Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
Joe Sheehan: Good afternoon...with the winter meetings just a day away, it looks like we're in for an eventful weekend. Let's kick it off with some Hot Stove League chatting.
james (new york): How should we expect RFK to play next year for the Nationals? Will it be more of a hitters' park of pitchers' park?
Joe Sheehan: According to Nate Silver, RFK generally played as a pitchers' park in an era in which parks were considerably more favorable to pitchers. I would expect it to be a good pitchers' park now, maybe a 93-95 on a scale where 100 is neutral.
Peter (NY NY): Joe, why on earth would our Yankees want to sign Eric Milton????? The man hasn't had a decent season in his whole career..
Joe Sheehan: The Milton bashing I'm seeing is a bit reactionary. He's more or less Sid Fernandez Lite, with good K/BB ratios and a propensity to give up lots of home runs. His ERA will be very dependent on his outfield defense and his park.
I don't think the Yankees are a good fit for him, and were I Milton's agent, I'd be trying like heck to get him to Seattle or San Diego.
the ghost of George Foster (down Cincinnati way): Whither Felipe Lopez? In letting Larkin roam free, were the Reds overly optimistic about Lopez, or were they just being cheap?
Joe Sheehan: Well, even had they brought Larkin back, they were going with Lopez at shortstop. If Lopez fails, it'll be Anderson Macahdo.
I think Felipe Lopez might be ready. He hit .261/.341/.450 in the second half last year with a decent walk rate. The Reds won't win in '05, so it's time to give him a season and find out if you have a championship-caliber shortstop.
gord ashe (WI): Aaron Rowand's 2004 season: fluke or breakout?
Joe Sheehan: 29 unintentional walks against 91 strikeouts screams "fluke" to me. I will say that he's a much better center fielder than I thought he was, so if he settles in at a .275 EqA, he can play.
The White Sox have bigger problems.
Johnny (Urbana, IL): How much is Carlos Beltran really worth for what he's going to give you and his likelihood of staying healthy?
Joe Sheehan: Beltran has a lot of value that doesn't show up in his Triple Crown stats, with a good walk rate, top-tier defense, and one of the best SB success rates in history. Put it all together with a good health record and his age, and I'd be comfortable exceeding Vlad Guerrero's 5/%70MM deal, conceding that Guerrero's numbers were held down by the speculation over his back.
I expect Beltran to get much more than that, something like 7/$126MM, or even 8/$144MM if the Yankees win the bidding.
Dean Taylor (Cincy): What are your thoughs on Kearns playing 3rd next year?
Joe Sheehan: It's not going to happen. The experiment in instructional league didn't go well, as you'd expect.
I think the Reds should commit to some kind of four-man outfield rotation, and just wait for Kearns or Griffey to get injured to solve the problem.
GBSimons (Seymour, IN): Joe, you did a nice job covering the arbitration decisions teams made. I had a question about a relatively minor player you didn't hit on. Why in the world would Dodgers' GM Paul DePodesta offer arbitration to Brent Mayne?
Joe Sheehan: While Theo Epstein was explicit about the concept, keep in mind that some of the arb offers may well have been made as a means of extending negotiating time, with an understanding that the offer would not be accepted.
I don't know for sure that that's the case there, just pointing out the possibility.
Mayne wouldn't be the worst guy to have around. He's a decent pinch-hitter with an underrated throwing arm.
Cris E (St Paul, MN): Talk a little about Colorado and Denny Neagle. Teams have taken drunk driving citations in stride for decades, and soliciting a prostitute is even less justifiable grounds for invalidating the contract. I was shocked that the MLBPA wasn't all over the Neagle situation the moment it was announced.
Joe Sheehan: Well, I won't compare the two offenses.
Let's not kid ourselves about the motivations here. The Rockies wanted out from under a bad contract, and Neagle provided an excuse for them to get there. This has very little to do with morals and everything to do with Neagle not being worth the money.
I do expect we'll see an appeal involving the MLBPA. They've been a little busy the last week or so. I figure Neagle never goes back to the Rockies, and gets between 50% and 70% of the remaining contract value.
Ballplayers, be very careful, especially those of you with "bad" contracts. There seems to be an eagerness to void deals given any reason.
Josh (NYC): Is there a worse run baseball team right now than the Mets? (The Nationals don't count - they're barely being run.)
