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Chat: Rob Mains

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday June 20, 2017 1:00 PM ET chat session with Rob Mains.


Rob is a staff writer at Baseball Prospectus and you can also ask him about his awesome dog.

Rob Mains: Hey, let's chat! If you missed my tweets, baseball history, wine, and investments are all fair (and encouraged!) game. Let's roll.

Dave (San Francisco): The Andrew Triggs experiment has failed. When do the A's give Daniel Gossett a chance?

Rob Mains: Well, define "failed." I mean, the guy had only two starts in which he allowed more than 2 runs through mid-May. He's hurt. Unless his hip can't be fixed--always a possibility with hips--he should be back. Gossett, who somehow hasn't been in the BP Annual since 2015 despite being only 24, will probably get a call at some point if he keeps pitching this well in Nashville, though I'd guess Paul Blackburn may be in Oakland first.

JGG (MN): Will you be visiting MN this summer to see our Twins? Sano is a joy!

Rob Mains: Sadly, no. I wanted to do the BP event but it conflicts with Saberseminar this year. It's sad; I grew up in Minnesota, still have family there, and I have yet to see the new ballpark.
I was talking about Sano with one of my colleagues here just last week. Yes, undoubtedly a joy. But there is no way he maintains a .412 babip. He's good, but not THIS good.

Dan (DC): Bo Bichette - the next big prospect?

Rob Mains: Okay, here's a little inside BP chats for those of you who aren't familiar--chat questions can be submitted in advance. This one, from Dan, is one. And I wrote out my answer when I got it. As you'll see, I changed my mind some as the days progressed and the Bo Bichette questions kept on coming. Anyway, my initial thought was: I am not someone you should necessarily trust about prospects-let me restate that, you can probably safely ignore anything I say about prospects-but I am not super high on Bichette, because I don't entirely trust his bloodlines. (Sorry, I live in a horse racing town.) I'll say this-if he can sustain this level of offense when he's promoted to AA New Hampshire, I'm totally wrong. But until then, I'd take Vlad Jr. first.

Tom (Washington DC): Next year's Ronald Acuna?

Rob Mains: Sorry, prospects are not my long suit...in what sense? Acuna's a really good prospect who remains on track to be a solid major leaguer, coming back from an injury this year. There are several guys who could meet that definition next year. Some haven't even been injured yet!

Dave (San Francisco): Looking toward next season for the A's, they've got a lot of guys who are DHs, or should be DHs. So of Khris Davis, Ryon Healy, Mark Canha, Matt Olson, and Renato Nunez, where would you put everyone?

Rob Mains: Ooh, good question, and thanks for asking it in advance so I could look up some stuff. Let's look at age and contracts: Davis (29) arb eligible in 2018, Healy (25) 2020, Canha (28) 2018, Olson (23) 2020, Nunez (22) 2020. Ideally? Keep Davis in left, Healy at DH, Nunez and Olson backing up the corners, in that order, due to Nunez's flexibility. This being the A's, though, it's not hard to see Davis getting traded, which opens up left for, probably, Canha for the rest of this season and Olson for 2018. I don't see Canha sticking with the club. I should add that Beane seems to become more inscrutable every season, so I'll probably be wrong about everything.

Steve (Cali): Best SS prospect in 3 years is? Top 3 is?

Rob Mains: If you're asking me who the best SS prospect in baseball will be in three years, I have no idea. Some guy who doesn't play professional ball now, I'd guess.
By the second question if you're asking who the top 3 at the position will be, it's really, really hard to imagine Correa, Lindor, and Seager not remaining on top-they'll be only 25, 26, and 26, respectively! If one of them is going to get dislodged, I'd put my money on Amed Rosario ahead of J.P. Crawford (who is only three months younger than Correa). Shortstop is becoming a rich position.

Dusty (Colorado): Where would you have Wander Javier in prospect SS rankings?

