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Chat: Matt Swartz

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday July 29, 2010 4:30 PM ET chat session with Matt Swartz.


Why not get ahead in the count before the deadline sneaks up on you by chatting with Matt Swartz?

Matt Swartz: Well, let's get chatting! I scheduled this chat weeks ago hoping there would be a major trade right beforehand, and I got my wish. Here we go...

Chris (NJ): So what's your breakdown of the Oswalt deal. Huge win for Philly?

Matt Swartz: It's a win for Philly, but I'm not sure I would call it a HUGE win. The Astros didn't have much use for Oswalt in the cellar, so this does help them get better in the future, though I think they should have gotten a bigger haul. I like it more than I like the D'backs Haren trade and worse than the Mariners' Lee trade.

jdtk99 (Iowa): Matt, I loved your piece on who should Buy, Sell, Hold. Change your mind on anyone after the past week?

Matt Swartz: Yeah, a lot changed in the playoff odds this week! Red Sox should fall from a strong to a weak buy or hold, Twins should go from a hold to a strong buy, Tigers should go from hold to a weak sell. Phillies from hold to strong buy, Mets from hold to weak sell, Rockies from strong buy to weak sell, Giants from weak to strong buy. The Angels are tricky, because even though I feel like they are probably at a point in the standings where they should move from hold to weak sell, they got such a great 2011-13 value in Haren that I love the move for them anyway.

wilk75 (houston): Happ, Gose, and Villar? Not quite the haul we 'Stros fans were hoping for. Am I wrong to be this dissapointed?

Matt Swartz: I think you should have gotten more, but it's much better than keeping him. After the season ended, you would not get a package this good for him. Happ is a league average pitcher, or at least close to it, and under control for four more years. If he's healthy, that's useful. Villar and Gose are not the prospects I would have expected Oswalt to command, but they aren't nothing. I think the Astros were at least smart to realize that they should throw in cash, because otherwise, they would have gotten a much worse package.

frug (UIUC): Can you explain why WXRL is so down on Billy Wagner? He has the second best SIERA of any pitcher with 30+ IP. His leverage is a little low but is it really just the 5 blown saves?

Matt Swartz: WXRL is a value statistic, and SIERA is a skill statistic. Wagner's 1.77 SIERA is no joke and his ERA is right there at 1.69, but he did happen to give up the runs he did give up in high leverage situations. So while it's unlikely he's going to blow more than a couple saves in the last 60 games, he still hasn't provided as much value as his run prevention skills show he should have.

Jquinton82 (NY): Matt, use the Swartz... How toxic is the situation in Seattle given the Figgins brawl and how does something like that effect young players like Justin Smoak in there development and adjustment to the bigs?

Matt Swartz: I'm sure that Justin Smoak is a human being, and he probably doesn't feel all that comfortable with the tumult going on there, but at the same time, he's an adult and he's got a lot of incentive to do his best and make a good career for himself. I doubt it has long-term effects, but it's not like I know him personally.

cdmyers (Yawn...): Is it just me, or has this year's trade deadline been more boring than in the past. Now that the annual Cliff Lee deal is done, are teams playing it cooler this year? If so, any idea why?

Matt Swartz: I'm not sure how much slower it is, though you probably wrote this question before the Oswalt trade, but I do think it makes sense for it to be a little bit slower. Trades happen because teams have a big gap between their values for each other's players-- typically, the buyer has much more use for the star than the seller, and the sellers has relatively more use for the prospects. Anything that weakens the relative value added to the contender of getting a win-now player is going to make trades less likely. In the current economic environment, winning teams need to be more risk-averse and so they don't have as much value. Also, the trade off between win-now and win-later isn't going to be as different because interest rates are so low. If getting a sea of cash from a playoff run could be put in the bank for a higher interest rate, teams probably would see a much larger value to grabbing that win-now player and seeing if they could get that.

john (ct): Zach Britton is getting a lot of attention lately. What's your take on his upside? Is he #2 to Matusz on the O's?

Matt Swartz: I'm not really a prospect guy, so it's tough for me to get a read on his upside. I ask Kevin Goldstein questions like that.

Cousin Michael (Los Angeles): What was the statistical likelihood that Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee would both have 85 game collapses? Now that the real Aramis Ramirez has returned, can the real D. Lee be far behind?