Joe Sheehan: Given the transition to a new management team, I don't think there's any way to make that claim. Other than sign Benson, they haven't really done anything under Minaya.
The Mariners, who appear set to make at least one poor-fit free agent signing, seem like a better candidate. The Yankees, with Tuesday night's signings, are up there.
RC Cook (Dallas TX): Should I be concerned about the Rangers' signing of Sandy Alomar, given the team's statements that Rod Barajas (and his sub-300 OBP) will be the starter in 2005?
Joe Sheehan: This is what happens when you let Alex Rodriguez suck up $23 million a year. You have to save money elsewhere, and you can't put a competitive team on...
...um, wait a minute...
I don't understand the industry's fascination with Sandy Alomar Jr., but I guess he'll be employed for as long as he cares to be. It's a lousy market for catchers aside from Varitek, who's going to be way overpaid.
The early signs from Texas are that the Rangers won't be seeing any on-field improvements with whatever salary difference is saved by not paying Rodriguez.
Sal Bando (mizzou): Are Juan Gonzalez' days as a productive player over?
Joe Sheehan: He's 35, has played one reasonably full season in five years, has slugged under .500 in two of the last three, has no defensive value any more...
We see enough strange things in baseball that counting anyone completely out is a bad idea. But yes, I think Gonzalez is done.
Duck (New Jersey): Salary aside, where would Pedro be best off?
Joe Sheehan: The Mets. Shea Stadium is a great place for power pitchers, and the run environment would probably save him 8-10 pitches per start. If it's just about self-interest, he should sign with the Mets.
MHL in STL (STL, headed to Anaheim): Where are the watering holes near the Anaheim Marriott? Seriously, Joe, let's get to the important stuff.
Joe Sheehan: If I remember correctly, Anaheim is dry county.
Ed Wade (Philadelphia, PA): Will my plan to have five #3 starters work better this year than it did last year?
Joe Sheehan: Man, I screwed up that joke..."Orange" is a dry county.
OK...it only takes a glance at the Cardinals to see that the "five #3 starters" plan can work beautifully. The rest of the team has to perform, though; that means a top-four offense and a great bullpen, or a least a great year from the bullpen.
Can Wagner, Cormier, Worrell and Madson be that bullpen? I think they're a power right-hander short, but then again, so were the Cards in '04.
Once again, the Phillies will have the best talent in the division. Whether they win will depend less on the rotation and more on whether they get enough offense from the up-the-middle slots.
Arathorn (outside Chicago, IL): Dbacks signing of Glaus -- insane or merely very bad? $11M/year is an awful lot to pay for ~300 PAs/year, isn't it?
Joe Sheehan: I think you can project more playing time than that for Glaus. Where he'll play is a question; they can always move Shea Hillenbrand back to third base, I guess, but what happens when the hitting class from Double-A is ready? You're betting that neither D'Antona nor Jackson will have to move to first base.
The real risk for any NL team is that Glaus won't be able to play even first base.
I think the D'backs might have to issue their own currency to pay him, too.
DavidCrowe (Canada): What's your gut feeling on who gets inducted to the HOF this year?
Joe Sheehan: Sandberg and Boggs by the BBWAA, no one by the Vet Committee, whose process is a disaster designed to elect no one. (See yesterday's Rob Neyer column for more.)
ScotMartin ((Dallas, TX)): Dye to the White Sox for 2 yrs $10.5 mil with a club option for a 3rd year.
What are the White Sox thinking????
Joe Sheehan: Man, they're coming fast and furious for two days now.
That's a mediocre signing. After a hot start, Dye was pretty lousy, he hasn't been better than a three-win player since 2001, and he'll be 31 next year.
He also sustains the White Sox' balance problem. Unless I miss my guess, with Valentin gone, they might well have just one left-handed batter (Ross Gload) in their Opening Day lineup.
collins (greenville nc): At this point, who do you see as the Twins' strongest competition next year? Chicago? Cleveland? Detroit?
Joe Sheehan: Themselves. With Radke back and a ridiculous bullpen, the Twins will once again have to make the right decisions when it comes to their hitters. Can they somehow assemble a league-average offense, or will they again run five OBP sinks out there and keep the opposition in the game?
Pete (NY NY): JARET WRIGHT?? TONY WOMACK????? (Eric Milton on the way?) Why?Why???Why WHY??WHY???WHY??WHY??WHY??WHY????? WHY???
