During last week’s chat with XX (which we covered in part here), Jed Hoyer said that payroll will start with a four, meaning we’ve got a range of $40 to $49 million*. This means that Hoyer, and Jeff Moorad depending on when he’ll start meddling, have some decisions to make about the Padres’ roster.
As of right now, the Padres have about $10 million locked up after Adrian Gonzalez’s option and all of the pre-arbitration eligible players. These are no-brainers, leaving decisions about the other thirteen or so roster spots on the 25.
The first three choices involve Chris Young, Jon Garland, and Yorvit Torrealba. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, the San Diego Padres will not be paying Chris Young $8.5 million in 2011. They might bring him back at far far less, but his option will not be picked up. As far as the other pitchers concerned, though he’s no All-Star, Garland is who he is: a pitcher who will give the team 200 innings and an above-average ERA. And with the premium this team seems to have put on chemistry, his veteran leadership and Been Thereness will likely come in handy. Six point seven five million dollars handy? I’ll say yes. Same goes with Torrealba. Three point five million dollars might be a bit much for a platoon catcher, especially given how deep this year’s free agent class is in backup catchers, but Torrealba has a rapport going with the team and the pitchers. Why change horses? This brings us to $20 million or so.
Now we come to the arbitration eligible guys. Scott Hairston, Heath Bell, and Ryan Ludwick are all on their third go, Mike Adams is on his second, and Tim Stauffer, Edward Mujica, and Anthony Junior are here for the first time. Immediately, I have to imagine that Hairston will be non-tendered. He’s just very replaceable, with Aaron Cunningham and Chris Denorfia more than capable of doing what he does. Then we have the first timers, who will probably not make much more than $3.5 million between them. Of the three, Mujica’s the most likely to play somewhere else next year, as it’s not a high price to pay for a starter (Stauffer) or a superb defender (Junior). Twenty three million. Adams will come back and I’m guessing he’ll get around $3.5 million himself, a little less than closer Heath Bell got at the same time. Let’s say twenty seven million, before Heath Bell and Ryan Ludwick are counted.
Hoyer’s already committed to bringing Ludwick back, and we’ve already commented that we agree with the decision. Even if Ludwick does end up a bust, $7.5 million, which I’m guessing he’ll get, is a fair price for someone with Ludwick’s potential. Think of it this way: who else can the Padres go get for that much money to hit twenty home runs and play above-average defense? Looking at the pickings, they look rather slim. Thirty five million.
Depending on what number the Padres payroll digits ends in, we’re looking at $5 to $15 million left in the piggy bank. And that also leaves us with a hole at second and question marks at short and center. Theoretically, the Padres could plug Everth Cabrera in at short and AJ in at center, but then we’d have to go back in time and pull Jeff Kent out of 2001 to get enough offense to be credible. And plutonium’s still expensive. They could go with Miguel Tejada at short, but he’s neither a good player anymore nor cheap. Hoyer’s going to have to get creative to fill these holes, especially if he plans on paying Heath Bell $8 million.
This is were I reassure everyone that Bell is a great player. He’s been worth two wins in three of his last four seasons, and this year he was the third most valuable closer in baseball, behind Carlos Marmol of the Cubs and Brian Wilson of the Giants. He’s the rightful successor to the Hoffy throne, but unfortunately he’s gotta go. At the price he’ll command, and that others such as Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon have commanded before him, he’ll become the highest paid player on the team next year and such a small market team can not afford to invest so much of its payroll into such a speciality position. Especially when Mike Adams can come in and do the job with little to no drop off. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Bell might bring back something good in return.
Michael Bourn. Franklin Gutierrez. Adam LaRoche. These are just a couple names of players who have been acquired for premium relief pitching. With a pitcher of Bell’s caliber, the Padres have the opportunity to build upon their 2010 success. It just seems that Bell’s more valuable on the open market than he is in a Padres uniform.