Matt Swartz: Hi, Michael! Sorry about your Cubs...both of them were way below their 10th percentile projection so unless their collapses were not independent, so you know as well as I do there was less than a 1% chance that would happen. Of course, their rebounds are probably independent, too. I wouldn't count on a huge return from D. Lee...though he must be better than this, right?

john (ct): Considering Montero's recent streak do you think there's any chance the Yanks will trade him? Hard to believe now he was headed to Seattle, even for Lee.

Matt Swartz: You'd trade Montero for Strasburg, right? For Heyward, too? Evan Longoria? I mean, he's not the most valuable player in baseball, so he's going to be worth trading for some people. He's raised his stock, for sure. If they do trade him, it'll be for an even better package than they would have gotten beforehand. He's certainly a valuable asset either as a Yankee or as a guy who can be traded for players to become good Yankees.

Dave (Chicago): I don't have any illusions that the A's are anything but pretenders this season. But with Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez taking steps forward and assuming a healthy Brett Anderson, what do the A's need to do this offseason to have a shot at the playoffs in 2011?

Matt Swartz: The A's probably aren't going to be big spenders, so for them, it's really a matter of adding value. Getting someone like Ben Sheets clearly didn't work, but smart risks are obviously something the A's need to be good at to succeed. They have a lot of young talent, so most of their success is going to hinge on those players improving.

Bakestar (Yellowstone): Oswalt-to-Phillies. Great trade. Or greatest trade?

Matt Swartz: Great trade. But not totally useless to the Astros. I think they sold high on Happ and got a very nice return on the package they sent to Houston.

Drungo (SoMd): Those wild and crazy interwebs are reporting that the O's have hired Buck Showalter to be their next victi... manager, and that he's being given lots of GM-like powers over rosters and the organization. Thoughts?

Matt Swartz: GM-like powers? I hadn't heard about this. I don't ever think managers to a good job evaluating that kind of stuff. The O's need to centralize their decision-making a little bit. MacPhail shouldn't be bossed around too much from above or below!

sean (ardmore): So the phillies traded a lefty that was lucky last year coming off his 2nd elbow injury, along with a SS with 42 errors, and an outfielder that isn't a great base stealer but that's his calling card. How is this not a win?

Matt Swartz: It's a win. But I wouldn't put much stock in Villar's 42 errors or Gose's 27 CS. Gose stole 76 bases out of 96 tries last year. He's only 36 for 63 this year, but he's obviously fast enough that some good coaching will make his baserunning an asset. I'm just not sure how much he'll be able to get on base in the first place so that he can run. Shortstops in the minor leagues make a lot of errors. They're learning and Villar is 19. I think both of their hitting is the concern. I have no idea how healthy Happ is. He looked wild during his first start back, but if he's healthy, he's a league average pitcher on the cheap for four more years. It's still better for the Phillies than the Astros in terms of market value, but Oswalt's no-trade clause is probably partly to blame there.

Sophist (--): Defend this trade from the Astros perspective.

Matt Swartz: The Astros were not going to get any use out of Roy Oswalt in 2010 or 2011. They may get use out of Happ, Gose, and Villar later on. They still probably could have done better, unless Oswalt was limiting them a lot behind the scenes.

Barry Jive (Philadelphia): Given the Phils' recent win streak, was buying--particularly for the deal they got on Oswalt--the right move?

Matt Swartz: Yeah, they catapulted up in the PECOTA Playoff Odds from 11% to 35%. Especially with a strong rotation, the Phillies have a good chance of succeeding in the playoffs if they make. This probably adds about 15% to their playoff odds, and probably 3% to their championship odds if not more. That's when you buy.

Bill (Toronto): Any idea what Toronto is sending Houston's way for Gose?

Matt Swartz: Wait, when did this happen? Trade deadline chats are hard!

Jquinton82 (NY): Would a package from the Yankees built around Joba and Ian Nova plus two prospects been better than what the Angels gave up?

Matt Swartz: I would certainly think so. Joba could become a lot of different things, a bad reliever, or a great starter. His stock has fallen, but it's still gotta be a lot higher than Joe Saunders' who is due to make over $6MM in arbitration next year.

Lane (Austin): Rank these trades in terms of how bad they were for the teams giving up these 3 players: Lee, Haren, Oswalt

Matt Swartz: Lee got the best haul, Haren got the worst. Oswalt falls in between those two for sure.

Bill (Toronto): FYI Gose is going to the Jays in a seperate deal.