Joe Sheehan: What, did you really think I was going to get through chat without addressing this?
The 1994-2004 Yankees were, first and foremost, about OBP. Signing Tony Womack goes against everything the Yankee offense has done for a decade. He's a bad player coming off a fluky season.
As far as Wright goes, by signing him to a three-year deal at good money, you're making the statement that you think everything before 2004 doesn't matter, and that his 2004 performance is the baseline going forward. Given what we know about Wright and the management team in Atlanta, the chances that 2004 will be his best season are far, far greater than the chances that it will be improved upon.
For a while, the Yankees were successful in the free-agent market by only buying the best. They spent a lot of money on Bernie Williams, Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi...it ran the payroll up, but you had stars.
Last year, they settled for Gary Sheffield instead of Vladimir Guerrero. You can argue that it worked out, but it didn't: Guerrero is better and younger, and would have been the better sign.
These two signings are other people's signings, the things teams do when they don't want to pay for the best talent on the market.
They're the clearest signs of franchise decay yet.
goiter6 (MN): Strato keeper league question, what order would you rank these guys: Kyle Lohse, Mike Wood, and Gil Meche?
Joe Sheehan: Meche, Wood, goiter6, Lohse
scot (NY): Joe:
Glaus, Benson, Wilson, etc: is the "fiscal responsibility" of the last few winters a thing of the past, or are teams really expecting a big uptick in revenue?
Joe Sheehan: It's a pretty good example of why management always wants a payroll cap. Unless there's a hard-and-fast rule in place, teams will spend away in an effort to win.
God forbid, right?
pjvent (Washington, DC): Name the one team that will surprise this either (either for good or bad).
Joe Sheehan: I think the Cardinals will be pretty disappointing in '05. They're kind of old and had a lot of things go right last year.
seyi (nigeria): are ua good player
Joe Sheehan: I was Craig Counsell, but without his ability to play third base well. On the mound, I was Joe Roa.
MT (Boston, MA): Better signing Clement or Pavano?
Joe Sheehan: Clement, who'll be cheaper and more effective over the life of any deal.
Matt Clement (Chicago, for now): Nomar and Todd Walker for a full year? They couldn't pay me enough to throw sinkers in front of those two guys. So where AM I going?
Joe Sheehan: The Cubs have three big-time strikeout guys in the rotation, giving them some leeway to punt defense. I think Greg Maddux may have a very long year ahead of him, though.
Marty (NJ): Joe,
Moose, Brown, Wright, Milton?, El Duque. Are you worried?
Joe Sheehan: No one feels sorry for a Yankee fan.
And you know something? If the Yankees spend $225MM to go 92-70 and miss the playoffs, that might not be such a bad thing in the big picture.
pjvent (Washington, DC): Where does Beltran wind up?
Joe Sheehan: I've said this for five months, so I'll stick with it: Yankees.
davelamb (san leandro): NL West favorite at this point?
Joe Sheehan: Barry vs. DePo, I guess...I'll say "Giants" for now.
MT (Boston, MA): What are your thoughts on the Mantei signing by Theo?
Joe Sheehan: It's a die-roll. The Sox have done a lot of this to little effect...Chad Fox, Curtis Leskanic, Ryan Rupe...it's not such a bad idea to take a shot on high-K guys with arm problems and see what happens.
It is definitely one of the clearer characteristics of the front office.
markliter (Jopln, MO.): Any chance of seeing Jeff Kent in a Red Sox uniform next year?
Joe Sheehan: Is there that much difference between Bellhorn and Kent at this point?
sodbuster (Wagner, SD): Joe: My strat league drafts in early March. Will the BP book be in my hands by then?
Joe Sheehan: I'm 99.99% sure. I don't think we've missed early March since prehistory.
Odalis Perez (On the plane to fenway?): If not me, who?
Joe Sheehan: Last question...where is the buzz on this guy? Is the record really driving down his market that badly? He's better than Milton, Wright...he might be better than Pavano and a safer bet than Clement. Some team is going to get a big leg up on the competition by signing you, Odalis...best of luck!
Joe Sheehan: I got to an embarrassing small percentage of the great questions we had. Thanks so much for all of them, and be sure to check back all weekend long as we cover what should be an eventful winter meetings!