Rob Mains: Dusty, I don't have prospect SS rankings. Let me quote Dirty Harry in "Magnum Force:" A man's gotta know his limitations. This man knows his. I don't have the skills or the bandwidth to evaluate prospects. Note that I'm not saying I don't like prospects, it's just that they're not my expertise. It's like asking me for advice on being tall and handsome. But just because I lack knowledge, you're not out of luck. Lots of people here do! Craig Goldstein did one of these last week. He, and the folks he works with on the prospects team, are the ones to ask. They're really good. I met several of them for the first time at our ballpark event in Baltimore on Saturday. I mean it. Really good.

MonkeyEpoxy ('Rillo): Seriously, the eff is wrong with Gausman

Rob Mains: Thanks for asking this one in advance, MonkeyEpoxy. And for everyone else...my apologies for this overlong response. I hadn't realized how bad things were, tbh. Hokey smokes, a .373 BABIP, 7.44 DRA. That's, um, bad. Let's check the usual suspects, per Brooks Baseball. Last year: 63% 95.9 mph fourseamer, 19% 85 mph splitter, 13% 81 mph curve. This year: 67% 95.4 mph fourseamer, 17% 84.3 mph slider, 15% 86 mph splitter. So usage-wise, he's swapped the curve for the slider. His curve got a 42% swing rate, 10% foul rate, and 13% whiff rate last year and got crushed (.551 SLG, .202 ISO) on contact. The slider's gotten a 37% swing rate, 12% foul rate, 8% whiff rate and has gotten annihilated (.692 SLG, .282 ISO) on contact. So that's not a great trade! His fastball and split have been hit harder, too. Biggest issue from what I can tell: Batters are laying off his stuff outside the zone, resulting in way too many walks and forcing him to pitch in the zone, where he's getting hit. Last year batters swung at 34% of his pitches outside the zone, making contact 59% of the time. This year they're swinging only 29% of the time, making contact 69%. Looking at his heat maps, the issue seems to be that he's not getting batters to chase low pitches in general, and right-handed batters aren't chasing pitches away. It doesn't appear to be a framing thing, so it could be either command or movement. The more ominous possibility is something similar to Francisco Liriano last year-a memo went around on him in spring saying DON'T CHASE and his whole approach has been blown up. Nothing screams easy fix. I mean, his slider doesn't seem to be working, and it's a ball half the time he throws it, but the curve he junked is scarcely better (10 of 21 have been balls). So if you can't hit the zone with your breaking pitches, hitters can sit back and wait for that fastball in the zone. Not a pretty picture.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Rob, Will Kelly ever get a chance with the Cards or do you see him being traded?

Rob Mains: I think they'd be a little crazy to trade him, which isn't the same thing as saying it wouldn't happen. Yeah, he's blocked through 2019. But Molina will be 38 by the time the contract runs out. Thirty-eight! He'll at least need a good deal of time off. And while it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep a guy at AAA who's raking the way Kelly is, the fact is that he's not even 23 yet. Eric Fryer will not block him for long, but Yadi could limit him to 50 or so games per year for a while. BTW, as I said, I was in Baltimore for the BP event there, and I went to two Cards-O's games. Suffice it to say that Twitter is gonna get really ugly when Molina's eligible for the Hall. I'll leave it at that.

John (San Francisco): Who is the best defensive option for the A's at shortstop going into next season: A) Marcus Semien, B) Chad Pinder, C) Franklin Barreto?

Rob Mains: Thanks for asking this in advance, John-it gave me a chance to dig up this great Eric Longenhagen line: "Oakland...is more inclusive regarding shortstops than the average MLB club." (This ties into my Beane-is-inscrutable comment earlier--what is his current view of fielding?) I don't think you're going to see any of them at the top of the Fielding Bible or FRAA leaderboards. Barreto's only 21, so his glove could develop, but at this moment Semien's probably the best of the bunch. This is not the same as saying that he's really good.