Matt Swartz: Very interesting. I wonder what they got? Seems like a double-gamble kind of move. Tough to evaluate on my end.

Matt (Chicago): Where do you see Lilly ending up and for what type of return-obviously better if $ sent with the lefty? His stock has to be on rise with Oswalt off the market.

Matt Swartz: His stock is not necessary on the rise with Oswalt off the market, because the Phillies are off the buyers side of the market too. You take away one buyer and one seller, and I'm not sure what'll happen. I'm not quite sure who's the biggest buyer on the market right now. The Braves don't seem likely to spend more money, even though they certainly have an incentive. I doubt the Cubs trade in-division. The Rockies might be sellers, and the Dodgers don't want to spend their money I don't think. The Yankees and Rays don't really seem to need him. Maybe there's someone I'm not thinking of who would be pushing hard for a starter. Lilly's SIERA isn't as pretty as his ERA, though, so I wouldn't think he generates a huge return. It might depend on whether teams expect him to accept arbitration, because he's a Type A. If he's going to reject arbitration, his value skyrockets.

Lane (Austin): Whoops, guess you already answered my previous question. I believe the Astros now have about 30 mil in payroll committed to 2011, but 19 of that is Carlos Lee. Is there a snowball's chance in hell that they can do anything about that?

Matt Swartz: If they trade Carlos Lee, they should do exactly what they did with Roy Oswalt and throw in a lot of cash. They need to rebuild on top of a very weak system, and the more cash they throw in, the better return they'll get. Thinking about the prospect value of $19 million, you can really see how that would help a team.

Danny (philly): Well somehow the Astros just flipped Gose to the Jays for Wallace so that makes the trade better for them now?

Matt Swartz: Wow, that seems to make the trade a lot better. Really? Am I really undervaluing Gose or really overvaluing Wallace here? That's certainly a surprise.

uptick (st. louis): supposedly the Astros dealt Gose to the Jays for Brett Wallace...if so, it seems like the Astros got the best of that, no?

Matt Swartz: Yeah, wow! A lot happening while I'm chatting here. I'd love to hear Kevin's take on this. I'm not sure what to say about it myself, because I'm afraid that I'm not valuing these guys correctly.

Jquinton82 (NY): Blue Jays trade Wallace for Gose? Is this a bad sign for Wallace that he's now been traded 3 times in the past year?

Matt Swartz: I can't say it's a good sign. Teams seem to know their own players pretty well, and something about him keeps getting him traded.

Lane (Austin): Astros flip Gose to Blue Jays for Brett Wallace. Does this signal that they are actively shopping Berkman much more than anyone thought?

Matt Swartz: They certainly should be shopping Berkman. He's not going to be part of the next contending Astros squad, and he has some value. I think it probably shows their awareness that they should. Certainly a good sign for Astros fans.

RP (Smugpocalpyse): Looks like the Stros are trading Gose to the Jays for Brett Wallace, does that make it a better deal for them?

Matt Swartz: Since I just answered a question about this when these both came in, but I love the Location of Smugpocalypse.

sytry14 (Seattle): Hey Matt: Any thoughts on the Peralta trade? Kevin and Christine covered it pretty thoroughly, as always, but I wonder about the supposed ill-advisedness of trading within the division. What are the reasons why it's seldom done? Thanks.

Matt Swartz: I like trading within the division on buyer/seller trades in almost all cases. When your team is no good right now, you do yourself a favor by extracting prospects away from your rivals that could have hurt you when you do get good again. That said, why are the Tigers buying? Their playoff odds are under 5%.

Jquinton82 (NY): MLBtraderumors reporting that Cantu to the Rangers for Evan Reed and Omar Poveda is done deal

Matt Swartz: Wow, I should have scheduled this chat for an hour later so that I could have looked into some of these trades. Not sure I have a read on this one yet.

Silv (NY, NY): Gose flipped for Brett Wallace. Can he even play 1b?

