Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why the Padres Should Sign: Brandon Beachy

Total Pro Sports
The San Diego Padres are in desperate need of offense, there is no denying that. The team had the single worst offense in the major leagues, and one of the worse offenses in major league history. Yasmani Grandal, arguably the team's best hitter, posted a .221 batting average. The team's pitching was strong, but they were burned when they signed former ace Josh Johnson (a deal I called for) to a one year contract, worth eight million dollars. Before opening day of 2014, it was announced that Johnson was slated for his second Tommy John surgery of his career. He did not throw a single pitch for the Padres. The deal was not insured, and the team declined its four million dollar option for the 2015 season on him. They paid eight million dollars to Johnson to rehab with them.

About six months before Johnson received his prognosis, another once promising pitcher had his second Tommy John surgery. Brandon Beachy came back from his first surgery, to make just fourteen starts (with just five coming in the major leagues) in 2013. He was forced to undergo a second operation, which took him out of commission for 2014 and beginning of the 2015 season. Now 28, Beachy will enter the free agent market for the first time in his career. In just 270 major league innings over four seasons, Beachy has struck out an impressive 275 and posted a 3.23 ERA. 

Where do the Padres and Brandon Beachy's paths intersect? An offense-starved team that has been burned by injury-prone starting pitchers and an injury-prone starting pitcher fit together? The Padres traded all-star closer Huston Street to the Angels at the trade deadline. They still have Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, and Kevin Quackenbush... but a bullpen can never be too good. If the Padres are serious about competing in 2015 (like the reports say), then they'd better pay attention to their bullpen.

Here is where Beachy fits in. A conversion to relief pitcher could inject his career with some much needed energy. Brandon Beachy has lost almost two miles an hour of velocity on his fastball. A move to the bullpen could help reverse that trend, while taking pressure off an already fragile arm. He has had major durability issues, evidenced by the fact that he hasn't exceeded one hundred fifty innings pitched in any season. According to some Fangraphs sabermetrics, Beachy has two above average pitches (his fastball and slider) and two below average pitches (his curveball and change-up). Eliminating his curveball and change-up, with an uptick in velocity, and the guidance of Bud Black and Darren Balsley could take Beachy to an elite level as a reliever.

The Padres are experienced in using starting pitchers as relievers. Burch Smith, Cory Luebke, Tim Stauffer, and Alex Torres all began their careers as starting pitchers, but ended up spending time in the bullpen. For the most part, they have all put together successful campaigns out of the bullpen, though few of the pitchers took a late inning relief role. Most of them slotted into a long relief role, and saw few high leverage situations. Alex Torres, an exception, made his transition with the Rays, and then came to the Padres as a late inning reliever. A move from starter to setup man (or closer) may be unprecedented for the Padres, but it could reap enormous benefits.

Both parties could see significant gains from a signing. Beachy could turn his career around, and re-enter the free agent market at the age of thirty, poised for a much larger contract. The Padres could gain an elite reliever to supplement an already strong bullpen. Beachy had a projected arbitration award of 1.5 million dollars, and the Braves non-tendered him. He would presumably cost less than this, bringing the Padres a cheap arm who would also have arbitration eligibility through 2016. He would be a very low risk, high reward investment... that would have little to no bearing on the team's hunt for offense.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Royals Acquire Reymond Fuentes from Padres for Kyle Bartsch

Via Flickr
The San Diego Padres have traded outfielder Reymond Fuentes, yes that Reymond Fuentes- of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, to the Kansas City Royals. In return, San Diego netted a minor league reliever by the name of Kyle Bartsch. He is a left handed reliever who has posted excellent minor league numbers over his first two seasons. His 4.24 K:BB ratio and 9.5 K:IP ratio certainly exemplify his success, but his stats aren't necessarily completely representative of his true talent. At both minor league levels he has seen time at, he was slightly older than his average competition at the level. Still, his numbers have been excellent. He is a four-pitch pitcher with a low to mid 90's fastball. Bartsch reminds me a bit of former Padre Joe Thatcher

The move was primarily motivated by the fact that Reymond Fuentes held a coveted spot on the Padres forty-man roster. He had a good season in the minor leagues, but the team has many similar players such as Travis Jankowski and Mallex Smith (hits for average and has speed in outfield). Prospects like James Needy, Taylor Lindsey, Justin Hancock, Tayron Guerrero, and Alex Dickerson are all eligible for the Rule V draft, leaving them vulnerable to be picked up by another team if left off the forty-man roster. This trade leaves it at thirty-nine, meaning that more moves could come tonight. A trade of Yonder Alonso to the Tampa Bay Rays, or a trade with the Texas Rangers could make sense. Neither team has announced their forty-man roster moves.

