Padres bloggin' since 2007

The Twenty-Five Million Dollar Man

March 4th, 2012 by

In case you haven’t heard, and you are doing it wrong if you’re using us for breaking news, the Padres and Cameron Maybin agreed on a five-year extension worth $25 million and an option for a sixth year. For the first time since 2007, the Padres have locked up a young player and made jersey-purchasing decisions easy for the rest of us.

This is a great moment for Padre fans but there is a question that I can’t quite shake: Who exactly did the Padres just lock up? Literally, they locked up Cameron Keith Maybin from Asheville, North Carolina but that’s not what I meant and you know it.

Comparisons are a big part of extensions and word is that extension talk got off to a slow start with Hoyer because he wasn’t happy with the comps Maybin’s agent was making. With a new GM, and a new agent for Maybin, those problems seem to have been cleared up but it still cuts to the heart of the mystique of Maybin.

Two months ago, MLB Trade Rumors looked into Maybin themselves and threw out the names Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Tabata, and Denard Span as comparisons. All three are defensive-minded outfielders with varying degrees of power even if none of the three will ever take part in a Home Run Derby. The three of them averaged five years and $17.25 million, so why did the Padres give Maybin eight million more?

At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Maybin wears a mean pair of jeans. It’s easy to look at him and see Mike Cameron, a premiere defensive center fielder and perennial 25/25 guy. And it’s easy to think that Maybin sees himself the same way. When he’s at the plate, he takes hacks, which is a big reason why he struck 125 times last year. His career 25.5% K/9 is just a bit above Cameron’s 24.1%. However, whenever Cameron did make contact, he hit the ball in the air. When Maybin does, he keeps it on the ground. Over the course of his career, Maybin’s hit the ball on the ground 406 times, or 54.5%. Since 2009, the only player to hit the ball on the ground half the time (and this is out of 31 players) to average more than 20 home runs is Hunter Pence. Among the other 30 names, we see a lot of players like Elvis Andrus and the aforementioned Span. And Maybin actually comes in at eight, right behind Juan Pierre.

Fortunately, Maybin is incredibly fast so hitting on the ball isn’t that bad of an idea. Last year, he was second only to Ichiro in infield hits with 30. Maybe Bud Black should take a fictional page out of Lou Brown’s book and assign Maybin twenty pushups for every ball he hits in the air. You know, if that’s what he wants.

This could all be a moot point. Maybin could come in this year and smash shot after shot off of the Western Metal building. Or he could continue to do what he do and chase fifty steals in the process. Either way sounds good to me, I just hope nobody minds if it’s the latter, particularly the ones signing the checks.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

Trader Byrnes (alternate title: Josh Byrnes as Ray playing MVP Baseball 2005)

January 10th, 2012 by

Josh Byrnes is one bold dealer at the helm of the San Diego Padres. A cynic might make a reference gunslinging, but I’m not the type to say that.

Here’s my take on the Mat Latos / Anthony Rizzo trades.

“…we felt that Alonso might fare a little better at Petco Park. The acquisition of Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Cashner.”

The Anthony Rizzo trade intersects the Mat Latos trade in many ways, and they deserve to be viewed together. When Yonder Alonso was first acquired in that deal with the Cincinnati Reds, analysts were split on whether he, or incumbent Anthony Rizzo was the better long term investment at first base. Keith Law, for instance, prefers Rizzo’s upside, while prospect expert John Sickels questions Rizzo’s performance risk.

What is clear is that Josh Byrnes favors Alonso to Rizzo. So lets include that in a new breakdown of the two trades. When looked at on the whole, here are the benefits our Padres get in exchange for trading Mat Latos:

Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger,  Andrew Cashner, Edinson Volquez, and the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso.

Allow me to summarize:

  • A catcher with an above average bat and an average glove — a rare player and excellent prospect no doubt, but not elite level
  • Two solid relievers with good upside but question marks
  • A once promising pitcher who may turn things around, but may have attitude issues
  • However you judge the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso

That’s the price Josh Byrnes and the Padres paid for Mat Latos, an elite pitching talent who is a likely rotation anchor for years to come.