Alec Denton (Atlanta): Batters (we're told) are focusing more on their batted-ball launch angles, although (we also are told) it's difficult for a hitter to exercise much control over his launch angle. Would players have an easier time controlling their launch angles if, instead of today's standard tapered wood bats, they were using bats of the same general proportions but shaped like wine bottles, with the bottle neck end serving as the handle?

Rob Mains: Inserts requisite Heinie Groh reference...Actually, for those of you who aren't into baseball history, check out this: https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/b90e80de. Groh's bat really DID look like a wine bottle. Sort of. Given that he hit a total of 26 homers over his 16-year career, I'm guessing that the bottle shape didn't help him a lot. (Yes, I know, most of his career was in the Deadball Era, but starting in the four years starting 1921, he hit 9, 3, 4, and 2 home runs over 480 games. Sticklers!) However, Alec, I'll take some issue with the premise: So far this year 45.7% of batted balls have been on the ground, the lowest proportion since 2010. Somebody's been able to move their launch angle. Though I'd agree that it's been much less of a revolution than portrayed. If you haven't done it already, check out the Ringer podcast featuring Ben Lindbergh, Michael Baumann, Rob Arthur, and Travis Sawchik on air balls. Four fantastic analysts at the top of their game; it's as much pleasure as it is education. I gotta remember to tweet that.

Cal Guy (Cal): Rob, Will Bo Bichette be a major league shortstop and how will he hit regardless of position?

Rob Mains: Answered most of this earlier, but yes, I think his bat'll play, if not to the level we're seeing now. With Tulo under contract through 2020 it seems as if he appears in Toronto initially as a second baseman, but yeah, he should get into games at short.

Billy (Beantown): Thanks for the chat, Rob. When can we expect to see Rafael Devers at Fenway?? Any thoughts on his floor/ceiling??

Rob Mains: OK, more proof that I don't know from prospects: Here is how I handle questions like this, Billy. (1) Look up the guy in the BP Annual. If the questioner doesn't include the team name-thank you for doing so here-I usually have to look in the index to find out for what team he plays. (2) Read what's in the Annual. (3) Go to the site, hope there's a scouting report and a recent post. Cha-ching! Both for Devers. (4) Read them both. (5) Make a wild guess. Here it is: The Red Sox need help at the infield corners, and Devers seems destined for first. But he hasn't played there. So the question is, could we see a guy who's not on the 40-man zip through AAA and take over third before the season's out? I'd doubt it. He'll be in Boston next year unless something goes haywire, though. (For those of you who don't follow the Sox, Red Sox third basemen are hitting .200/.253/.312 so far this year. That's a .565 OPS. Devers is SLUGGING higher--.573--in AA)

Pedro (Deep South): How good can Tyler Mahle be in the MLB? Does he have Ace upside given what he's shown this year?

Rob Mains: Pedro, see my response to Billy from Beantown's question. I went through the same drill with this question, except that I had to look him up in the BP Annual's index to find out where he plays. Cincinnati! I get it. As for ace upside, with the qualification that I'm an idiot who knows nothing when it comes to prospects, I note that (1) he didn't make our Top 101 list in the spring, and (2) his performance this year, while undeniably awesome, is pretty out of line with what he's done at every level prior to this year. It's entirely possible that he's turned a corner at 22 and is now on a different trajectory. But I'd hesitate to make that call after just 14 starts. He should be fine, but there aren't that many aces out there.

Alec Denton (Atlanta): Spent last night going through my baseball card collection for the first time in at least fifteen years. My collecting window was narrow: at its very broadest, perhaps 1988-96. Some players, of course, appear with greater frequency across card packs than others. Any idea why, for the Pittsburgh Pirates, that player at that time seems to have been Denny Neagle?