Updates and Other News:

  • The Padres are still in the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, says my source. According to Kiley McDaniel, the team will not go past seventy million dollars in a bid.
  • San Diego has added Taylor Lindsey, Tayron Guerrero, and Alex Dickerson to the forty-man roster, while designating Blaine Boyer and Yeison Asencio for assignment. This makes it highly unlikely that any trades are happening tonight in San Diego. Justin Hancock was left unprotected by the team, as was James Needy. (10:11 PM)
  • Houston has left pitcher Michael Feliz unprotected in the Rule V draft. I think this will come back to haunt them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why the Padres Should Conditionally Sign: Yasmany Tomás

After a season of inept offensive players and injuries plaguing an otherwise exceptional season from a pitching standpoint, fans have clamored for new general manager A.J. Preller to swoop in and grab the hot new thing on the market, power-hitting Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomás. In his first week as a free agent, the Padres hosted two private workouts for him. Preller attended both. The 23-year old is represented by Jay Alou, who also represents other high profile names such as Ervin Santana, Jose Bautista, and Danny SalazarTomás has been compared to recent Cuban defectors Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, with more power at a younger age. He can hit for power, but isn't the strongest runner or defensive player, despite showing a top-notch arm in the outfield. Early reports indicate that he is a very positive clubhouse presence and an extremely hard worker. 

Tomás is expected to fetch about a tenth of a billion dollars on the open market, with teams like the Rangers, Phillies, and Dodgers in the running. A.J. Preller's calling card is his ability to evaluate and sign international free agents, something that the team has tried to focus on in recent seasons. If Ron Fowler's ownership wants to make a major splash, this might just be it. A nine figure commitment would double any contract that the Padres have ever handed out, and triple any contract that they have actually paid. The Padres have just forty-one million dollars committed to spend on players in 2015, but have Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and others to dole out arbitration raises to.

A contract for Yasmany Tomás would probably be about what the Padres could afford to spend for the entire offseason. If Tomás busts, then San Diego won't have the payroll flexibility to do much at all in future years. If he breaks out and hits forty home runs, who will protect him in the lineup? Yasmani Grandal and Jedd Gyorko hit a combined .218, despite being the team's best hitters. Carlos Quentin still isn't healthy. Ready for spring training? I'll believe it when I see it.

The best approach to the offseason may be a higher volume of moves than major league teams are used to. If the team moves Ross, Kennedy, and Joaquin Benoit (and non-tenders Eric Stults) for hitters like Javier Baez, Oscar Taveras, Pedro Alvarez, and/or Starlin Castro, they could free over thirty million dollars in payroll, and put that towards signing cheap, rebound options like Brett Anderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Johnson, and Justin Masterson to add depth to the rotation and middle infield. An offseason like that still leaves room to sign Tomás. In my opinion, the only way a deal for Tomás makes sense, is if the Padres can get creative and manage to fill the offense with high upside, young hitting paired with a veteran staff behind a healthy Andrew Cashner, and have the payroll to spare for him. 

Darren Balsley is one of the best pitching coaches in the game, especially when it comes to reclamation projects. Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy were both under his wing at one point. Utilize his talents, A.J. Preller! If the team can add bats via trade, grab some projects like the aforementioned (Anderson and Masterson, anyone?), and then spend the leftover cash on some bats like Asdrubal Cabrera and Yasmany Tomás, the team could compete in 2015. 