Looking at the two trades combined is like a black light in a living room. Mind expanding.

The key to the trade becomes the difference in value between the two first basemen, and consequently, our faith in the Padres front office in making that evaluation. If the value of Alonso over Rizzo isn’t much, it sure puts a damper those deals.

The difference

I’m relatively agnostic on the question of who is the preferred first baseman. Remember, the value doesn’t come from the player himself, but the difference between the two. I’m skeptical of the Padres clear choice of Alonso, no doubt, as public opinions from people I respect seemed pretty mixed on the issue of who is the better player. But none of those people work as the general manager of a baseball team, or have access to the resources available to those who do.

Rizzo

What grinds my gears is the “Rizzo has slow bat speed” amateur scouting crowd. Those opinions were of course shared only after Rizzo’s slow start. And it’s a common explanation to bad performance from the scouting peanut gallery. Poor results at the plate? Must be the bat speed. I’ll believe the bat speed analysis when you point it out it before a hitter’s average tanks.

So who is Anthony Rizzo? He probably has more upside than Alonso, but with less of a guarantee.

Cashner

As for Andrew Cashner, he could become a very good reliever, potentially a top closer. And for reasons I don’t understand, the baseball world still values such players highly, as evidenced by Jonathan Papelbon’s 4 year / $50 million deal with the Phillies. Still, teams, especially rebuilding teams, shouldn’t be trading top prospects or elite starters for relievers. I just don’t get it.

And yes, he throws 100mph. We know. That little factoid has become part of his name in every writeup, like Chris Young’s name became Chris Young (he’s 6’10”!). Besides, Fernando Rodney’s fastball averages the same speed as Cashner’s, and it would take more than a couple $5 beers to forget our sorrows if Rodney is what Cashner becomes. A little more in the way of analysis would be great, thanks.

Conclusion

The Latos trade made sense, but it still hurt (I think I’m missing an analogy to Padres fandom here). Lets hope Josh Byrnes’s analysis includes something his homeboy Jed Hoyer missed out on, because that difference will be the key to these trades.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

The Padres go crazy and call Kotsay “Superman”

November 21st, 2011 by

Let me just get this out of the way:

In case the song didn’t give it away, the Padres signed Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. While it’s still not clear what role he will fill for the 2012 team, Kotsay will likely serve as the fourth or fifth outfielder as well as the first left-handed bat off the bench. What’s more clear is that Kotsay is a terrible baseball player.

Which is not to say that Kotsay has always been terrible, because of course that’s not the case. In fact, according to fWAR (WAR from Fangraphs) Kotsay is the best center fielder in Padres history with +13.4 WAR. That evidence probably says more about this franchise than it does about Kotsay, but his numbers paint a nice portrait of the player he used to be: one with a little bit of pop who could take a walk and run them down with the best in center. But that was a while ago. Since 2006, Kotsay has been worth -1.6 WAR, which makes him the 10th worst player among qualified hitters in baseball in that time. That’s out of 1,988 players. That means that Mark Kotsay, since 2006, has been the 1,978th best player in baseball. And the Padres just gave him a big league contract.

A player doesn’t become that awful by accident, and Kotsay has done so by being bad at everything. Since 2006, in 2041 plate appearances, Mark Kotsay has an 82 wRC+, which translates to -38.0 RAR. He’s accomplished this through a combination of diminishing luck and power. Over those six years, Kotsay has had a .279 BABIP and .115 IsoP, which are down from the .304 BABIP and .139 IsoP marks he posted in his first eight seasons. Those numbers might not seem like great plunges but when you’re a guy with a little bit of pop who can draw a walk (and not tons of walks), every little bit helps, or hurts as the case would be. And with 81 games ahead of him in PETCO Park, not to mention twenty more in San Francisco and Los Angeles, don’t expect Kotsay’s number to turn around in 2012.