Rob Mains: Hey everybody, my apologies--I got several of these questions in advance, as you know, and I wrote out my answers in advance. I've been informed that you're seeing a bunch of unprintable characters. Sorry! I will type out my responses. which will be slower. Anyway, Alec, the reason is that the people at Topps and Upper Deck and whatnot have the ability to not only troll you, by putting mostly mediocrities and scrubs in the card packs, but they are also sufficiently prescient to know which players are going to turn out to be jerks, so you'll wince every time you see their cards. In fairness, Neagle was pretty good in his Pirates years, once the put him the rotation: DRA- of 81, 70, and 81 in 1994-6. But that was the beginning of the team's long sojourn into the sub-.500 universe, so nobody wanted Pirates.

BC (Urbandale): If the cubs gave in and traded Kyle Schwarber up to an AL team, what would the return be?

Rob Mains: Surprisingly good, I think. You don't usually think of bat-only guys getting a lot of love, but I was looking at AL teams with a hole in the OF or DH slots who could be buyers: Toronto, Cleveland, maybe the Angels, maybe Baltimore? The Royals have gotten absolutely nothing from their corners or their DH but it's hard to see them as buyers. (No, Red Sox fans, HanRam is not going to sit so Schwarber can DH, forget about it.) So maybe a blue chip prospect, a major-league quality bullpen arm, and a lottery ticket? I question whether the Cubs will move him, though.

Rick (Chicago): Hey Rob, Guasman appears to be regressing and it seems he will never reach that #2 potential. Can he be dropped in a dynasty league for a pitcher like Godley or Montgomery(NYY) or similar? Thanks

Rob Mains: I am not much better at fantasy than I am with prospects, but having written basically a Gausman essay earlier in this chat, let's see...As I mentioned, the issues with Gausman don't cry out "Easy fix" to me. So I'm not averse to letting him go. But both those guys give me pause. Godley is nearly a year and a half *older* than Gausman, so his peak could be pretty short-lived. Montgomery has looked fine; nothing screams regression (though he could lay off the walks a little), but it's a little unusual for a guy with his pedigree--he wasn't on our preseason Yankees to 10--to do *this* well.

Brandon (Ankeny): Who is the best player on the Cubs? Rizzo? KB?

Rob Mains: Oh, Bryant, for a few reasons. He's younger, has has more positional flexibility (granted, Rizzo's an outstanding 1B, but he's way over on the short side of the defensive spectrum), and he's got more power (I know, not so far this year, but over their careers). They are two tremendous ballplayers, though.

Dalton (East Peru): I believe the Cubs have 5 guys with gold glove potential. Heyward, Baez, Russell, Rizzo and Almora. Agree?

Rob Mains: By "Gold Glove" we're talking "truly great fielders," not "good hitters that writers will vote for," I assume. Heyward, yes, though in right. Rizzo, for sure. Russell, yeah, you can make the case that he and Crawford are the best in the NL. Baez...the advanced metrics are not all that high on him. He's been inconsistent, and so far this year FRAA, DRS, and UZR have been unimpressed. Ditto Almora so far this year. I'm not saying Baez and Almora are bad, and they make sensational Web Gems-type plays that pass the eye test, but I don't think they're there at the top yet. So I 60% agree with you Dalton!

Steve (Philly): What kind of dog do you have? Also, please do a quick Venn diagram comparing your dog to David Eckstein. Thanks.

Rob Mains: Having completed the Cubs portion of our programming, this is a good time to pause before beginning our Pirates segment. Our dog's a Samoyed--big fluffy white thing, if you don't know the breed. We live in upstate NY, so it's a climate-appropriate dog. We adopted him and his mother when their owner passed away. They were 11 and 7 at the time. His mom passed away, but he's still plugging away. I can't draw a Venn, but the intersection would be: Beloved by Tony LaRussa (TLR is a big animal guy), smaller than his peers (you'd think our dog weighs 80-something, by his size, but all the volume's fur; he weighs 53 or so), beloved by children (he's really soft and fluffy, and docile). Differences: Eckstein handles thunderstorms better, wears shoes when he runs, and has a higher net worth.

