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May 15, 12:00 PM ET
Chat with Jayson Stark

Jayson Stark
  (12:03 PM)

Greetings! Sorry I'm a minute late. Just got off the phone. Looking forward to chatting, so let's get started.

Joey (D.C.)

Can the Nationals win the NL East even with injuries?

Jayson Stark
  (12:05 PM)

Sure they can, because they pitch. But these aren't just your routine, run-of-the-mill injuries. Wilson Ramos probably won't be back. Jayson Werth is months away. Drew Storen is still at least two months away. And the division is so tough, I thought they were the favorites a couple of weeks ago. I think the Braves are right now.

Mark (Philadelphia)

Is it true the Phillies might look to trade Cole Hamels?

Jayson Stark
  (12:07 PM)

They're not "looking" to trade him right now. They still expect to be playing in October. But if they're out of it in July or even teetering I expect them to explore anything and everything. They know they need to get younger, so they would view falling out of the race as an opportunity to see what guys like Hamels, Victorino and Blanton could bring back. But any talk you hear about this at the moment is extremely premature.

Justin (Baltimore)

What is your take on the Orioles? I am really concerned about the number of innings that the bullpen is throwing because it will catch up to you every single time...

Jayson Stark
  (12:09 PM)

I'm with you, Justin. What really made this start possible was how well the rotation pitched early on. But it was hard to look at the track records of those starters and expect that to continue. And that's the biggest reason it's tough to believe in that team right now. But they've definitely upgraded the stuff and depth of that bullpen. And they'll need all of it to hang in there in the AL East.

Brian (Charlottesville )

Does Amaro consider doing something bigger (not necessarily selling) but good player for good player in order to shake things up?

Jayson Stark
  (12:11 PM)

Here's my question: Which guys on that team are even tradeable in a deal like that? Pence? Who would replace him? Cliff Lee? That's not happening. Ruiz? Can't afford to trade him. So the only guys on that roster with trade value are players they really can't afford to deal. They wouldn't mind swapping Blanton for a bat. But I don't think that's the kind of deal you're proposing.

Justin (Alabama)

Would the Twins consider trading Denard Span? How much (pitching) would be necessary to pry him away?

Jayson Stark
  (12:13 PM)

We know they talked about trading him to Washington last July. And I believe that conversation was revived over the winter. But at the moment, I don't get the vibe that he's available, or going to be available. In the Twins' case, though, they probably need to be open to anything. They're a long ways away.

Blue (Boston)

Here is your inevitable Bosox fan Youk question:Did he get Wally Pipped? Can the Sox get value for Youk in the way of pitching? Perhaps a K Rod for Youk trade. Both larger contracts and addresses needs for both teams.

Jayson Stark
  (12:15 PM)

The only way he would have any value is if they play him every day when he gets healthy, and he begins to look like Kevin Youkilis again. So this idea that when he gets back they'd just trade him immediately and install Middlebrooks doesn't make sense. Youk's trade value might be at an all-time low right now. So either way, they have no choice but to play him when he's ready.

Jonathan (Grand Rapids, MI)

I know it's still early, but is it time to start worrying about the Tigers? It's looking a little like 2008...

Jayson Stark
  (12:16 PM)

Too early. There's a much better team in there than the way they've played. Prince hasn't even gotten started yet, really. And the division is way too winnable. I still expect that team to go on a run now that Fister is back and they have a chance to get some consistency out of their rotation.

Jason (Cincy)

How about some love for the Reds Johnny Cueto? He's only been baseball's best pitcher over the past year, and ESPN acts like he doesn't exist. East coast bias?

Jayson Stark
  (12:18 PM)

If I'm not mistaken, last time he pitched, Baseball Tonight did a long segment on how good he's been and why. So he wasn't invisible that night. For a team that's been searching for a true No. 1 starter, his emergence is becoming a huge deal.

Tim (Philly)

Long time Pirate fan....any chance this is the year we have a winning record. With St. Louis losing a few recently, seems like anyone can win the NL Central. Why not the buccos?

Jayson Stark
  (12:20 PM)

One word: Offense. You have to score once a while, even in the Era of the Pitcher. And this team has scored more than five runs twice all year, in 35 games. I've said this many times over the last six months: The moral of last season for me was that in this era, it's the teams that can score against good pitching that separate themselves. And the Pirates just can't score.

Dave (Philadelphia, PA.)

According to Washington's self-imposed innings limit, Strasburg has pitched roughly 25% of his seasonal allotment. Think they're going to stay true to their word even if it means missing a wildcard race?

Jayson Stark
  (12:22 PM)

They're not committed to shutting him down at 160 innings on the nose. But they're committed to shutting him down at some point in that innings neighborhood, and I don't see them wavering on that. When the time comes, that's going to be a tough move for that roster to swallow, and a tough move for Strasburg to swallow. But I haven't sensed they have any plans to change their minds, whether they're in first place or not.

Trent (DC)

I caught a few games at Camden Yard when the Rangers were in Baltimore (unfortunately missed Hamilton's show). They seem to be the most complete team in the majors right now. What's your take on them?