Kotsay has also lost a step defensively. After accumulating 92.1 defensive RAR through 2004 (UZR wasn’t born until 2002), Kotsay has had a -36.3 UZR since. And he has not been a full-time center fielder since 2006, logging only 85 innings at the position in the past two years. That’s about a quarter of the number of innings he’s played at first base in that time, 331, and while Kotsay’s versatility boosts his appeal (he has a career 0.5 UZR in 784 innings at first), the Padres are currently overrun with first baseman. Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Guzman battling it out and Kyle Blanks and James Darnell also capable of handling the position. Any defensive value Kotsay provides will be in the outfield, and I mean that in the loosest definition of the word. Those same humongous outfields that will hurt him offensively won’t do him any favors on defense either.

That’s why the Padres shouldn’t have signed Kotsay, but surely there’s a reason why they did*, right? Much has been made about the leadership the team lost when it replaced David Eckstein, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Stairs, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. with Orlando Hudson. And to hear the team tell it, Kotsay will help fill that void. And you know what – sure, why not? Kotsay has a good reputation and I’m not going to pretend that leadership and chemistry aren’t important to ball clubs, but the team seems to be overlooking one kind of crucial fact: Eckstein and company combined for +7.0 WAR. Those four may have been crucial contributors in the clubhouse but they contributed on the field as well. Kotsay is a below-average hitter with a below-average back, so expectations should be low.

*This is where I’ll point out that Jeff Moorad used to be Mark Kotsay’s agent, which upgrades this signing from strange to suspicious. Moorad has shown an affinity for old clients in the past (Pat Burrell, Orlando Hudson) and now the Padres have signed one to a contract that’s far too expensive for his actual production. The team could’ve found a player who can do what Kotsay does (or does not) in February for less than a million dollars–but they had to give him $1.25 million before Thanksgiving?

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Are you saying “boo” or “Boo-rnes?”

November 7th, 2011 by

As you surely have heard by now, Jed “Hopey Changey” Hoyer has departed for the warm embrace of Theo Epstein’s bosom in the north side of Chicago, leaving the Padres with Josh Byrnes calling the shots. I want to get one thing out of the way first: I’m a Jed fan. It might just be that he was the first Padres GM in fifteen years willing to take the hit and commit to a youth movement, but that’s enough for me. Nothing frustrated me more with Kevin Towers than his refusal to think ahead. Go through KT’s history and tell me if you find an eight-month period that saw an injection of prospects like the one we saw thanks to the Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Adams trades. Or, instead of doing that, you could just go straight to 1999 and look at what Towers brought back from the World Series fire sale. SPOILER ALERT: Woody Williams, Ryan Klesko, Bret Boone, or: a median age of about 30. Even as he dismantled the 1998 NL Champion team, Towers still couldn’t bring himself to get younger talent in return. I don’t think I need to tell you what happened the following five years.

Now Jed’s gone and while I’ve already looked into other teams to follow (adios Reagins), I’m still a Padres fan and I have to turn the page. Josh Byrnes is not a terrible replacement by any means. He’s experienced and he was promoted from within, which means he knows the system. To hear a large segment of the population speak on the subject, Byrnes is essentially the same GM as Hoyer. They’re both well-regarded and they’re both former acolytes of Epstein (though I suppose Jed’s not “former” anymore). The name might be different but ultimately, the Padres still have the same GM who will run the system the same.

I don’t buy that.

One of the reasons I fell in love with Jed in the first place is that he came in as a blank slate. Having never had the big job before, we could project whatever we wanted to see onto him. Byrnes, on the other hand, comes with the bulky baggage of reality. In four and a half years in Arizona, Byrnes built up a resume that we can pour over to make more educated judgements than we did around this time two years ago. I did just that, and here’s what I came away with:

Josh Byrnes has more in common as a GM with Kevin Towers than he does with Jed Hoyer.

While things weren’t exactly the same in Arizona, they weren’t all that different either. Byrnes has now taken over two teams hovering near the bottom with promising minor league systems. To give you an idea of what Arizona’s system looked like heading into the 2006 season, here’s their top 10 prospects list from that year, according to Baseball America:

1. Stephen Drew, ss
2. Conor Jackson, 1b
3. Carlos Quentin, of
4. Carlos Gonzales, of
5. Dustin Nippert, rhp
6. Miguel Montero, c
7. Garrett Mock, rhp
8. Matt Torra, rhp
9. Micah Owings, rhp
10. Sergio Santos, ss

And this list does not include the drafted-but-not-yet-signed Justin Upton. Including Baby Bossman, that list has combined for 69.3 wins above replacement. Byrnes would go on to add Chris Young, acquiring the center fielder from the White Sox in just his second month on the job. It was the last time that Byrnes would acquire proper young talent in a trade for four years.