Justin (IC, Iowa): What is Mitch Keller's upside? A good #2? Seems like he is in a Taillon type of mold.

Rob Mains: As I said, we're now in our Pirates segment. Keller's only 21, but yeah, he could be good. We rated him no. 4 in the top-heavy Bucs systems. Taillon may be a stretch, but if Keller doesn't have any hiccups as he progresses, he could be a solid #3, maybe #2. Our prospects team was torn as to whether to rate Glasnow or Keller higher this spring, and certainly nothing Keller's done in Bradenton dims his star.

Kevin (Johnston): What should the Bucs do with Cutch? Kind of in a hard spot to be currently.

Rob Mains: Hoo boy, yeah. My thought was that they'd pick up his option in the offseason and trade him, but that could change. I think that in my last chat I said that trading McCutchen at the deadline might be challenging because there is usually more mid-season demand for pitchers than hitters. While that's generally true, there are a strange number of contending teams this year with corner outfield holes; see my Schwarber answer. So there could be a trade. McCutchen has been great in June (.377/.435/.705). If that's not a head fake, it presents a real dilemma for Huntington. A pre-2016 Andrew McCutchen is definitely too rich for the Pirates' blood after 2018, so his value is declining every day he moves closer to free agency. A 2-3 WARP McCutchen might actually be someone the Pirates could afford, but then he'd be blocking Meadows...tough call. I'd trade him at the deadline if I got an overwhelming offer, like the hauls the Yanks got for Chapman and Miller last year. Otherwise, move him over the winter.

Jeb (Las Vegas, Nevada, USA): Tell me about Meadows. Is he a Yelich comp? When does he make his debut?

Rob Mains: Yes, Yelich is the optimistic, but in-the-realm-of-possibility, case. As for when we'll see him it'll take injurty to prevent him from coming up in September. And if McCutchen gets traded, he'll probably be in Pittsburgh earlier. (But remember that the outfield gets more crowded when Marte returns from his suspension next month.) BUT: Meadows hasn't done that well this year. He's hitting .246/.313/.359 in Indianapolis, and this is NOT his first time at AAA; he played there last year (not the whole season) with a better OPS (OK, just .757, but that beats this year's .672). He had a good May (.300/.358/.445) but June's been bad (.213/.318/.339), putting the Yelich comps on hold. He turned 22 just a month ago, so there's time.

Tammy (Wells Fargo Home Mortgage): Would you trade Cole and/or Cutch at the deadline? What would you do if you were Neal Huntington?

Rob Mains: I hit up the Cutch question above--yes, I think trading him at the deadline could make sense. I should have added that while I realize the team's tied for third in the division, they are TWELVE GAMES out of the wild card, so playing for the postseason is not realistic. As for Cole, he's been the subject of tons of rumors, but let's remember that he's not a free agent until 2020. The Pirates have him this year, next year, and the year after. He'll get more expensive in the next couple arb years, but come on. He's an excellent pitcher who could well contribute to the next Pittsburgh postseason team. Take away that horrible late May/early June skid and he's got a 2.54 ERA. No sense in dealing him at this deadline unless the team gets a ransom in return.

Hector (Arizona): I'm a huge Shane Baz guy. I think he is going to be the next big time pitching prospect for the Pirates.

Rob Mains: Hector, I don't know prospects, I *certainly* don't know high schoolers. But I hope you're right!

Teb Dos (Iowa): What would you do with Tyler Glasnow?

Rob Mains: Let him get his confidence and, more importantly, his command back in Indianapolis. ALl the stuff in the world doesn't help if you're walking five guys per nine. I don't know why he stayed up so long; it's not like he did something to make you think he turned a corner. Watching him perform has been painful. There's a theory that it takes really tall guys (he's 6'8") longer to get their body to move all in sync. I don't know whether that's borne out by anything, but it's an explanation. (And before you say "Aaron Judge," Judge is a year older)

Brian (Mitten): If you were investing in wines or wine futures, which brand would you short? Which would you go long on?

