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Chat: R.J. Anderson

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday February 16, 2015 11:00 AM ET chat session with R.J. Anderson.


R.J. handled the bulk of the offseason's Transaction Analyses for us. Ask him something he'll hate, like which moves had the highest marginal value over replacement.

R.J. Anderson: Happy Presidents Day, folks. Let's get this chat going.

Mountain Man (Louisiana): The Braves had the worst winter right?

R.J. Anderson: I don't think they had the worst offseason in the NL.

I would listen to an argument that states the Braves should have kept Upton and Heyward and made one more run before rebuilding. But it's not like they stood in place, either. They turned a bad farm system into at least a middle-of-the-pack bunch with some legit upside. They also overhauled their scouting department with old faces, which was inevitable given how poorly they've drafted lately.

Granted the Nick Markakis signing feels weird, given his age and the team's forward-looking focus. But I think you can explain that as a move designed to help in the clubhouse (and in the press) without hurting them long term. Maybe he stinks for the next few years and it looks like a mistake, but my guess is it won't matter much one way or the other.

Again, you can disagree with the direction, but I think they at least made some progress toward getting better in the future-even if it costs them in 2015.

Archer (Danger Zone): Most interesting of-season nobody thinks about?

R.J. Anderson: Arizona. I'm not sure they had a "good" winter, but I'm curious to see where that team goes based on Tomas and Lopez, the glut of middle-to-back-end starting pitchers, and the prospects they already had in place.

Callie Fornya (Wichita): Who plays who when the Dodgers version of Moneyball is filmed?

R.J. Anderson: Well, that's not overzealous.

Anyhow, I always thought Friedman looked a little like Martin Landau. Alas, unless Friedman builds a time machine, Landau is probably too old for the part.

Peter (Modesto): Rank the size of free agent contract each is in line to get next winter: Cueto, Price, Zimmermann, Greinke.

R.J. Anderson: Price, Zimmermann, Cueto, Greinke in that order.

Winner (You're Looking At A): Think the Astros are looking at the Padres' offseason and thinking "smh doing it all wrong" or kicking themselves for not seeing how possible such a thing could have been for them, too?

R.J. Anderson: In fairness to the Astros, I'm not sure they're comparable situations. Byrnes and Hoyer left the Padres with an okay MLB roster that couldn't stay healthy and a deep farm system. The Astros didn't really have much to build from at the MLB level (though most of their current best players are Ed Wade products).

It is refreshing to see a team realize that in order to have a five-, seven-, nine-year winning run you have to begin with one good year. If you can't get that first winning year right, then your planning for four, five, six seasons down the road won't matter.

Archer (Danger Zone): Astros -- Dark horse playoff team?

R.J. Anderson: I doubt it. They'll be improved, but I'm not sure they're better than the Angels, Mariners, or Athletics-and the Rangers, health provided, could top them as well.

Ethan Spalding (Madison, wi): is Madison Bumgarner a number 1 starter? Obviously he was otherworldly in 2014 postseason but I'm not sure he's ever been quite that otherwise.

R.J. Anderson: I'm inclined to say yes. He's got the stuff, the command, the makeup, the results, the durability (four 200-inning seasons in a row), and so on. You could argue Bumgarner is overrated due to the postseason success-the talk about him being superior to Kershaw comes to mind-but I believe he's one of the top dozen or so starters.

rrydelek (Maryland): How do you judge a quiet off-season like the the one the Orioles have had? Clearly, making moves and spending money can go very wrong when team get's saddled with huge contracts for years down the road, a la A-Rod and Barry Zito. But fans like to see action and big name signings to feel their team is improving. Watching fan favorite Nick Markakis leave town stung. Do you believe the Orioles have been wise in their restraint? Is the philosophy of Baltimore's management sound?