This is where I note that only 43.9 of those wins worked out in the Diamondbacks’ favor. Carlos Quentin was notoriously moved to the White Sox before the 2008 season (“How you like them apples?” -Kenny Williams) to make room for Eric Byrnes (no relation), who then owner Jeff Moorad personally signed to a three-year deal. Less than two weeks later, Byrnes then sent the other Carlos, Carlos Gonzalez, to Oakland in a deal for Dan Haren, who was and is a great pitcher. Many people would argue that this trade was a win for Byrnes–but as a fan of the small market team that he just took over, I’m not one of them. Since the trade, Gonzalez (who wasn’t traded straight up) has amassed 13.8 WAR to Haren’s 23.4, but he’s also made roughly $30 million less. The Rockies (and the A’s, but mostly the Rockies) have paid about $160 thousand per win while the Diamondbacks and Angels have spent $1.4 million. Which leads me to my point.

The Padres are in a better place now than they were when Hoyer took over. He brought in smart guys and together they built a top 10 minor league system for the Padres. I have no doubt that Byrnes will keep things in order, but keep this in mind: in 2006, Byrnes’ first year in charge, Baseball America ranked Arizona’s minor league system as the best in baseball. In 2010, Byrnes’ last year in charge, it ranked 28th. The Padres’ system doesn’t have as far to fall but if this thing is going to work, Byrnes is going to have to learn how to keep his pistol in its holster. If you catch my obvious allusion.

The Rays were criticized earlier this year for being too passive in their dealings. But guess what – they made the playoffs and are a safe bet to do it again in 2012. They may never be World Series favorites but they’ve put themselves in a situation in which they have a realistic chance every year, even if it’s never a great chance one particular year. Playing in St. Peterburg, that is simply the reality of their situation. And unfortunately, it’s not that different from the reality Josh Byrnes faces now.

Uncle Jeff has made it clear that the bottom line is king here in San Diego. In a couple of years, we’ll reach our cruising altitude of a $70 million payroll, which would put the team in the bottom third of the league in payroll right now. By the time the team reaches that mark, I wonder if the Padres will be able to keep out of the bottom fifth in payroll. Things are going to get frustrating, and then they’re going to stay frustrating, and the Padres are going to need a steady hand at the wheel. It sure seemed like Jed Hoyer had one, but he’s gone and now it’s up to Josh Byrnes, who never showed one in Arizona.

Posted in hot stove | 1 Comment »

“Adrian Gonzalez just will not stop hijacking my weekend.”

December 6th, 2010 by

I don’t think this will come as a surprise to anyone, but I’m really cool. My days and my nights are filled with the hottest parties, traveling, and everything else cool people do but luckily for me, I finally had an open schedule this past weekend. That is, until Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein got together.

It’s hard to simply put into words how wild this weekend was. First Adrian was traded to Boston, then he wasn’t, then he was again. But instead of giving you a watered down recap, I’m going to give you the authentic. The following is taken straight from our twitter (twitter.com/thesacbunt), is uncensored and unadulterated, and gives you a window into the mind of a maniac named Ray (not really). Enjoy.

espnmlb
Boston Red Sox near deal for Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego Padres, sources say: The Padres were close to finalizi…http://es.pn/gumGui

The one that started it all. This tweet came in late (for me) Friday night and while there was some cynicism at the time, I think many of us have been taking a wait and see approach for years, it turned out that the time had finally come.

thesacbunt
Boo I want Lowire

Oh past me, you have no idea what’s coming.

thesacbunt
@maestro876 Yeah, I’m not sure how I feel about that either. Lowrie would go a long way for us.