Rob Mains: Brian, this is a beautiful question. Of course, you can't really short wine. Wine futures are fun, but since they're available (I believe this is still the case) on European wines, you're totally rolling the dice with weather. That being said, if I would generally say that I'd be short Bordeaux and Burgundy first growths--too much stupid money, a lot of it from China, bidding them up to the sky. I'd also stay away from the big, jammy, alcoholic California reds from warmer areas that have triple-digit price tags, since American tastes are moving more toward old world styles. I'd go long the regions that could be the beneficiaries: Oregon pinots, Washington cabs, and the better Finger Lakes wines.

Dave (Columbus): How good can Bo Bichette be? Top 20 prospect by the end of the season?

Rob Mains: OK, I'm higher on him than I was at the start of the chat! His bat. Man, that's a bat. Lansing (where he's playing now) is a hitter's park, but a 1.102 OPS compared to a league average of .705 is, as they say, good. As for being Top 20, that's always dependent on who gets called up and loses their rookie status, but yes, I could see it. I don't know how much the glove is going to help him, though.

lipitorkid (Costa Mesa, CA): You buying on either Carlos Gomez (Tex) or Sean Newcomb in a deep roto league ROS?

Rob Mains: In a deep league, I will ALWAYS take a chance on a player like Carlos Gomez--there just aren't that many players who can give you HRs and SBs. Newcomb's walks scare me. Guys like that kill your WHIP. Yeah, I know, he's been OK so far, but that's because of a .229 BABIP that he won't keep.

Justin (Here): What is going on with Bell and Polanco? Both seem lost at the plate half the time right now.

Rob Mains: Bell, well, he's had about a league-average OPS and a better-than-average .272 TAv--that's kind of what we were all expecting, wasn't it? But the way he's gotten there, selling out contact for power, is a bit of a surprise. Polanco is a pretty tough guy to figure out. He's only three months older than Bell, but he's seemingly spent his career mixing a few strategic hotter-than-hell months with a whole lot of mediocrity. I don't have an answer for him other than this isn't all that much different from what we've seen all along.

Ernie (Atlanta): You don't seem to know anything about anything. Get out of this chat and let us take over.

Rob Mains: I'm not going to argue with the premise, Ernie, but if I get out, the chat shuts down, and nobody can take over.

Paul (DC): Christian Yelich has taken a step back offensively from his break out year of last season. His current OPS of .760 is very much in line with his 2013-2-15 seasons. Is this regression to his personal mean or has the transition to full time CFer taken a toll on him?

Rob Mains: I wouldn't blame a lot of it on the move to center. When you've got Ozuna and Stanton flanking you, it's not like you're running a track meet out there every night. He's cut his whiff rate down quite a bit, but the attendant reduction in ISO and increased contact has resulted in a significantly LOWER BABIP. I'd be inclined to say that it's bad luck, but his BABIP has always been crazy high--maybe this is more what he is? In any case, for a guy who never had a seasonal BABIP below .356 to now be at .315 suggests to me that there's upside.

lipitorkid (Costa Mesa): Many of my friends want to buy a house, but the market in California is too crazy. How long will it take the Trump team to destroy the housing market? PS is there a publicly traded funeral house stock that you can suggest investing in once Trumpcare takes effect?

Rob Mains: I should know that about funeral homes. I am pretty sure there isn't a publicly traded funeral operator, though. Sorry about that. As for the housing market, the thing that could blow it up: A crazy bubble in prices, which exists in some markets but hasn't really taken hold in the US as a whole (you want to see an overheated housing market, look at Canada). You also here from time to time a proposal to eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction but that isn't going to happen. Coastal California, yeah, the market is insane. But I don't see anything that makes it so.