R.J. Anderson: Baltimore is tough to judge because we don't know why they were quiet. Did the Duquette-to-Toronto stuff hamper their activity? Was it just business as usual, except they didn't find a fit until late? Were they held to a tighter budget? Some combination thereof? Without knowing the why, it's hard to say whether it's a good or bad thing.

I do expect that team to slip in the division, but I always seem low on them, so who knows.

Tom (NYC): Your organizational rankings reference some interesting international signings by the Yankees. Are there any standouts in the group?? Thanks for the chat!!

R.J. Anderson: The prospect team can give you a better answer about this than I could.

Joe (Brooklyn): Any identifiable ways that Tampa's offseason was different than you think it would have been under Friedman?

R.J. Anderson: Seemed like business as usual for the most part. I guess two deals stand out for me: 1) Maddon leaving, which was a direct result of Friedman's departure, and 2) the Joel Peralta trade. Seeing as how Friedman dealt two young arms for Peralta, I'd venture to guess he would've kept him in town had he stayed. Friedman is a smart guy.

Otherwise I don't think any of Tampa Bay's offseason moves strayed far from what they always do. In fact, I would say Friedman's last offseason here was weirder than this one, since he locked up a bunch of veteran types to multi-year deals.

Walt Weiss (Denver): Am I any more likely to be around when my current team gets good than Bo Porter and Rick Renteria were to theirs?

R.J. Anderson: Normally I would say no. Colorado seems to operate in mysterious ways, however, so there's probably a chance.

Mark (Toronto): It looks like the Blue Jays are going to go with Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez as their late inning arms. If it were up to you, who would be the closer and who the setup man?

R.J. Anderson: I'm not sure the order matters from where I'm sitting. I guess I'd put Cecil in the ninth so I could cushion Sanchez's eventual arb costs (since he's likely to reach Super Two status).

If I were the team, I'd like to know how they approach the ninth inning mentally. It reminds me of what Kevin Goldstein used to say: if the players believe in the closer's mentality, then it exists; it may not mean much to you or I or Suzy by the seashore, but if they value it, then it is valuable. If Sanchez has that mindset and Cecil doesn't, well, who can blame Toronto for putting the youngster in that spot?

William (New York): Does it seem strange to you that Ichiro keeps playing? I don't begrudge him, but more than any other player I'm not sure what he's getting out of any of this.

R.J. Anderson: I do consider Ichiro's deal with Miami to be a weird one. They're not good enough to be a postseason lock, yet they're not bad enough where he's going to play a lot. Maybe he just enjoys being around the guys and took whatever deal allowed him to do that for another two seasons? I don't know. It's certainly unusual.

AC (TX): Is there a deal that is going very under-discussed, that you feel deserves more attention? Maybe a change of scenery that you feel will do wonders?

R.J. Anderson: Someone whose opinion I trust and who works in a well-regarded FO is convinced Brett Lawrie could outplay Josh Donaldson this season. I'm not there yet (and I probably won't get there until after it happens), but that's the deal that popped to mind reading the second part of this question.

As for the first part, I'd say the Yankees' acquisition of Justin Wilson. He's a very talented pitcher who could be a monster near the back of their bullpen. Add him to Betances, Miller, Carpenter, etc. and you have the makings of a nasty group.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, Betances will be the closer, right? I don't see the Yanks keeping him from getting saves just to play the arbitration game.

R.J. Anderson: You're correct that the Yankees don't have to play those games. Still, it wouldn't stun me if Miller opened the season as the guy.

Justin (Chicago, IL): I admit I'm very biased about my assessment, but the White Sox had a great off season. They improved their big league club dramatically while not losing anything from their system. Maybe the only complaint is paying relievers a lot of money. Do you think they have an outside shot at a wild card?

R.J. Anderson: Absolutely. Heck, they could have an outside shot at the division.

Dave (Detroit): Why didn't the TIgers get some relievers!?

R.J. Anderson: My guess is they're either higher on Soria and/or Hanrahan, or they were waiting out the market to pounce on a Soriano type. Those are the only explanations that make sense to me.

