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Chat: Daniel Rathman

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday December 20, 2012 2:00 PM ET chat session with Daniel Rathman.

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Rumor Roundup writer Daniel Rathman drops in to take your questions about the latest offseason developments.

Daniel Rathman: Hey, everyone. This seems like a good excuse for continuing to procrastinate on my grad-school applications. So, let's get going...

Damon (houston): non-baseball query: you keep mentioning a coffee addiction on twitter. favorite coffee chain? favorite drink?

Daniel Rathman: I've got a cup in hand now, Damon, so this is a fitting place to start. Starbucks is head-and-shoulders above Peet's and light-years ahead of Dunkin', for me. And either an americano or a caramel macchiato.

Nick (Toronto): Do you think the Blue Jays have done enough to win the AL East?

Daniel Rathman: A few questions about the Jays, and since Nick's in Toronto, I'll use his to provide my thoughts.

I don't think we can judge the division yet, since the offseason is ongoing, but I do think that the Jays have done enough to be in the mix. They won 73 games despite some injuries last year, so on top of the trades and signings, 150 games from Jose Bautista would go a long way. An improvement of 15 games, give or take a few, seems plausible; whether 88 or so wins will be enough depends on what their rivals do from here through spring training.

Steve (New York, NY): Does the Morales trade make you think the M's want to have Montero catch every day?

Daniel Rathman: Thanks for stopping by, Steve. I think that was the Mariners' intention when they acquired Montero last offseason, and while he was definitely rough around the edges in 2011, that's one possible inference from this trade. That said, they have an underrated catcher in John Jaso, who has done more than enough against RHP in his brief career to warrant a look, and they might try to trade Justin Smoak to open up first base for Morales. This is a situation to monitor in the coming weeks.

Jake (Colorado): What's the story on Trevor Story? He had a similar first full year to Tulo's first full year, plus about 50 more AB's. Can you please compare the 2 players? Thanks for the chat, Daniel!

Daniel Rathman: Story ranked atop our top 10 prospects list for the Rockies, and I'll defer to the minor-league staff's wisdom on his potential. From what I've read, I think that Story can be a quality everyday shortstop, but he lacks Tulo's power and impact defensive skills, so that's not really a fair comparison. If Story crosses paths with Tulo, he'll almost certainly be the one moving to second/third base. One thing to watch from Story as he moves up to High-A is how he tackles his issues with left-handed pitchers and offspeed stuff — two weaknesses that Jason Parks and co. mentioned in his writeup in the top 10 list.

Nick (Los Angeles, CA): What do you think about the Indians aggressive attitude towards free agency this year, and how good a chance do they have to sign a player like Swisher or Jackson?

Daniel Rathman: I like what the Indians are doing, Nick, in terms of trying to compensate for weaknesses at the top of their pipeline, and getting Trevor Bauer for one year of Shin-Soo Choo was very impressive. As for free agency, I don't think they have a great chance of getting Jackson, who appears to be down to the Cubs and Rangers (with Chicago looking like the strong favorite), and the situation with Swisher really depends on how interested the Rangers are. If he gets more than $60 million over four years, it probably won't be from Cleveland.

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): Bud Norris is a name being floated around as a possible trade chip. While the results haven't been great for him, his stuff is, he could be a solid closer if starting doesn't work out, and teams are paying a premium for starting pitching right now. Is the time to deal him now, before we see what might happen to him against AL lineups? What kind of return could Astros fans reasonably expect for him?

Daniel Rathman: Glad to see you in the queue again, Ashitaka1110. I do think this is the right time for the Astros to move Norris, because he's entering his arbitration years, and the near-term control is more important to a team in need of rotation depth or a closer right now. I doubt that Jeff Luhnow can snag a high-level prospect for Norris, but a useful young player who could contribute down the road should be attainable. For more details, see my writeup in Norris in Tuesday's Roundup (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19200).

Roberto (jury duty (fml)): Lindbergh and miller talked about their favorite/least favorites moves on the podcast the other day. Your favorite/least favorite offseason move?

Daniel Rathman: Glad I could make jury duty go by a little faster, Roberto — and I've got my own appearance to look forward to not long from now.

If we count extensions, I wasn't a fan of the Brandon League move for the Dodgers; if we limit this to free-agent signings, relative to some of the deals handed out since, the three-year, $25 million hitch the Royals gave Jeremy Guthrie seems a little out of place. Specifically, I liked the one-year, $6 million deal for Scott Feldman and the two-year, $15.5 million deal for Brandon McCarthy. And from a bullpen standpoint, one year and $4.25 million for Koji Uehara looks good.

To just choose two, I'll take League and Feldman.

Steve (NJ): Why do GM's get to keep there jobs even when there clubs have very little success?

Daniel Rathman: Thanks for the question, Steve. It's difficult to equate every GM's situation and evaluate them as though it's apples-to-apples, but when teams hire GMs, often it's with a long-term process in mind. The Astros may not win for the next few years, but they won't be in any rush to move on from Jeff Luhnow, for example. I'm guessing your question is more directed toward teams that go backward, and the key there is that the GM is not responsible for everything — injuries, and other unforeseen obstacles can hinder their work. It's hard to exercise patience while watching a dismal product, and there are a couple of GMs that I think teams would do well to move on from, but given that prospects can take up to 5-6 years to come up the ladder, once a team commits to a GM, I think there's a lot to be said for waiting half a decade before jumping ship.