With the talk that the Padres would only be getting minor league players in return spreading, I stood by my Jed Lowrie guns. Oh past me again.

thesacbunt
@woedoctor It’s interesting that the article makes no reference to Lowrie, either in a deal or as a Red Sock in 2011.

lol give it a rest

thesacbunt
What would Rizzo mean for Kyle Blanks?

Good question, past me. I’m still a big fan of the Delorean (by the way, that’s his new nickname. Please use it) despite his fading popularity and I expect big things out of him. While acquiring Rizzo could simply be a matter of taking the best talent available, I wonder if Hoyer shares my optimism in Blanks.

thesacbunt
@mickeykoke Kelly has to be obligatory. I’d think any problems would be for Boston to solve, not Jed.

Like a duck to water I was.

thesacbunt
@BR_ToddKaufmann I’m wondering if he’s looking at it as top minor league talent over just pretty good major league talent.

Reading around the internet, many of the complaints regarding the trade have to do with Hoyer not receiving any major league-ready talent in return. Personally, I’d rather not try to cram a square peg into a round hole and since my Lowrie dream had sailed, that seemed like the other option.

thesacbunt
@BR_ToddKaufmann The point should be to maximize our return and if Hoyer’s not sold on the core as it is, he might as well build the future.

There’s also this. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve yet to get the impression that Hoyer thinks the 2010 Padres were a club that could do repeat business. Rather than go the Gunslinger route and throw on bandage after bandage, I hypothesized that Hoyer’s ready to put his own stamp on the team, which now includes Kelly, Rizzo, and Fuentes. We’ll see how that prediction goes.

thesacbunt
@BR_ToddKaufmann Latos, Kelly, Castro, Luebke will make for a solid front four.

Yup. Along with Latos, the Padres have two top 15 pitching prospects and Luebke. They may not all make it, but I doubt they all won’t make it.

thesacbunt
Given what we know about Ludwick and pressure, how’s he going to react to being the big dog once Adrian’s gone?

Ray Lankford, master of psychology.

thesacbunt
@jorgearangure I’m still holding out hope that Hoyer gets Lowrie thrown in.

Gah! Before you know it, I’m going to be out in the bushes behind Lowrie’s house.

thesacbunt
And I was just about to go to sleep @NCTPadres Just was told#Padres-#RedSox deal would only involve Adrian Gonzalez and is “close.”

Good thing I didn’t, I guess.

thesacbunt
Hoyer trades Adrian, takes his chances with the kids.http://fb.me/yZB90Na5

Welcome to Saturday morning. After the trade was first announced, though not confirmed, I threw my reaction to the trade up on the board. Go read it!

thesacbunt
@Kevin_Goldstein @jorgearangure Does Kelly become the number one prospect?

Not to speak for Mr. Goldstein but yes, yes he does.

thesacbunt
Mel here. My only concern, it’s a minor one, is that Jed pulls a Dayton Moore and overvalues what he knows. Back of my kind kind of thing.

Melvin’s contribution. We’ll get back to this idea a little later.

thesacbunt
If we keep Blanks and he keeps 88, can we call him The Delorean?

That sounds like a fantastic idea.

thesacbunt
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned today: We’ve still got Bud Black, the best manager of young players in baseball.

I may not love that robot but the kids sure seem to.

thesacbunt
One positive from today: Gunslinging in San Diego is officially dead.

There were many positives from Saturday, but this may been the positivest.

thesacbunt
@FollowThePadres I’d give it a solid B. I’m excited by Kelly’s potential and Fuentes is intriguing, but I don’t understand acquiring Rizzo.

Again, I understand Rizzo. In baseball, when it comes to prospects, it’s best to get the best talent available regardless of position. But considring that said talent happened to be at a position of depth, I think a B is a fair grade.

thesacbunt
After getting used to the idea of Kelly and Rizzo, I’m going to be kind of upset if we don’t get them.

And welcome to Sunday.

thesacbunt
It’s five past. Did the trade happen or not?!?