Based on the way major league teams are run right now, there won't be enough activity to get to that point. If a major commitment will limit Preller's ability to put quality all over the field, then it isn't the answer.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Exclusive Interview: Pete Rose

Pete Rose was one of the most highly decorated players in baseball history. His 4,256 career hits stand alone as the most in baseball history. The switch-hitter was a former Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, 17-time All-Star, and two-time Gold Glove award winner throughout his career. He spent time at six different positions and won the batting title three times. The controversy surrounding his illustrious career began soon after Rose's playing days ended- and his managing days began. 

In 1988, as the Reds' manager at the time, Rose was given a 30-day suspension for making contact with umpire Dave Pallone. In 1989, a downward spiral that would end his managerial career began to unfold. The media reported that Rose had bet on the Cincinnati Reds- the very team he was managing at the time. He was eventually ruled permanently ineligible by major league baseball. He finished with a career record of 426-388 through parts of seven seasons. The Hall of Fame voted to exclude players on the "permanently ineligible list" in 1991. The list's sole living member at the time was Pete Rose. After many attempts to appeal and much media scrutiny, Rose admitted to gambling in his autobiography, My Prison Without Bars, divulging that he bet daily on the Reds, but never against them.

Q: With the possibility of a new commissioner replacing Bud Selig in the next year, do you see a possibility to be re-instated in the future?
A: I don't even worry about that. I have other things to worry about. Bud Selig is a good commissioner and has done a lot of good things for baseball. Sorry to see him go.

Q: Do you see Las Vegas as a city that would be capable of having a major league baseball team?
A: I think it could, but you would need a dome stadium. It is too hot for people to go to the stadium in July and August.

Q: In your opinion, who is the best current manager in the major leagues and why?
A: Nobody is a good manager unless their players make them good. Right now, I could say that the manager in Milwaukee is the best with 51 wins. You could say that Bruce Bochy is the best manager with a couple World Series rings. There are a lot of younger managers in the game today. The Jim Leyland's, Tony LaRussa's, and Dusty Baker's of the game are gone.

Q: What was your favorite city to play in? (aside from Cincinnati)
A: I like the AstroTurf. Philly, Pittsburgh, Houston, St Louis.

*NOTE: The interview above was conducted on June 29th, 2014*

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Career of Frank Garces

In 2009, Frank Garces started his professional baseball career with the Texas Rangers, by signing with the team as a 19-year old amateur free agent. After a poor performance, tossing 16.1 innings (9BB/12K) with the Rangers' Dominican Summer League (DSL) team, Texas decided to release him. Garces spent the next season pitching in an independent league in the Dominican Republic. In 2011, he signed a minor league contract with the Padres organization, once again finding himself in the DSL. The southpaw pitched considerably better his second time around, striking out 115 in 71.2 innings while only walking 20 and posting a 2.51 ERA. 

His next season saw him promoted to Fort Wayne (skipping two minor league levels!) and a continuation of his excellence. Throwing 50 more innings than the season before, Garces appeared to have broken out to a tune of a 2.81 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 25 starts. Unfortunately, his 2013 season was a disaster, with his ERA doubling in the hitter friendly California league. His K/BB ratio did not change much, but he gave up considerably more home runs (0.9 higher HR/9 in 2013 than 2012). The Padres management decided to transition Garces to a bullpen role, and promote him to San Antonio.

Garces' conversion was a major success, as he strung together eight saves and a 1.93 ERA in 51 appearances for Double-A. His performance in the bullpen led the front office to give Garces a shot in the big league bullpen after Jesse Hahn was sent to the minors. In his first 12 major league relief appearences, the San Cristobal native has struck out seven in seven and two thirds innings, while only allowing two runs. 

Frank Garces' strong season, coupled with his August and September showing in the major leagues, could lead the once minor league free agent to a job in the Padres' bullpen next season. With six players currently on the 60-day disabled list, and Rule V eligible prospects needing protection, tough roster decisions loom ahead.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Padres Hire A.J. Preller

The San Diego Padres have hired A.J. Preller to be their fourth general manager since 2009. The Padres interviewed eight candidates during a month in which Fred Uhlman Jr, A.J. Hinch, and Omar Minaya filled in as general manager on an interim basis:

GM Interviews

Candidate Interviewed First InterviewSecond Interview Hired
Kim Ng 7/11/2014 7/24/2014 No
Ray Montgomery 7/2/2014 No  No
Logan White 6/30/2014 No No
A.J. Preller7/7/20147/21/2014Yes
Mike Hazen 7/8/2014 7/22/2014 No
Billy Eppler 7/3/2014 7/24/2014 No
Larry Beinfest 6/27/2014 No No
Josh Stein 7/9/2014 No No

Mike Dee and ownership eventually settled on A.J. Preller, signing him to a 5-year contract. Preller had spent time in various positions with the Dodgers, Phillies, and most recently: the Rangers. The 37-year old was the assistant general manager under former fraternity brother and Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels before being hired by the Padres. Preller's main area of expertise is the international market, meaning that San Diego will continue its push to acquire more international talent, a search that has yielded Odrisamer Despaigne and Rymer Liriano in recent years. With this push, it is conceivable that the Padres could sign one of Yasmani Tomas, Rusney Castillo, or Jeong Choi this offseason.

In the front office shuffle, scouting director Chad McDonald and interim general manager A.J. Hinch left the team once the hiring of Preller was announced. Hinch was one of six executives to turn down an interview with the Padres, a group consisting of David Forst, Omar Minaya, Jason McLeod, Mike Chernoff, and Michael Girsch. One of the first challenges that Preller will be faced with as general manager is filling the positions left open by Hinch and McDonald. According to Will Carroll, he already has a list of executives that he is targeting to join the front office.

During Preller's tenure as the Rangers' director of international and professional scouting, he was suspended by MLB when it was discovered that he was negotiating with a player who was lying about his age. Mike Dee told fans that the team spoke with major league baseball about the suspension, and was told it should not be an issue. It can be drawn from this incident that Preller is at times overly aggressive and ambitious, which can be a bad thing at times. The Cornell graduate has shown some of this ambition while mentioning the potential for a championship during his initial press conference.

Preller's weakness appears to be evaluating talent on a major league level, through trades and free agency. It stems from inexperience, not incompetence. Interestingly enough, trading seems to have been the biggest strength of the Padres' front office under Josh Byrnes, bringing in players such as Seth Smith, Huston Street, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy for little to nothing in return.

All in all, Preller is quite the character. It seems that winning is what the ownership wants, and that they are willing to spend money to win. Preller will try and make that goal reality over the next five seasons, hopefully reaching a world series.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Angels Acquire Huston Street

In the last five days, the Padres have shipped out two of their biggest trade chips in Chase Headley (to be talked about in the next post) and Huston Street to American League teams trying to win. Street and minor league relief prospect Trevor Gott were sent to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for four minor league players. Headley was sent with cash to the New York Yankees for infielder Yangervis Solarte and pitching prospect Rafael De Paula. The deals were completed by the the interim general managers: AJ Hinch, Fred Uhlman Jr, and Omar Minaya.

The Huston Street trade brought four top prospects to the Padres, depleting what was already the league's worst farm system. Street has a 1.06 ERA and has completed 24 of 25 save opportunities for the Padres this year, arguably putting up the best season of any reliever in the major leagues. He was first acquired by the recently-fired Josh Byrnes from the Rockies in exchange for failed prospect Nick Schmidt. In two and a half seasons for San Diego, Street performed as an elite reliever. He strung together 80 saves in his San Diego tenure, posting a 2.03 ERA but struggling with injury. He saw three stints on the disabled list in his first two seasons as a Padre. Trevor Gott, also sent to Los Angeles, was the Padres' sixth round selection in the 2013 draft. In his minor league career, he has seen time exclusively as a reliever, putting together a 3.04 ERA in 71 games. He was recently promoted to double-A, where he had struggled to the point of a 6.7 BB/9 rate in his first 11 appearances.

The biggest part of the return was minor league infielder Taylor Lindsey. Originally drafted in the first round by the Angels in 2010, Lindsey has consistently hit across the minor leagues, flashing a career .781 OPS. This season, the 22-year old has hit .247 with 8 home runs while almost exclusively playing second base for the Angels' AAA affiliate. In AA last season, he hit .274 with 17 home runs, showing power potential. With Chase Headley out of the picture, Lindsey could be the future second baseman with Jedd Gyorko sliding to third. Lindsey could hit .270 with 15-20 home runs in the major leagues some day.