TribeFan (Cleveland): Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!! Cleveland didn't do much in the offseason, adding the Moss bat. Does improvement of guys like Carrasco and Kipnis get them into the AL Central race?? Could they be this year's KC Royals??

R.J. Anderson: Cleveland will be in the race. I think they'll be a popular preseason pick to win the division.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi RJ, What is the possibility of Giolito coming up late this season for a trial run as a replacement for Zimmerman or Fister next season? Steamer thinks he can be an average ML starter right now and since the warranty on his TJ surgery is still running wouldn't it make sense to fire his bullets in the bigs rather than the minors?

R.J. Anderson: Depends on what you mean by a trial run-is that two starts, five, eight? The Nationals have taken it slowly with Giolito thus far, and I wouldn't expect much different in 2015. I suppose the impending departures and Giolito's distance from the operation could hasten the process, but I'd bet against more than a cameo.

Robert Kincaid (Madison County): Do you see Danny Duffy taking another step forward for the Royals this year? More specifically, will his strikeout rate bounce back to his career averages without much regression to the peripheral stats he put up last season?

R.J. Anderson: I think Duffy can improve his strikeout rate, but I'm reluctant to project a return to his older levels.

When you look at Duffy's 2014, there a few observable give-and-take relationships. For instance: he allowed more contact and got earlier outs, leading to a lower P/PA, K/9, and BB/9. At the same time, that pound-the-zone mentality led to fewer two-strike counts, but more 0-2 counts. So his total strikeout chances decreased, but the quality of those opportunities increased. I'd have to do some research on what matters more-my guess is it might vary depending on the pitcher-but it's an interesting question to ponder.

JobaTheHut (Limbo): Is there a market right now for Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro? What teams are looking for a backstop, and what could they reasonably ask for in return? Is a quality late-inning arm for the bullpen out of the question?

R.J. Anderson: There's always a market for passable catchers. Arizona could seemingly use him, maybe Tampa Bay, Colorado, and so on. We're talking about a one-year rental here, so I wouldn't expect a great late-inning reliever. Maybe the Navarro equivalent, whomever that may be.

cracker73 (Ohio): Your thoughts on Wil Myers. Can he reach his potential in San Diego?

R.J. Anderson: Somehow I've become the high guy on Myers. I know he can't hit sliders down and away (who can?) and he didn't make satisfactory progress on defense or with baserunning during his time in St. Pete. That said, I think the dude will hit. He has to get some mechanical and mental things in order first, but once he does that he should be fine (albeit probably not to an all-star level or anything).

Alex (Anaheim): Will the Yankee rotation be healthy enough for a playoff spot?

R.J. Anderson: Beats me. I'm always anxious about injury-risk types, so I have my concerns. They certainly should have the talent if they do stay healthy.

Cal Guy (Cal): RJ, who will be a closer by midseason who didn't start the season in that role?

R.J. Anderson: Jake McGee and Sean Doolittle.

Uh, but if we're talking about ascending types, then I'd say Ken Giles is the obvious pick. He'd just disgusting. Beyond Giles, I'd have to roll with Joakim Soria and perhaps Jairo Diaz, depending on what the Rockies do with LaTroy Hawkins.

meswan (TX): Lewis Thorpe - what type of ceiling do you think he will have? Is his fastball and peripherals enough to be a #2?

R.J. Anderson: I've never seen Thorpe. The prospect team pegged his ceiling as a plausible no. 2 starter here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=25324

JobaTheHut (Limbo): You mentioned Arizona with regards to a Navarro trade. Would an unproven relief prospect like Kaleb Fleck, Jimmie Sherfy, Jake Barrett, or Enrique Burgos be a fair return?

R.J. Anderson: Possibly, yeah.

Mountain Man (Louisiana): Did the Phillies screwed up by not trading Cole HAmels?