Major League Baseball set a ([very] soft) deadline of 2pm EST for the Red Sox to work out an extension with Adrian. The idea was that Boston would kill the trade if they couldn’t hammer out an extension and as 2pm EST rolled around, things got a little tense.

thesacbunt
Adrian Gonzalez just will not stop hijacking my weekend.

Right?

thesacbunt
If Adrian turns down 6-years, $160 million, I will literally eat him alive.

After the deadline came and “went,” rumors started swirling about how much money we were talking about. The 6/160 numbers were thrown out and whether or not it was actually offered, I stand by my comments.

thesacbunt
Wooooo! @Joelsherman1 Heard #Redsox might be ok doing parameters with Gonzo, finalize in spring if healthy #Padres.

thesacbunt
Nooooo! @SI_JonHeyman Source; gonzalez deal fell thru

These were back-to-back tweets and this was that kind of day.

thesacbunt
Can we talk about the Padres saying they won’t field any other offers? That won’t really help squash the ‘collusion’ talk.

Back to Melvin’s point (sort of). Among the rumors that were swirled, it was said that Hoyer said he wouldn’t try again if these particular Adrian talks broke down. That means it was Boston for good or bad, which becomes suspicious when you consider that Hoyer used to work for Boston and got what many people believe was a below-average deal. It was mostly just anxiety enduced ramblings, but it gives a good picture of how the day went.

thesacbunt
After seeing the Werth extension, I understand why Adrian’s playing such hardball.

In the midst of Adrianpalooza, Jayson Werth signed a deal (though not an extension. Why did I say extension?) with the Nationals for roughly 26 years and $4.5 billion. This was bad for Boston and not only because he had been a target of theirs.

Buster_ESPN
Nationals have single-handedly ended all discussion of possible collusion.

I re-tweeted Buster Olney taking out the trash.

thesacbunt
WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! @SI_JonHeyman A gon is now a red sox

Finally? Finally.

thesacbunt
WOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! @SI_JonHeyman prospects will remain same in deal. Going to #padres are kelly, rizzo, fuentes and 4th prospect

There we go. All’s well that ends well…

thesacbunt
Adrian’s press conference is tomorrow at 11am EST. That means we’ll get our first horrible look at him in a Red Sox cap in about 12 hours.

Sort of.

Posted in hot stove | 2 Comments »

Jed loves the kids

December 4th, 2010 by

Before wearing out his welcome in Miami and coming to San Diego, Cameron Maybin was a top prospect. In 2007, he was rated the sixth best prospect in all of baseball. His teammate, left-handed pitcher Andrew Miller, was rated the tenth best prospect in baseball and together, they were shipped from Detroit to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. It was a mega-trade in the style these kind of things tend to be: two major prospects for one of the best players in baseball. It was a fair deal for both teams, or at least it was as fair of a deal as Florida would get.

Cut to three years later. Cabrera remains one of the best players in the league, Maybin was traded for a couple of middle relievers, and Miller was just non-tendered by the Red Sox. So it goes with prospects. As Padre fans, it’s a reality we know all too well. Our own former top prospect, Matt Antonelli, was also non-tendered this week. There’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to a minor league player, which is going to make the Adrian Gonzalez trade feel like we’re stepping out on an invisible bridge.

After years of teasing, the Padres and Red Sox have made reality of the rumors as Adrian is shipping up to Boston. It’s as surprising as a foregone conclusion can be. Once Jed Hoyer came over and his staff was filled with ex-Red Sox front office guys (Jason “Duncan” McLeod, Josh Byrnes as of this week), the fit was just a little too snug. These guys know too much about the Red Sox system and they know which players to target. Which is good, because with a deal that includes no major league players, people are going to expect that they’re certain with their picks.

Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes. These are the names of your new hope, Padres fans. Anyone expecting Clay Buchholz will surely be disappointed–but this is something of a buyer’s market. The Red Sox are playing for a World Series title and trading one of the better pitchers in the league wouldn’t help achieve that goal. But then, as a double agent, Hoyer would know that, right?