Another major component of the trade is top relief prospect R.J. Alvarez. The 23-year old flamethrower sits at 95 miles an hour with his fastball, and has a plus slider. Alvarez has struck out 39 batters in 28 innings (12.5 k/9), and has allowed just one earned run (0.32 ERA) this season in AA. The former third round pick projects to be a late inning reliever, who could possibly close. There is a chance that Alvarez alone could provide more value in the grand scheme of things than Street would have in the next season and a half.

The next prospect that was netted in the trade is a high upside pick-up. Jose Rondon could end up being the best player involved in the trade. The 20-year old shortstop was initially signed out of Venezuela by the Angels. Rondon has so far slashed .327/.362/.418 and stole eight bases in a pitcher-friendly California League (A) this season, and hit .300 over the course of his minor league career. Rondon appears to be an excellent contact hitter with little power (though some could develop), plus speed, and above average defensive skills. With Trea Turner, Franchy Cordero, Diego Goris, Jose Rondon, Josh Van Meter, and Everth Cabrera, San Diego has a potentially above average shortstop at every organizational level.

The final prospect that San Diego acquired for Street was Elliot Morris. The 2013 4th round pick was one of the last players to be discussed in the trade, and probably has the least upside. In his minor league career, Morris has appeared in 29 games (19 starts) and flaunted a 3.34 ERA in 118.2 innings over parts of two minor league seasons. Morris projects to be a mid-to-back-end of the rotation starter.

Ultimately, both the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Angels won this trade. Street allows the Angels to possibly win the division and make the playoffs without having to possibly play against Felix Hernandez in a one game showdown. The Padres get four pieces that will provide significantly more value in the long run than 1.5 seasons of Huston Street. The Padres received a much better return for Street than they did Chase Headley.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Padres Mock Draft

With the draft rapidly approaching, I will be posting this Padres' mock draft and doing a shadow draft for the Padres.

#13 SS Trea Turner, NC State

Trea Turner, Tyler Beede, Brandon Finnegan, Aaron Nola, Bradley Zimmer, and Michael Conforto are likely targets for San Diego at pick #13. The team will not be selecting injured pitchers Erick Fedde or Jeff Hoffman, but instead seem to be targeting college position players. Trea Turner is a very polished player with top notch speed and a virtual lock to stay at shortstop. Even though he isn't a power hitter, at 6'2 and 170 pounds, Turner still could grow into his frame. If he falls to San Diego, I think that they would snatch him up. He hits quite a few balls into the gap and will have very good stolen base numbers. 


#51 RHP Erick Fedde, UNLV

Erick Fedde was at one point a potential top five draft pick, but required Tommy John surgery early in the season. He hit 93 on the radar gun and flashed a plus slider before the injury. The 6'4 right hander will not be selected (only healthy options) in the first round by San Diego, but he could be selected as high as pick #9 (one of Toronto's two first round selections) or fall to the second or third round. The draft this year is very hard to predict, but if Fedde slides to 51, he'd be hard to pass up.

#86 OF Greg Allen, SDSU

Teams have a tendency to draft players located in their region. Greg Allen is a speedster (Allen and Turner at the top of a lineup could be 150+ steals) with good contact but little to no power. He reminds me quite a bit of Mallex Smith, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. SDSU starter Michael Cederoth could also be a fit here.

#117 RHP AJ Vanegas, Stanford

A young and talented right handed pitcher, Stanford senior AJ Vanegas has twice declined signing with the teams that drafted him (San Diego - 7th round, Oakland - 19th round). His career at Stanford has been a cesspool of inconsistency and injury. The 6'3 right hander may have seen more time as a reliever than a starter, but could be an interesting project to take with a fourth round pick.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Padres Acquire Troy Patton

The San Diego Padres made a move today that was two months overdue, sending catcher Nick Hundley and cash considerations to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for reliever Troy Patton. The team also purchased the contract of right handed pitcher Billy Buckner from El Paso to start today's game against the Cubs. The Orioles were in the market for a catcher after losing starter Matt Wieters to a significant injury involving his right elbow; one that could theoretically lead to Tommy John surgery and the end to his season. San Diego lost two rotation arms to elbow soreness (Andrew Cashner and Robbie Erlin), forcing Tim Stauffer, Donn Roach, and Billy Buckner to make starts. Roach and Stauffer acted as long relievers, a role that has opened up for Patton.