R.J. Anderson: Impossible to say without knowing the offers. I tend to think people are too low on him these days. I get that his contract is more than the league minimum, but he's a high-quality pitcher who should age well. Paying good players market value is only an impediment for poorer teams.

Jack (DePere): What do you make of Jimmy Nelson? Does he have high enough upside that fans should be excited for the future or is he just another back end guy?

R.J. Anderson: He's a big, physical guy with two high-quality pitches that give him a chance at a no. 2 ceiling. My guess is he doesn't quite that projection, but he's absolutely more than the typical back-end type.

Yard Byrd (Cincy): Every team but the Rockies gets talked about in the west. Can they pull a shocker?

R.J. Anderson: Doubt it. Colorado's pitching staff doesn't do it for me. Their rotation is full of middle-to-back-end types and they don't have a killer bullpen to offset it. Plus it's hard to bank on Tulowitzki and Gonzalez staying healthy.

Noodle (Texas): Would Wilin Rosario make sense for Tampa?

R.J. Anderson: Doubt it. Tampa Bay seems to value the defensive end more than most these days, which makes Rosario a dubious fit. Plus he hasn't hit well in Coors, so it's not like his bat makes up for it.

bloodmoney (detroit): is there much to lose for the 'stros to bring up appel once camp breaks, why wait to see if an older #1 pick can do it at the ML level

R.J. Anderson: I think it's less about the team and more about the player. You don't want to harm his confidence beyond repair-especially when the upside is relatively low. Of course, Appel recovered from getting mollywhopped every fifth day, so he might be more mentally fit than previously realized. My guess is he debuts before the season ends anyway.

Yard Byrd (Cincy): Give me five reasons I should buy a sub.

R.J. Anderson: 1) Zachary Levine's quips.
2) You'd be feeding Sam Miller's insatiable ego. And his child.
3) Russell Carleton and Rob Arthur's research.
4) Access to the old Annual comments. At least a few hours of fun there.
5) Access to the fantasy team, which means you can troll Craig 24/7.
Bonus) There's a lot of good, young talent here that's going places. Koo, Long, Gorosh, etc. The sub is worth it to follow baseball prospects, but if you're interested in baseball writing prospects, then the sub is also worth it.

Jim (St. Paul): Thoughts on Mike Fiers for an entire season ?

R.J. Anderson: I'm not convinced he's more than a back-end guy. But I would've said the same about Collmenter and he did fine last year. Deception is a hard thing to peg when it comes to sustainability.

Bob (Mesa, AZ): What kind of stats do you realistically expect from Yasmany Tomas this year ?

R.J. Anderson: Whoever wrote his Annual comment threw a 2014 Khris Davis comp on him. I haven't seen any of him, so at this point I can't disagree with that evaluation. Check back in a month or two.

Tom (Miami): What do you think of Steven Souza ? Many analysts are saying he's a 15/15 guy but I think he's capable of more given a full season.

R.J. Anderson: Souza is a physically imposing dude with a good approach and average or better wheels. The problem with projecting him to hit 20-25 home runs is his swing. As Keith Law has pointed out, he doesn't have the typical slugger swing/bat path, which could mean his power results in more doubles than over-the-fence production.

Walkin (Egypt): bigger impact in 2015 -- Bruno Mars or Mookie Betts?

R.J. Anderson: I like Mookie just fine, but Bruno has people wearing hair rollers out in public in the year 2015.

Matt (Cambridge): Is Rickie Weeks to the Blue Jays the most obvious move that didn't happen?

R.J. Anderson: Yup. Stunning.

Chipshot212 (MA): Can Marcus Semien be Matt Carpenter lite for Oakland at any point?

R.J. Anderson: I keep thinking Jed Lowrie-spotty defense, some pop, etc. Maybe that's just the obvious/lazy comp, but that's where my mind goes when I think about Semien's upside.

