(Earlier today, Jim Bowden semi-coherently tweeted that the Padres are talking to Hundley about an extension and “fielding interest on impressive catching depth but said they are not motivated to trade from it.”)
Before I start, I just want to say that I understand that I’m jumping to conclusions here in assuming that it’s one or the other. The Padres could very well be looking at Hundley and Grandal as a two-headed catching monster moving forward. However, since I don’t believe that creating this monster is the best use of the team’s resources, I want to start by saying I told you so.
After the 2010 season, when the team announced that Hundley would become the starting catcher, I argued that Nick Hundley is not our enemy and this season, he rewarded my faith by busting out with +3.5 WAR, tying him for seventh in the league among catchers. Hundley was able to reach this mark by being an absolute beast at Petco. At Petco! He had a 160 home wRC+ (!) this season and his 123 career home wRC+ is tied for second (with Mark Loretta) for players with at least 300 PA in Petco. Considering that Byrnes and co. seem to be letting the park dictate how they build their lineup, hanging onto a guy who’s Petco-proof is a good way to start.
Now putting on my old man hat, I like Nick Hundley because he clearly likes being a Padre. Over the past two winters, it feels like Nick Hundley has been everywhere. Every time the Padres unveil a new uniform, he’s there. Every time they’re out there kissing babies or whatever, he’s there. The man is omnipresent. Maybin’s new contract may signal that he’s the new Mr. Padre but as far as I’m concerned, he has to wrestle that title away from Hundley first.
Having said all that, I feel confident that Grandal will end up being the better catcher. He’s the third best catching prospect in baseball (depending on whether or not you still consider Jesus Montero a catcher) because he can flat out hit. He has the kind of bat that could play elsewhere (which sounds like a whole nother article) but it’s for this reason that I want to see what Grandal can bring back in a trade.
Over the winter, the Rockies traded Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Tyler Chatwood and I bring this up because it is the kind of trade that we can look forward to if we put Hundley out on the market. And in case you’re wondering, Tyler Chatwood is something of an Andrew Cashner-type, and while we just traded a top prospect for the epitomic Andrew Cashner-type, I think that we could do better with Grandal. Maybe the Rays don’t make a deal with Hak-Ju Lee (and with Jose Molina behind the dish, can you blame them?) but he’s the type of player that the Padres could target if they put Grandal out there.
And then there’s Austin Hedges. Maybe it’s a little premature to take him into consideration when making future plans but if there’s anyone worth getting illogical about, it’s Hedges. If you listen to the scouting reports, Hedges’ defense could play in the majors right now at age nineteen and if you listen to Keith Law, he has a “chance to hit for average with 15-20 homer power (at least).” Assuming that he doesn’t get hurt (which is admittedly a big assumption), it’s a matter of when and not if Hedges will reach the bigs. He could very well make it up by 2015, which would be the last year of a three-year extension for Hundley and it would give Hedges a year to apprentice before making the first of many All-Star appearances.
None of this is to say that the Padres have to follow this path. That two-headed catching monster does sound like some kinda nice. But if the Padres do choose to move forward with Sloth, I won’t be too upset and neither should you. He’s still not your enemy.