Troy Patton, 28, was recently activated from the restricted list after being suspended for Adderall usage in the offseason. Patton has been plagued by such mishaps, including an arrest for driving under the influence and the original positive test for Adderall. Over the span of his last three seasons, Patton has strung together impressive numbers as a reliever. Averaging 47 innings a season, Patton posted a 3.05 ERA and a 3.42 K/BB ratio with the Orioles. Patton should fill the role that Tony Sipp and Patrick Schuster could not in the Padres bullpen, as the second left handed reliever to Alex Torres.

Nick Hundley, 30, has spent most of the last seven seasons playing for the Padres, finishing his San Diego career with a .238 average and 47 home runs after being selected in the second round of the 2005 draft. He was given over 200 plate appearances in each of the last six seasons, never putting together a good enough performance to warrant him being a valuable commodity. Hundley was viewed as a below average receiver that had a slightly above average arm to start the season, but he made tremendous strides as a receiver and in his pitch framing ability through the first two months. He is currently regarded as an average receiver.

Patton and Hundley both help out their respective teams, and changes of scenery could be a good thing for both players involved in the trade. The deal fills two distinct needs and subtracts from two distinct surpluses, meaning that it might be the definition of a win-win.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Padres to Call Up Jace Peterson

The San Diego Padres have purchased the contract of shortstop Jace Peterson from the San Antonio Missions (AA) and transfered starting pitcher Josh Johnson (Tommy John) to the 60-day disabled list. The need for an infielder was made last night, when third baseman Chase Headley suffered a calf strain. That particular injury forced Headley himself to miss almost all of spring training. 

Peterson, 23, was hitting .311 with a home run and four steals for San Antonio this season. Peterson was drafted 58th overall in 2011 as compensation for losing starting pitcher Kevin Correia to free agency in the previous offseason. He has ranked around #6 or #7 on most lists of San Diego's top prospects. 

The young infielder profiles as an excellent athlete with good contact and plate discipline skills. On top of this, Peterson is an above average base-runner. He stole 71 bases per 162 games as a minor leaguer. Baseball America wrote that he was the best defensive infielder in San Diego's minor league system. If he gets off to a hot start, he should see time hitting 2nd in the line-up.

The offense may have lost something in Headley (.186 with 2 home runs), they may have added more with the addition of Jace Peterson and a returning Cameron Maybin

Friday, March 28, 2014

Minor Moves: Sipp, Schuster, Moore, Francoeur

On Monday, the San Diego Padres informed several players (including Patrick Schuster, Tony Sipp, and Ryan Jackson) that they would not make the major league team and announced several corresponding transactions. The team waived Rule V pick Patrick Schuster, acquired catcher Adam Moore for cash considerations or a player to be named later from the Royals, and signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract.

These moves do have some interesting effects on the dynamics of the team:
  • Tony Sipp did not opt out of his contract after being informed that he would not make the team, but he could still leave if he finds himself with an opportunity to join a major league bullpen or if he chooses to leave on June 1st.
  • Patrick Schuster was claimed off waivers by the Royals, who proceeded to return him to Arizona. The move was designed to create a reason to designate outfielder Carlos Peguero for assignment and try to sneak him through waivers after major league rosters are set.
  • The addition of Adam Moore provides depth at catcher in two scenarios:
    • Rene Rivera does not make the team and is waived and claimed.
    • Rene Rivera makes the team, and is not the catcher at El Paso.
      • This could be if the team carries three catchers or if the team places Yasmani Grandal on the disabled list to start the season.
  • Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur, a minor league signing, carries minimal risk. The 30-year old hit just .204 with three home runs in 245 at bats last season, but he has a plus plus arm and a career .264/.306/.419 line while averaging 18 home runs over every 162 games. He will provide valuable depth in the minor leagues, and with Carlos Quentin's spotty injury history, we could see him in San Diego at some point this season.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Spring Training Battle: Left-Handed Specialist

