If you’re like me, you’re spending your days playing fantasy Jed and thinking about what the Padres can do to improve the team going into 2011. With holes at second, short, and in centerfield, there’s a lot of dreaming to go around and I’m here to help. I’ve picked out some available players (however loosely that term might apply) at these positions and checked what Bill James thinks they’ll do next year.
|Jerry Hairston, Jr.||.250/.311/.370||85|
It doesn’t look good for the incumbents. Eckstein had something of a career year this season, as his WAR of 2.0 was his highest since he 2005. Offensively, he’s a hole but he’s made himself into a decent defensive second baseman, a position that can handle his poor arm strength. Hairston has a similar offensive ineptitude but while Eckstein’s made himself decent defensively, Hairston’s made himself good. His career UZR/150 of 6.1 ranks number one in this group.
Offensively, Hudson is the winner here, though Lopez might be close enough to be a better bargain (Hudson made $5M last year; Lopez made $1M). Hudson separates himself defensively, though. While James didn’t do defensive predictions, Hudson has a career UZR/150 of 2.2 and is generally well regarded. Lopez, on the other hand, has a career -1.0. The Padres did show an interest in Lopez after St. Louis cut him loose so if you’re Christopher Nolan and like a lot of realism in your dreams, he might be a guy to keep an eye on.
Here’s where I admit that I crammed Juan Uribe into this group because the number of 2B options out there is weaker than at SS. Whereas Eckstein’s arm can hide at second base, Uribe’s would go to waste playing so close to the first baseman. And, truth be told, he’s a good shortstop, so if we were to acquire Uribe, we’d have to get someone else pretty good to bump him to second. Someone like…
Listing Everth is really nothing more than lip service. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t start (and end) the year in the minors. I want to believe in him, but he has made it hard.
Tejada is the other incumbent, though I suppose Hairston deserves a shout out (career 2.1 UZR/150 in a little over 1,000 innings). With Tejada, it’s easy to be caught up in the player we saw in August and September (111 wRC+, -0.3 UZR) but it’s doubtful we saw the real Miguel Tejada. James, for instance, sees his offensive production regressing and defensively, he’s always been a below average guy (-3.4 UZR/150). For $6 million or so, is it worth it?
Like Tejada, Orlando Cabrera is another guy who seems to get a long way on his name and reputation. He’s never been a real offensive player, getting by mostly with his glove which, while still above-average, seems to be slowing down. Cincinnati recently declined his $4 million option, so he’ll likely be cheaper than Tejada while providing similar-yet-different production.
Neither Bartlett nor Hardy are free agents, but they’re both non-tender candidates who might be available in a trade. Bartlett, who we once traded for Brian Buchanan never forget, built his reputation as a glove man but his production has been slipping over the past couple of years. Whether these were flukes or age catching up to him quick is yet to be seen and while James thinks he’ll be average with the bat, is he worth the $5 million (or so) risk?
Looking at the projections, it’s easy to think Hardy is worth the risk and it gets even better when you look at his defensive numbers. Over the course of his career, Hardy has a +11 UZR/150, which is pretty great. He might be expensive, but he’ll earn his paycheck. That is, if he can stay on the field. Hardy only made it into 101 games this season, but he was still worth 2.4 wins. With a good enough backup, Hardy might be the kind of risk a team with one year left of a megastar should take. Especially if his offensive production opens up a spot for a certain poor hitting, phenomenal fielding center fielder.
|Tony Gwynn, Jr.||.252/.333/.318||86|
Oh, AJ. If I really was Jed, this conversation would be over. Tony the younger would be installed in centerfield, free to make all the amazing catches he’d like. But I’m not and he surely won’t, so let’s look at the other four.
Ellsbury’s is a popular name when the conversation turns toward trading Adrian and he is an elite base stealing threat, but I’m not sure he’s a center fielder. He has a UZR/150 of 0.2 in a little over two thousand innings, but the Red Sox brought in Mike Cameron to push Ellsbury to left last year and as much as I love Mikey C., that’s a little telling, isn’t it? Especially because Ellsbury’s not as young as he seems. He’ll be arbitration eligible next winter and with his 136 career stolen bases, I’d bet the arbitrator will like him and that’s no good for us small market folk.
A younger option would be Colby Rasmus, whose very public spat with Tony LaRussa may or may not have put him on the block. If he’s available, I’m not sure the Padres have enough to go get him. Surely the conversation would start with Simon Castro, but where would it end? A player with Rasmus’ potential seems worth whatever price St. Louis asks, but the question becomes whether or not we’ll be able to hang once some deeper-pocketed teams get involved.
Upton’s a more realistic change-of-scenery guy, though also arbitration eligible next year. While he’s never fully lived up to his potential, he’s become an excellent center fielder (career UZR/150 5.7) and he’s still only 26. Think of him as a better case Venable, with the potential to be a 30-40 guy. He could also remain a 10-40 guy but then if it was easy, everyone would do it.
Then there’s Davis, the bubble burster. Not as dreamy as the rest, he’s a decent fielder (2.6 UZR/150) who’s stolen 91 bases over the past two years. He’s the wild card, and a good one at that because put him on a field in Peoria with Dave Roberts and who knows what will come out of it.
And that’s it. I hope you found this helpful. I sort of feel like a jerk for taking you past the bike aisle when you’re likely to get some cans of soup for Christmas, but such is dreaming. Enjoy it while it lasts, before the season begins and we’re stuck with reality.