This is going to be a hard one to swallow. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s already stuck in a lot of throats out there. The Padres just traded one of the best players in the league and franchise history for a handful of players who may or may not pan out. Like Jorge Arangure said on twitter, “(The) Gonzalez trade will make or break Padres franchise for years to come. Big decision for Hoyer.” I don’t have to tell you about the limitations this franchise has, or that our only real hope is to produce our own talent. Ideally, this trade will help set us up for the best case scenario, Kelly joins Mat Latos and Simon Castro to give the Padres the kind of rotation that leads teams to the World Series. But what if he doesn’t?

Without Adrian, it will be hard for the Padres to compete in 2011. Chase Headley will become the elder statesman. It will fall to the new class of Padres, including Cameron Maybin, to make things work. And while the former Boston farmhands develop (or not) down below, everyone in San Diego will be forced to sit and wait and hope that when the time comes, something’s there to catch us when we step out.

Posted in hot stove | 3 Comments »

You know how the payroll’s supposed to start with a 4?

November 26th, 2010 by

The Dodgers signed Jon Garland today. He’ll make a guaranteed $5 million, with a vesting option for $8 million if he passes 190 innings, which is almost guaranteed.

Los Angeles has been busy this offseason, already re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda. These three, who figure to be behind Kershaw and Billingsley in the rotation, will make a combined $24 million. Last year, the two youngsters made roughly $4 million between the two and while Kershaw is still a year away from arbitration (though he is an extension candidate), Billingsley will be looking at a raise that could push the rotation up to or over $30 million. Or, to put it another way, about three-quarters of what the Padres entire payroll will be next season.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

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Ughwick

November 16th, 2010 by

When Dan Hayes’ reported that Headley’s Super Two status might force the Padres to trade Ryan Ludwick, my first thought was “Oh hell no. Trade Headley.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like Headley fine. I’ll be the first to ring the “pitching and defense” bell, and Headley was as good as it got at third base this year. But Ludwick? He’s no slouch himself (career UZR/150 of 5.1 round the outfield) and he’s the team’s only legit middle of the order hitter other than Adrian. If we move Ludwick, who’s going to hit cleanup?

The better question is why we think Ludwick should hit cleanup hitter himself.

In 2008, Ludwick made a name for himself by hitting 37 home runs but he’s hit 39 total over the past two seasons. Despite his 154 in 08, Ludwick has a career wRC+ of 117 and Bill James projects a 115 for him in 2011. And he’ll likely make in excess of $7 million next year.

Ludwick’s been a starter for four years and throwing out his yet to be duplicated 2008, he’s been a 2-win player. Last year, Headley was somewhere between a 3.7 and a 4.6-win player, depending on if you prefer Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs’ numbers. In 1,675 plate appearances, Headley’s only hit 32 home runs and while he plans on hitting the gym this winter, even if he doesn’t, his glove should still provide enough value to this team to make him a keeper.

It’s easy to look at these Padres and think that something needs to be done about the offense, but they weren’t that bad offensively last year. Though it ranked 20th in the league, the team’s wRC+ was a respectable 97. They fell apart in September (82 wRC+), and Headley was especially awful (58 wRC+), but that likely speaks more to conditioning and depth that it does talent and ability. With the exception of Tejada and Torrealba, the team will be bringing back all of the same hitters worth bringing back and hopefully that means more of the same.

In fairness to Ludwick, he was never who we expected him to be. He’s not the -0.3-win Ughwick we saw in August and September, but he’s not someone who will scare pitchers into giving Adrian some fastballs. The potential is there (he hit 18 home runs away from Busch Stadium last year) but while Maybin is a low-risk roll of the dice, Ludwick has $7 million riding on his. With only $10 million available to fill holes at second, short, in the rotation and on the bench, is the smarter risk to go into the crevasse, opening a hole in left to better fill all the others?

Probably. But I’ll defer to Jed on this one.

UPDATE: According to Jeff Fletcher, the Padres will offer Ludwick arbitration. Here we go.

Posted in hot stove, players, statistics | 5 Comments »

There’s your answer, fishbulb

November 14th, 2010 by

Good thing I got that article off on Friday, right?

Completely blowing past my recommendations, Jed Hoyer went out and acquired Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins in return of Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.