Jayson Stark
  (12:23 PM)

You said it well. That's the deepest, most complete team in baseball. And not just in the big leagues. They have depth in their system. They have money to spend. There's a reason they're a clear No. 1 in our power rankings.

nick (vermont)

anything on oswalt?

Jayson Stark
  (12:26 PM)

Still plans to return in midyear. But he'll still be picky about where. I don't see the Cardinals or Rangers knocking on his door any time soon. So he's going to need to expand his shopping list at some point. But I think he's always liked the idea of that Roger Clemens-like 20-start "season." And that's about where he'd be if he signs in the next few weeks.

John (Boston)

A follow up on the Strasburg question - if they are going to hold to roughly 160 innings, shouldn't they be skipping him every third or fourth start now or go to a 6 man rotation? They have a real playoff shot and he needs to be pitching down the stretch. Thanks

Jayson Stark
  (12:27 PM)

They've talked about this and decided there's no real point in it. Even if you skip him a start here and a start there, it wouldn't get him through the full season at this rate. So if this is about what's best for Strasburg long-term, then they're just going to keep running him out there every five or six days till his innings alarm clock goes off. I suppose that thinking could change, but again, I see no signs of that at the moment.

Mike (San Diego)

In regards to Strasburg being shut down no matter where the Nationals are in the standings, remember Mat Latos in 2010? The plan was the same for him but the Padres were in the race until the end and it was bye bye innings limit.

Jayson Stark
  (12:28 PM)

Different situation. As I keep saying, they're committed to what's best for Stephen Strasburg over the long haul, not just what's convenient for 2012.

Dusty (St. Louis)

Do you see the Royals trying to make a move to pick up a starting pitcher now that Duffy is out for the season?

Jayson Stark
  (12:30 PM)

Unless it's someone they view as being a long-term fit, I don't see it. They have to think big-picture, don't they? I know they had a big marketing campaign about how this was the year. But realistically, this isn't the year. So there's no point in doing anything patchwork. Is there?

Steve (Illinois)

Strasburg is still going to pitch in the playoffs though, right? If he doesn't that's just madness. If that is the plan, don't they still need to keep him sharp for a playoff start?

Jayson Stark
  (12:32 PM)

Boy, I thought this was pretty much common knowledge. I guess not. He's not going to pitch in the postseason. There's pretty much no scenario where that's an option. He'll have been shut down for at least a month, maybe more like a month and a half, by the time the postseason starts. And once they pull that plug, it'll stay pulled.

Alex (Columbus)

What's your take on the Reds? I am hoping they stay with the Cards but their offense has been so inconsistent.

Jayson Stark
  (12:34 PM)

This is not a team that puts together enough good at-bats up and down the lineup to maintain the kind of offensive consistency you're dreaming on. And ultimately, that's going to keep the Reds from playing in October. What's the case that they're as good as the Cardinals, top to bottom? I can't make one.

Mike (San Diego)

Could you elaborate how the Strasburg and Latos situation is different? Both 23, both supposed to be their team's ace for years to come, both with pitch/innings limits. Seems pretty similar to me...

Jayson Stark
  (12:36 PM)

In Strasburg's case, this was part of his pre-designated recovery timeline from Tommy John Surgery. It's virtually the identical script they followed last year with Jordan Zimmermann, and they said from the beginning they would go down almost exactly the same road with Strasburg. It's pretty much that simple.

Lee (K)

Do you see the Braves making a move at/before the break? If so, who is someone they might want?

Jayson Stark
  (12:38 PM)

Money is tight. But they've been looking for a righthanded-hitting outfield bat for just about ever. I wonder, though, if they could go rotation shopping at some point. That's been a surprising area of uncertainty so far.

Sean (Virginia)

Any thought on why the transition from one league to another has been so difficult for some hitters such as Pujols and Dunn?

Jayson Stark
  (12:41 PM)

They're very different hitters, so it's tough to generalize. But I think both guys remind us of how tough it can be for any hitter to leave his comfort zone and plop himself down in the middle of a whole new environment, surrounded by big dollars and big expectations. In both cases, we're not talking about players who spent three or four years in one league. They spent a decade in one league. And in the case of Albert in particular, he spent his entire career in one town, playing for one team and one manager. So his whole world is now upside-down.

Rick (Chicago)

Regarding the case for Reds > Cardinals: Cardinals have a team BABIP of .330. The offense isn't nearly as good as its been so far and despite this, the Reds are just 1.5 games out. That said, with 2 WCs, they don't have to beat the Cards. And with the West looking weak and the East looking like they're going to beat each other up, a 2nd place finish in the Central is very likely one of those 2 spots.

Jayson Stark
  (12:43 PM)

I can see a scenario where the Reds win enough games to sneak into that second wild card. But regardless of the Cardinals' BABIP, that's just a better, deeper roster. They've gotten virtually nothing so far out of Berkman, Wainwright and Carpenter so far, remember. And Craig is just getting back into the rhythm of playing. So there's a lot more upside there for me.