Charles (NYC): Why is there controversy over Andy Pettitte considering there is no proven scientific link between HGH and increased performance? It isn't like Anabolic Steroids that could transform your average joe into a hulking mass if they just workout a bit.

R.J. Anderson: People like to be angry. Also, I'd guess people are annoyed with how Pettitte is treated by the media versus other known and/or suspected users.

Yard Byrd (Cincy): More likely to make postseason ...Maddon's old club or his new club?

R.J. Anderson: I'm leaning Tampa Bay. I know Chicago added Lester and has help on the way, but they seem a year away. The Rays might not make it in 2015, either, but I like their rotation quite a bit.

John (LA): Will Joc Pederson play 150 games in LA this year?

R.J. Anderson: I can't tell if you're asking whether he'll spend all season up or if he'll get hurt. I'd vote for the under though.

Joe (NYC): Who is better in 2015 deGrom or Wheeler?

R.J. Anderson: I think deGrom's 2014 was legit, so I'd pick him. No knock against Wheeler.

John (Chicago): Does Joe Mauer have a bounceback season? If so, is it possible he gets dealt?

R.J. Anderson: Really depends on his health, because I think he's too talented to stay down. I'd guess no trade either way. Minnesota doesn't seem to be interested in going that route.

MylesHandley (Indianapolis): Give me 5 reasons why I should buy a sub (sandwich).

R.J. Anderson: They're delicious. That's all you need.

Gino (Akron, Ohio): I'm thinking Cervelli as a sleeper pick late in fantasy drafts. Your thoughts ?

R.J. Anderson: I'm always nervous about high-walk, low-wattage guys with non-elite hit tools. That said, it's not like the position offers too many choices. Go for it.

Dan (Bloomington): Who do you think will make the biggest improvement with their new team (traded or FA pickup) as compared to their most recent team? seems like you like lawrie?

R.J. Anderson: I think Lawrie is probably a little underrated because he's a post-hype guy. I'm not sold on him being equal to or better than Donaldson though.

Myers is up there. He'd probably be my pick, actually. Kendrys Morales is an obvious one. Jason Grilli isn't going to be the biggest gainer, but I liked what I saw from him in Anaheim.

John (Chicago): Is Billy Butler the perfect Billy Beane signing? His value has never been lower, and his track record suggests .290/.360/.440 is realistic. I think it is the most under rated signing of the offseason.

R.J. Anderson: There are a lot of Moneyball references to use with Butler, so yeah, he's up there so far as Ultimate Beane Signings go.

Dan (Bloomington): Your picks for: Division Winners, Wild Cards, and most exciting teams/players to watch in 2015...go!

R.J. Anderson: I'm going to evade the division winners part until spring injuries hit. So far as exciting teams go, I think I have the Marlins rated higher than most people. Insanely talented outfield, promising young pitchers, a few quality vets like Prado and Morse, plus the kitschy home-run apparatus? I'm here for it.

Jape82 (Ottawa): There's been a lot of preseason buzz on Corey Dickerson. Do you think he'll produce at the same level as 2014 and flirt with a .300/30/100 season over 600+ PA? Or will he end up in a platoon?

R.J. Anderson: You never know how much Coors Field is going to inflate a guy's numbers. That said, Coors or not, the .300/30/100 hype is a little optimistic. I would guess they'll continue to use him against 80 percent righties, as they have the past two seasons.

Dan (Bloomington): Same question as earlier, but the opposite - worst performer on their new team? Markakis?

R.J. Anderson: I think Markakis might actually look better in Atlanta, provided some of their insane defensive numbers stem from an overzealous stringer.

Nelson Cruz is the most obvious pick. Edinson Volquez, too-I'm not convinced he made zero gains last season, but I'm reluctant to bet on him maintaining those numbers. I'd probably say Brandon Moss, too, based on the health concerns.

R.J. Anderson: That's 50 answers, an appropriate ending point for a Presidents Day chat. Thanks for your time, great questions, and continued support. We'll do this again soon.

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