Matt Swartz: Adam Dunn plays first base, and supposedly isn't even that bad at it right now. If anything, Brett Wallace seems very trade-able if the 1B experiment doesn't work.

mattymatty2000 (Portland, OR): Ruben Amaro, Jr. may just be the best and worst GM in baseball simultaneously. Best: Halladay, Lee (first), Oswalt Worst: Lee (second), Howard extension, Ibanez. (You could throw Polanco in there too, but for symmetry's sake, I won't). Thoughts? (thanks for the chat)

Matt Swartz: Ruben Amaro is a businessman. He's very good at it. He seems to be a good negotiator, he seems very good at manipulating the media to get what he wants, and he seems to have a good understanding of markets. I'm not sure he likes sabermetrics all that much, and I can't say that doesn't scare me. He's got a great scouting program, a great development program, and so he's able to identify players that are going to be very good and churn out prospects that he can flip for aces too. I don't think he understood that trading Lee had a very good chance of costing the Phillies the playoffs, I don't think he understands aging curves that well. So he's very good in some aspects and very bad in others, so you see lopsided trades and lopsided signings in both directions.

Sophist (--): Why is SIERA so high on Lilly relative to xFIP? Pop-ups?

Matt Swartz: SIERA makes adjustments to pitchers who have abnormal ground ball rates since the returns are not symmetric. It also makes adjustments based on the value of a ground ball. Lilly doesn't get many walks, so he doesn't have that many guys on first base. The result is that his VERY low ground ball rate doesn't matter, because he doesn't need to get double plays as much as high walk pitchers. He's really likely to give up solo home runs, and xFIP treats all HR equally. SIERA acknowledges that some pitchers are more likely to give up 3-run HR than others, and Lilly isn't likely to.

Jquinton82 (NY): Wait.... the Astro are actually selling?

Matt Swartz: Finally, right?

Jquinton82 (NY): Rosenthall Via twitter - Astro discussing Berkman deals

Matt Swartz: Very encouraging. If they eat some money, they could help themselves rebuild their system more quickly.

Sophist (Phi): Can't the Ibanez contract be reasonably defended? At worst, it's not over yet (he has a year left, and he may just be having his 2007 year again this year). That thing paid off 2/3 it's cost in its first year.

Matt Swartz: Yeah, I was fine with the Ibanez contract. At the time, the Phillies were (rightly) suspicious of Pat Burrell's injuries and they knew they needed a left fielder. They were in a position where buying made a lot of sense, but they only had an opening in left. It turned out that they may not have needed his help to win the division, but it certainly was time to buy.

Jquinton82 (NY): KG via twitter apparently blasting Wallace/Gose trade: "It's a gamble trade -- you want a guy who is pretty much big league ready but no more than average for his position, or take an upside risk?" and "Your so-called 'hitting machine' has a career .299/.357/.484 line at Triple-A in good hitting parks, and offers ZERO after the bat."

Matt Swartz: Interesting. I guess his value really has fallen more than I thought. So has Michael Taylor's though, so I'm not sure the Jays can really hate themselves too much for getting him in the first place.

Lane (Austin): Who should be going after Berkman now and how would you compare his value to Oswalt?

Matt Swartz: The Yankees and Rays certainly would have to have value for him as a DH, wouldn't they? The White Sox seem less keen on trading for Dunn as of this morning, so he would obviously be a great player for them too.

John (Washington): With Stephen Strasburg being placed on the DL, how much do you foresee the Nationals limiting his innings pitched? They already had him on a super duper innings/pitch count watch, what kind of effect will a shoulder injury have on a prospect like this?

Matt Swartz: They are being very, very cautious with him, as they should be. I could still see them letting him reach 160 innings, but there's no sense in pushing him too hard. The sellouts are nice, but you gotta figure they'll look a lot better when the Nats are competing for a division title and their selling out the four games after he starts too.

Dan (Brooklyn): So if the price for Oswalt + $11m was a rotation-ready arm and two minor leaguers, what was the price if the buyer was willing to take on the salary? Could the Mets have unloaded a Francoeur on them, plus a prospect or two?

Matt Swartz: Why would the Astros want Jeff Francoeur? He's a non-tender candidate and the Astros aren't going to compete in the near future even if he isn't non-tendered? The Mets apparently needed to trade Niese to match Happ, which seems a little silly to me. Sounds like Ed Wade might be overvaluing Happ's 2009 BABIP numbers to me, but that's just a speculation based on watching him trade for pitchers with low BABIPs for a decade in Philly.

sharkey (MPLS): Please tell me the Twins have something they can swing soon...

Matt Swartz: They should be buyers, but I have no inside information about what they can do. They're the best team in their division and their only just behind the White Sox. If they make a move, that could really help, though even if the White Sox do and the Twins don't, I still like the Twins chances.

rjblakel (Australia): Despite his youth and favourable contract, do you think the 'Stros will reconsider moving Breett Myers?