Jeb (Iowa): What a Cole return have to look like for you to pull the trigger?

Rob Mains: A top pitching prospect and a top middle infield prospect (they're not going to re-sign Mercer). I think I heard someone on XM suggest Alex Bregman and Francis Martes for Cole. If that gets offered, Huntington needs to jump on it before the police determine the whereabouts of Jeff Luhnow.

Scooter (Philly): What kind of pace per mile do you think you could put up in a 10K run right now?

Rob Mains: You are a cruel, cruel man Scooter. In my last sprint tri I averaged 9:46 in the 5K run. Which means my 10K pace would be...well, that's why I don't run 10K's anymore. Equal parts knees and pride.

lipitorkid (costa mesa): What would stop baseball players from doing the NBA thing and trying to form a super team by the best players signing with one team? If this were to ever happen which team would it be (say the Dodgers, go ahead, say it) and which 2 or 3 players are going to start the ball rolling?

Rob Mains: Two problems: The smaller is the luxury tax. You can play around that in the NBA since the salary cap suppresses salaries of superstars. You can't in baseball. The larger problem is that there are eight position players, five starters, and let's say three relievers who will be your frontline players? That's a hell of a lot of talent to accumulate all at once. And since there isn't free movement for most players until they're been in the league six years, it's almost impossible to put together all the pieces at once. (Though I'm sure the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers are going to try with the 2018 free agent class bonanza)

Sir Nerdlington (Colorado): The more MLB tries to bend the cost curves (thinking specifically of the new int'l signing restrictions), the more teams look to find CBA loopholes. Value starts being created by lawyers rather than scouts. Is this a 'problem?' If so, how would you solve it? Personally, I'd like to see a stronger rev share agreement as well as a fixed percent of total revenues being guaranteed to talent acquisition (i.e. all forms of player salaries and signings). Seems like a win for players as salaries aren't keeping up with revenue increases and a win for owners in that a 'cap' is created.

Rob Mains: There is a distressingly large part of contemporary American life that is a product of attorneys seeking ways to stay within the letter of the law while trampling all over the spirit of it. The problem I would have with a percentage-of-revenues model is that I don't trust the owners to give a fair reading of what revenues are. I'm a financial analyst by profession, so I'm speaking as someone who understands financial statements. A team's MLB operations, MiLB operations, stadium, parking, concessions, and TV stuff may be all in different companies, some standalone, some buried in larger entities. Given how the MLBPA has fared in the last couple CBAs, I have a hard time trusting them to hire the team of forensic accountants you'd need to get an accurate take of revenues. Anyway, I do think the most recent CBA closed a lot of loopholes, notably on international signings. I'm unconvinced that's a good thing, though.

Jon (Milwaukee): The Brewers have had some success taking a different tact with rebuilding (as discussed in a recent article on ringer.com). It is too early to tell if this track will get them to Astros or Cubs level of success in a few years, but they are surprisingly competitive this year. They are doing this by taking advantage of low-cost, high-risk players. Are the Brewers unique in this strategy or only unique in their success?

Rob Mains: I think the Brewers are the model for what most teams want to accomplish. Take the Giants. They're awful this year, but they can't do a total Cubs/Astros level tear-down. The Marlins can't if Loria wants to sell the club. A team with an imminent TV contract negotiation can't. Keeping a nominally competitive team on the field while loading up on top prospects is the way I'd expect most teams to go. The "loading up on top prospects" part is what makes it hard. Stearns deserves a lot of credit. See Matt Trueblood's article yesterday for a parallel in the cases of the Yankees and Angels.

brad (NJ): How far have Austin Hays and Edwin Rios raised their prospect stock this year?

Rob Mains: I am not equipped to answer a prospect question without advance notice. Especially after a two hour chat! Thanks for all the questions and we'll see you next time.

Rob Mains: OK, thanks for your time and your questions. Keep reading the site for great analysis! Enjoy the equinox tomorrow.

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