wright more, but that's because I *really* like Wright. Visions of Rolen or Schmidt dance in my head, he's really something. Not quite enough to make me take leave of my senses and become a Mets fan, mind you, but worth the price of admission.

mjgroh (Chicago): Thanks for all the questions...Keep reading at BP!

Christina Kahrl: Well, I do aim to please. How about a few rapid-fire questions to wrap thingsup? I'm sorry there are so many unanswered questions, but most of them are Yankees-Red Sox flavored...

Nathan (Bloomington, IL): Do you see any big trades this offseason? Is the Unit going anywhere?

Christina Kahrl: We will, but I'm that goofy person who thinks that Johnson will still be a Snake when camps open.

Rob in WI (Kenosha): Chris, Free agent who makes the biggest surprise signing?

Christina Kahrl: Whoever signs with the Grays for the hell of it. I honestly expect it'll be a big name guy. Perhaps Glaus because Tony Tavares used to be with the Angels?

shamah (DC): Name of choice for the new Washington team?

Christina Kahrl: I fancy the Federals, but that's because I remember the USFL and tend towards Hamiltonian sensibilities. I'd be enthusiastic about calling them the Grays.

Consider me a founding member of the movement "Anything But the Senators."

Ed Wade (Philadelphia, PA): Who should I hire?

Christina Kahrl: Charlie Manuel. It'll keep Jim Thome happy, he's not a bad sort, and he can keep the seat warm if you want to get serious about grooming Mike Schmidt for the job.

geehal (LA): What moves do you see DePo making to improve the Dodgers?

Christina Kahrl: The great thing about DePo is that he may well be the most nimble GM in the game. His deadline deals this year were remarkable because of the level on which they interlocked, yet didn't all have to work to still end up improving the team. Speaking as a transactions junkie, what he'll do with a full winter should be the most interesting story of the winter.

igreen01 (mass.): Should Red Sox go get Glendon Rusch?

Christina Kahrl: If I'm the Yankees, I'd love to see that happen. Not that Rusch is guaranteed to go back to the Royal cornflowerblue slime from which he arose, but if that's how the Red Sox spend their winter, that's cool news for the rest of the AL.

Ralph Jackson (California): Which free agent that analytically-minded organizations might generally favor will be the biggest bust?

Christina Kahrl: Setting aside injury gambles like Glaus or J.D. Drew or Nomar... Radke or Morris are easy (read: gutless) answers because pitchers, no matter how solid, entail risk.

But if had to really pick somebody, I think there's real danger Jason Varitek will get more than his due, because of that blend of perceived leadership ability and defensive work, that sparkly new bit of jewelry, he switch-hits... and the Dodgers do need a catcher. Or Bill Mueller, perhaps? For similar reasons, and because he had a good postseason, and third base is a position where so many teams have needs.

I know I wouldn't offer a lot for Jeff Kent, but a team that knows offenses are good things might overpay.

Ronnie Dobbs (Hollywood, CA): Should the Detroit Tigers dust off the Juan Gonzalez contract and offer it to Carlos Beltran?

Christina Kahrl: It probably wouldn't be enough.

AtsamRif (PA): Andruw Jones or Carlos Beltran, salary and all.

Christina Kahrl: Beltran.

comogatas (Oxnard, CA): The Patriots won, the Red Sox won, is Kerry next?

Christina Kahrl: My last question, and it's one I won't answer, except as a way to encourage everyone to go to the polls tomorrow, and to make the snarky aside that perhaps now, finally, New England will get over its addiction to drama.

And yes, my bad, Mueller's already been picked up, so he's off the table, and thank you to igreen01 for the reminder.

TA should reappear tomorrow, and again, my apologies for keeping everyone waiting on that score. Like everyone, I was enjoying a pretty interesting October. Thanks again to everyone for the questions, multiple apologies to everyone whose question I didn't get to, and here's hoping we're all buckled in for a great hot stove league.


Christina Kahrl: Good night, and think on happy things, like what your team's shopping list should have on it. As we all know, winter's not the end, it's just the beginning of the next chapter.


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