A former megaprospect who was thrice ranked in Baseball America’s top 10, Maybin’s had trouble transferring his success to the majors. In 610 plate appearances, all over the course of four different seasons, Maybin has a career OPS of .692, a step down from the .878 he posted in Triple-A. It’s easy to be cynical about this acquisition but this is yet another move that reinforces my faith in Hoyer.

Here’s what the word on Maybin was before the big leagues beat his reputation down:

Maybin is a prototypical five-tool player still learning how to turn his potential into performance. He has tremendous bat speed with plenty of power potential in his frame. Though willing to take walks, he needs to improve his strike-zone judgment. His plus speed can change games on the bases and particularly in the outfield. He covers a ton of ground and his above-average arm plays very well in center.

Top 50 Prospects (MLB.com)

The good news is that Maybin hasn’t lost any limbs or gotten addicted to any drugs since that was written, so he’s still the same player he was. The bad news is that he hasn’t really improved his strike-zone judgement and he hasn’t developed as an outfielder. In his 548 at-bats, Maybin has struck out 172 times, or 31.4% of the time, and he’s not getting better, having a strike out rate of 31.6% in 2010. And despite his career UZR of 5.1 in center, Maybin’s left some question mark out there as well. In his analysis of the trade, Tom Krasovic noted that Maybin frustrated the Marlins with his “dull defensive instincts.” If I may be a little pretentious, Maybin sounds like a lump of coal who’s a good squeeze away from turning into a diamond.

Moving on to the other part of the trade, Webb and Mujica were no small price to be paid. Both pitchers played their parts in the team’s league-leading bullpen, and Webb especially showed signs of being something special, but five-tool center fielders don’t come cheap. With young guys like Gregerson and Frieri already in the back of the bullpen, and younger guys like Scribner waiting in the wings, Hoyer took a chance and made a move from depth to fill a need.

What the Maybin acquisition means for the rest of the team is yet to be seen. The risk of Maybin not coming through seems too big to ignore and the team will have to prepare accordingly. In his write-up on the Maybin acquisition, Bill Center mentioned that two of Chris Denorfia, Scott Hairston, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. are likely to be non-tendered. Hairston’s cut seems assured, as he will begin making much more money than he’s worth, leaving Norf and AJ. Center singles out AJ, saying, “Gwynn was praised for his defensive play in center last season. But the left-handed hitter batted only .204 in 289 at-bats with three homers, 20 RBI and a .304 on-base percentage.” Ignore for a second that I’m the biggest AJ stan on the internet (do people still say “stan?”) and think about this for a second: if Maybin’s struggles continue, do you really want Bud Black running Chris Denorfia back out into center? Me neither.

The team could still slide Venable over from right field, although they’ve been incredibly hesitant to do so, or they could look elsewhere. In the free agent class, there are some former Padres (Jody Gerut, Jim Edmonds), some aging sluggers (Jim Edmonds [again!], Andruw Jones), and some Atlanta Braves rejects (Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera). It should be interesting to see what direction Hoyer goes with the bench.

Overall, this was a good weekend for the Padres. For an affordable price, the Padres were able to acquire an All-Star talent at one of the hardest positions in baseball to fill. Nothing is for certain, but then that’s the Padres for you.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

The Sacrifice Cheat Sheet: We need to go deeper

November 12th, 2010 by

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.

2B
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
David Eckstein .267/.330/.334 80
Jerry Hairston, Jr. .250/.311/.370 85
Orlando Hudson .276/.351/.396 108
Felipe Lopez .270/.344/.391 104
Juan Uribe .253/.307/.434 100

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…

SS
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Everth Cabrera .245/.329/.329 83
Miguel Tejada .279/.324/.415 100
Jason Bartlett .279/.345/.380 100
Orlando Cabrera .268/.316/.364 88
J.J. Hardy .263/.328/.425 107

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.

CF
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Tony Gwynn, Jr. .252/.333/.318 86
Rajai Davis .287/.336/.381 102
Jacoby Ellsbury .300/.355/.409 119
Colby Rasmus .261/.343/.468 123
B.J. Upton .255/.345/.419 116

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.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

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