Matt Swartz: I heard he's "untouchable." That seems incredibly dumb, and probably is just a posturing move. With Berkman rumors following the Oswalt trade, they clearly recognize they're not going to contend next year. Maybe Myers has stated that he is willing to give a big discount to them if they sign him long-term? I'm kinda thinking it's a bluff to raise his price.

Dan (DC): Do you see the Nats moving Dunn?

Matt Swartz: They really should if they can get fair value for him. He's perpetually undervalued by the league, so maybe that's the problem here. Working out a long-term deal seems silly. The Nats should be looking to compete in a couple years, and cashing in what they can for prospects just seems smart here.

BillJ (New Mexico): To continue the Gose/Wallace theme, just how high IS Gose's upside? I don't understand KG at all on this one.

Matt Swartz: He's really, really fast. I guess if he learns to make solid contact and draw a walk, he would turn into a good ballplayer, but from what I'd heard, he's really raw. I'll need to get my bearings with Kevin, because he just knows way more about this stuff than me.

hessshaun (Domination): Matt, do you agree with Uncle Chollie sitting Brown tonight in favor of Francisco? And just for fun, aren't you glad Benny is in the three hole as well?

Matt Swartz: Shouldn't your location be DomOnation? Or was that not a Domonic Brown reference? I don't think it's crazy to do right now, but they can't be platooning Brown next year. For this year, I'm not sure who is better at hitting lefties, but keeping Francisco hot after his cold start isn't dumb. Lineup order doesn't worry me too much. I would just prefer Werth and his OBP bat before Howard and his SLG, but that's all I've really thought about this type of stuff.

Greg (Balitmore): Tejada scratched from the lineup. Trade in the works? Who are some possible takers?

Matt Swartz: I'm seeing that he was traded to the Padres a little further in my questions. Good for the Orioles to get something for him. They hold onto players too long. I like the Padres being buyers now, and if this is what they can afford, I'm fine with it. A contact hitter is smart in that park.

Frank (Fairfax): Is Showalter the right kind of manager for a team in the Orioles position?

Matt Swartz: I would love to watch sabermetrics figure out how to evaluate managers, but I don't think we're anywhere near there at this stage.

mattymatty2000 (Re: Ibanez): My impression of the Ibanez deal is that Amaro ran out ahead of the market. He gave a 37 year old corner outfielder with suspect defense a three year deal in market clustered with similar players who got far less in terms both dollars and years. I agree Ibanez had an amazing first half of '09, but he's been mediocre since then. Also, I'm not sure there was any reasonable way Amaro could've known Ibanez would turn into Mickey Mantle. Maybe I'm being too harsh though.

Matt Swartz: It did seem like too much money with such a flush of corner outfielders and not many teams in need of them. Ibanez obviously hurt himself and that's made a dent in his production. I think his age made that foreseeable, but he really did help the team compete in early '09 and that's worth crediting Amaro for. The Phillies scouts probably saw Ibanez was primed to do well, and maybe it was a freak injury after all. It's not a terrible contract considering what they got out of him last year. In two months, he'd earned about half his three-year contract value already.

Jquinton82 (NY): Not really sure the Wallace trade improves Huston's haul for Oswalt - Wallace has a rep as an OBP machine, but never walks and with the nickname "Walrus" one can imagine what his range is like. Going to have to see if they end up dealing Berkman and what the get... suggest Astro start eating cash like fat kids with an open box of twinkies.

Matt Swartz: Definitely agree about eating cash. That's really what selling teams should be doing more of if they aren't credit crunched.

Dan (Brooklyn): Sorry - ignore the hopeful-Mets-fan comment about Francoeur. The underlying Q still remains: how different a package would Oswalt have fetched if the money was going in the other direction?

Matt Swartz: $11 million is worth a prospect outside the Top 100, but very close to it. Happ is probably equal to value in Oswalt if the Astros ate no money.

Jquinton82 (NY): Mlbtraderumors reporting Tejada traded to Padres, Castro and Luebke reportedly not going to Baltimore.

Matt Swartz: Interesting stuff. I'll be curious to hear more about those prospects...not totally sure I can evaluate the deal without that.

Jquinton82 (NY): O's acquire Wynn Pelzer from Padres

Matt Swartz: Wait, in the same trade?

Matt Swartz: Thanks for the chat, everyone! If any more trades go down and you have questions for me, feel free to email me or you can tweet @Matt_Swa too. Looking forward to the next 46 hours!

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