It’s stupid, but now that MLB’s Hot Stove season is heating up, this is the kind of junk we all have to read about:
@JonHeymanCBS: could marlins/cubs execute a rare big-time prospect for big-time prospect trade? they match up great http://cbsprt.co/1cnye4I
Don’t click through to the article. Don’t bail CBS Sports out that way. I’ll save you the trouble: It’s a 150-word blurb about how, hey, you know what? The Cubs have a bunch of offensive/position-player prospects, and the Marlins have a bunch of pitching prospects. From this, Heyman draws the conclusion that the two should make a trade, swap those assets.
The lead sentence implies, but does not say, that Heyman might have talked about this possibility with one or more members of the Cubs or Marlins front office. That’s as close to sourcing as the piece gets. From there, it’s a list of the Cubs’ elite position players, and the Marlins’ (far, far less elite) pitchers.
Set aside the fact that Andrew Heaney, for example, is not a prospect on par with the Cubs’ top four positional guys, and that no real structure for a deal was included in the story. I want to talk about two things: Heyman’s place in baseball media, and the relative value of pitching and positional prospects.
First, Heyman. Jon Heyman is as good a reason as any for you to finally, really, truly stop listening to what the mainstream media has to say about baseball. He’s completely comfortable with speculation like this, even if he (apparently) conjures it from thin air, but he hasn’t taken the time to learns the true texture and shape of baseball. He occasionally gets a good tip and leads a story, especially when it comes to free agency, but he has few reliable sources within actual organizations, and he makes a fool of himself when he tries to formulate his own opinions or ideas about the game.
Being well-connected used to be enough to be a good baseball writer. In fact, it used to be everything. Inside access was not only how you caught wind of rumors, but how you came to understand the game. Writers alone could describe the action and make a fan who missed the game feel like they had seen every pitch. Writers alone could ask and have answered what pitch it was that got whacked for the winning hit, or what change had allowed a pitcher to start missing more bats.
These days, the value added by baseball writers lies in being baseball experts. Writing ability matters, and Heyman is not an abysmal writer, but he simply hasn’t made himself an expert. BrooksBaseball.net can tell you which pitch a pitcher threw at any given point in any given game. There are video archives of every game played in MLB, available online to any fan for a reasonable price. Baseball players have Twitter accounts; fans can ask them questions at their leisure.
A scribe these days has to be more than a scribe. He has to be a scholar. Heyman continues to spew silly rumors and to misunderstand MLB roster rules, player valuations and smart front-office logic, and it’s made him a dinosaur. Don’t read what he writes. Read Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, the Joe Sheehan Newsletter, ESPN’s Sweetspot blog, Rob Neyer and me instead.
As for what makes this particular tidbit so egregious: Not all prospect profiles are created equal. While prospect lists don’t penalize pitchers much, smart teams don’t trade position-player prospects for pitching prospects straight-up. Pitching prospects don’t exist. Pitching prospects are a myth. The difference in injury risk is off the charts. The number of different issues a pitcher can run into, from failing to develop a good third pitch to fighting command to not being able to sustain their stuff deep into games, is mind-boggling. It’s also true, to speak generally, that pitching prospects receive that designation based more on projection and the anticipation of improvement, whereas positional prospects get their hype from production.
Even if the Marlins had pitchers truly equivalent to the Cubs’ position players in terms of prospect stature, it would be a false equivalency. Those aren’t assets with similar risk profiles or similar trade values. Unless Jeffrey Loria hits the members of the Cubs front office over the head with tacky sculptures or paintings, the Cubs are not going to trade a top-tier prospect who could be part of their lineup someday for a pitching prospect, or the illusion of one.Next post: Juicy: The Orioles Could Trade Matt Wieters
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