Rich (Bayonne, NJ)

In regards to Strasburg and the innings limits, tt seems to me that the clubs could have a better way to go about having these young pitchers tied to innings limits. Why not have them pitch only 5 innings in the beginning of the year for the first 10 to 12 starts and then increase their workload gradually as the season progresses. They will get stronger by seasons' end and will be better equipped for the innings jump next year, rather than have them skip starts or suddenly throwing 3 innings in August like the Yanks did with Joba a few years back, when he was rapidly appraoching the limit. Plus, why not have a long reliever caddy with the starter and come in for the 6th and 7th innings for these starts, so you don't tax the bullpen? There are plenty of guys in AAA that profile as #5 starters that could use some MLB experience, but put in less stressful situations. or guys near the end of their career who could be effective for 2 to 3 innings rather than 6. Seems like a better solution.

Jayson Stark
  (12:48 PM)

I really didn't expect to spend much of this chat debating the merits of The Strasburg Rules. But I find this issue as fascinating as you guys do. I'm not 100 percent convinced this is necessary. But I'll try again to explain the Nationals' thinking here: They're not trying to ease this guy back into action. They're not trying to ration his innings for the sake of rationing innings. They're grooming him to be The Best Pitcher in Baseball. So pitching him five innings and yanking him isn'r part of that plan. They want to treat him as "normally" as possible this year until he reaches his innings threshold, not baby him to stretch out his availability. We can debate whether they're handling this right for the rest of his career. But that's the thinking.

John (Atlanta)

Other than the Braves fans, was there anyone who saw this type of offensive turn around from last year?

Jayson Stark
  (12:49 PM)

They always thought it was possible. Remember, the first thing they did after last season was fire the hitting coach. And the addition of Greg Walker has been one of the most impactful additions any team made this offseason. He's been a perfect fit for this club.

Jason (Nashville, TN)

Combining two of your previous answers, is Atlanta a possible mid-season landing spot for Roy Oswalt?

Jayson Stark
  (12:50 PM)

I've wondered that, too. He's always told people he'd love to pitch there. But can they afford him? He's always priced himself out of their range in the past.

Mark (NYC)

Jason - Just one more follow-up on the Strassburg/Latos comparison... The difference seems to be in their respective organization's plans for them, and not any actual difference in their situation's as pitchers. While we are on this topic, have you read Howard Bryant's piece today - essentially arguing that the Strasburg plan is all about PR and not about science.

Jayson Stark
  (12:52 PM)

That's probably a little over-simplified, Mark. But there's some truth in that. Different teams. Different philosophies. Haven't read Howard's column yet, but I'm looking forward to it. As I've said about eight times today, it's a fascinating topic. And I know lots of people within the sport who don't believe it's necessary to go to these lengths to protect any pitcher, not just Stephen Strasburg.

Dave (Philadelphia, PA.)

I think the Strasburg issue is at the forefront of our minds because 160 just sounds like a random number plucked out of thin air. Why 160, because that's what they randomly decided worked for Zimmerman? They're two different pitches with two different deliveries and two vastly different repertoires. There's no science to show 160 is the best way to do it, not when every single pitch Strasburg throws has a chance to mess his arm up again. In 160 innings, he'll throw less pitches, sure, but he can't do that his whole career.

Jayson Stark
  (12:54 PM)

It's based on the number of innings Strasburg was able to throw last year in his return from surgery, and the number Zimmermann was able to throw the year before. They had their surgeries at about the same point in the calendar year and came back at about the same point. That's the reason they're linked. But as I've said, in Strasburg's case, it doesn't have to be exactly 160. It will be somewhere in that neighborhood, and they'll make this call as they see how the season goes along for him.

Sarah (Tampa)

The Rays are pitiful at SS and C, do you see them making a move and who can they target?

Jayson Stark
  (12:56 PM)

They've been in the catcher market since last winter. But they're looking for a long-term answer, not a quick fix. And they have a similar philosophy about shortstop. They think big-picture in everything they do. The trouble is, those are two tough positions to fill these days.

Chris (Philadelphia)

Will David Wright be a Met at the end of this season? What about next season, with that option? Where are long-term talks?

Jayson Stark
  (12:58 PM)

He won't be traded during the season. Whether he gets traded over the winter depends on how their talks about an extension go. If they think he's not affordable or he has demands that don't fit their philosophy on long-term contracts I would expect them to actively explore dealing him next winter.

Jayson Stark
  (12:58 PM)

Well, it's that time again. I only have time for one more. Sorry.

Alex (D.C.)

can pudge be tempted out of retirement to return to the nationals

Jayson Stark
  (12:59 PM)

They haven't seemed interested in him. He'd definitely be interested in them. But if they haven't gone down that road to this point, I doubt they would now. On the other hand, they're sure running short on bodies!

Jayson Stark
  (12:59 PM)

Thanks to everyone who checked in. See you down the road in Chat Land!