Seth (Maryland): It seems that Dylan Bundy is the consensus best pitching prospect, with good reason. How do Bundy and Strasburg compare when they both were prospects in the minors? Thanks

Daniel Rathman: Hey, Seth. This is a question that you'll probably want to pose to one of our prospect guys, but one obvious difference between them is that Strasburg pitched collegiately for San Diego State, while Bundy came straight out of high school. That Bundy is already so highly regarded is a testament to his polish compared to most prep arms; many called Strasburg a once-in-a-generation talent, but 18-year-olds with Bundy's stuff and feel don't come around very often, either.

Steve (Bayshore): I've heard that the Cubs are close to signing Edwin Jackson to a 4 year contract. It seems as though pitchers have been cashing in big time this offseason, and being a depressed Cubs fan, I'm just looking for any sort of good news coming out of their camp (that doesn't include injured pitchers or unproven lower level prospects). Yay or nay to Edwin Jackson for 4 years?

Daniel Rathman: Steve seems to be the name of choice today — I believe that's three in fewer than 10 questions!

I'm not a huge fan of a four-year deal for Jackson, because I think he's a low-end 3 or high-end 4 at his best, but he's been durable and relatively consistent over the past few years, so I don't think a $12-13 million annual commitment is particularly likely to prove disastrous, either. The one thing that does confuse me a bit is how all of the pieces are going to fall into place in Chicago, where — with Baker, Feldman, Villanueva, and now potentially Jackson joining Garza, Samardzija, and Travis Wood — there are more pitchers than rotation spots. Their injury histories make depth important, but it'll be interesting to see if Epstein and Hoyer look to move at least one of the incumbents this winter/spring.

rookie319s (Saint Louis): With Oscar Taveras raking in winter ball, do you see a way he can get a large amount of playing time with the Cardinals in 2013 without injury to the current roster? I can't believe they would bench Jay in center due to defense.

Daniel Rathman: Thanks for stopping by, rookie319s. I don't think the Cardinals will be in a huge rush to promote Taveras, given that their outfield is full, so he'll probably end up getting more upper-minors seasoning than he needs. For now, he is — as you said — outstanding injury insurance, and a clear heir to Beltran's spot in right field. WARP had Jon Jay as a 3.2-win producer last year, so I agree with your sentiment that he should not be benched.

modred (boston): Is there a date in the CBA where qualified free agents no longer cost a draft pick (I have vague recollections of a May 1st date in the old the CBA)?

Daniel Rathman: Modred, I believe you're correct about the May 1 date in the old CBA, and I'm actually not sure about the system in the new one — that's a great question. Since teams no longer get first-round picks (only sandwich rounders) for losing free agents, that part is taken care of, but I don't know off the top of my head if there's at date after which teams' first-rounders no longer disappear when they sign a qualified free agent.

Andrew (DC): If Anthony Rendon can stay healthy, and that's a big if, what is his ceiling in the majors? Does he start at 2B with Ryan Zimmerman at 3B? Or does he take over 3B and Zimmerman eventually moves to 1B? Thanks!

Daniel Rathman: Andrew, I definitely think that Rendon can be a major-league regular, but I don't think Zimmerman — who is one of the best defensive 3Bs in the league — will be asked to change positions. The Nats will probably continue to develop Rendon at third, with a return to Double-A to start the season seeming appropriate, and find a different position for him when it becomes necessary (second is the most likely spot). Keep an eye on where he's used in spring training for possible clues.

michaelmcduffe (ottawa): Hi Daniel. In your opinion is Cleveland really going to play Lonnie Chisenhall and if so what do you think he is capable of? Also in this vein is Mastroianni going to be the CF placeholder to start the season in Minnesota at least until Aaron Hicks proves he can hit AAA pitching and is called up? Thank you.

Daniel Rathman: Hi, michaelmcduffe. Given the state of the free-agent pickings, I do expect Chisenhall to start the year as Cleveland's third baseman, perhaps with Mike Aviles spelling him against some left-handed pitchers. He should offer solid defense and enough bat to be a passable regular, with a chance to become above-average down the road.

Meanwhile, the Twins don't seem to be in any rush, so Mastroianni-to-Hicks appears to be the plan.

Rob (VA): Thanks for the chat, Daniel. Juan Francisco has been tearing it up in the DWL. His power is undeniable. Do you think he is the starting 3B on opening day for the Braves? And if he is, what kind of counting stats can I expect from him?

Daniel Rathman: Thanks for coming, Rob. Francisco's power is definitely real, but his plate discipline and glovework are concerns. I doubt there will be another significant infield addition coming from Frank Wren, so it's down to Francisco and Prado, with Reed Johnson the most likely option in left field if they go with Prado at third. If he gets the everyday nod, I'll throw out a ballpark line of .250 AVG, 22 HR, 70 RBI, 70 R, and a steal or two when the opponent's battery isn't paying attention, but he'll probably be a more valuable fantasy commodity than real-life contributor.

Bryan (Boston): Son's applying to Tufts this year, I know you went there. Advise for or against?

Daniel Rathman: I have few bad things to say about Tufts, Bryan. If he goes there, make sure your son takes a class or two from Sol Gittleman, and of course, the sabermetrics course with Andy Andres.

Daniel Rathman: The queue is empty, and so is my coffee cup, each of which means it's time to wrap up. Thanks for coming, everyone; I'll be back to do this again soon.


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