The San Diego Padres have position battles raging this spring, but one of the most interesting is the bullpen slot for a second left-handed reliever after new acquisition Alex Torres. The top candidates are minor league signing Tony Sipp and offseason acquisition Patrick Schuster (who I had the pleasure of interviewing), but veteran Eric Stults is also a dark horse candidate for the job.
Patrick Schuster

Patrick Schuster, 23, has a 3.00 ERA in three innings of spring play, but he has also allowed six hits and only struck out one in that time. While playing in the California League (A+) last season, he posted a 1.83 ERA in 45 innings as a reliever. The young southpaw was drafted first overall in the Rule V draft and traded to San Diego in exchange for right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass. His Rule V status gives him a slight advantage over Sipp. If Schuster wins the job, it will allow San Diego to keep both Sipp and Schuster, while they would lose Schuster (he would have to be offered back to the Diamondbacks) if Sipp won the job.
Tony Sipp
Tony Sipp, 30, has a career 3.84 ERA in five seasons with the Diamondbacks and Indians. Sipp signed a minor league deal with two opt out clauses (March 26th and June 1st) and an invitation to spring training late this offseason. At one point (prior to the signing) it occurred to me that Sipp could be a fit for San Diego, but I changed my mind after viewing his splits:

vs RHB
vs LHB

Sipp has only been marginally better against left-handed hitters than against right handed hitters. Sipp may have had the better spring training so far (four innings and no earned runs) but he still has proven to be a slightly below average bullpen arm in his career, while Schuster has potential to be an above average left-handed specialist. 

Another interesting scenario would be if Burch Smith won the fifth spot in the rotation. In that situation, Eric Stults (who is out of options) would be displaced and possibly compete for a spot in the bullpen. San Diego seems to value Stults highly, and he would be an intriguing addition to a bullpen battle that is already very competitive. Stults would provide Bud Black with another option (Tim Stauffer) out of the bullpen for long relief in the case of a meltdown or injury. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why the Padres Need to Sign: Aledmys Diaz

The San Diego Padres allowed Cuban defectors Odrisamer Despaigne and Aledmys Diaz to hold showcases for several major league teams and their scouts in the Dominican Republic at San Diego's international complex. Both players were recently cleared to sign with a major league team and would not be subjected to the Collective Bargaining Agreement's policies on amateur international free agents, since both players are 23 or older and have played three or more years in a recognized foreign league.

Both of these players are expected to require significant monetary commitments, possibly upwards of thirty million dollars over four to six seasons. Outfielder Yasiel Puig (42 million) and infielder Alexander Guerrero (28 million) are excellent comparisons for a contract. Aledmys Diaz makes quite a bit of sense for the San Diego Padres.

According to beat writer Jeff Saunders at the Union Tribune, the Padres are interested in Diaz and are significantly more active on the international front than it appears from the outside. The organization has certainly put a large emphasis on the international market in recent years, so this could be the type of splash that brings the Padres to international relevance.

Aledmys Diaz had his professional debut delayed one season after lying about his age (claiming to be a year older!) in order to sign a contract that wasn't subjected to the CBA's policies. He is currently just 23 years old, and boasts an excellent track record in the Serie Nacional de Béisbol (Cuban National Series), hitting .313 with 12 home runs in his age 21 season. Diaz is younger, significantly less expensive, and has a higher ceiling than current third baseman Chase Headley.

Some scouts have mentioned that they expect Diaz will need to be moved over to second base (Jedd Gyorko would move to third base in this scenario), so he could use some time in the minors to learn the position. If the Padres were to sign Diaz, they could keep him in El Paso for until early July, and if Chase Headley gets off to a good start, the team could trade him and have an immediate replacement without taking away from the team's overall talent. 

The money works out in this situation as well, because a half-season of Headley (5.25 million) and a full season of Diaz (est. 4 million) would allow the Padres to save money. If the Padres traded Headley in this scenario, it wouldn't necessarily have to be for prospects. A Justin Upton for Chase Headley trade was rumored to be on the table a year ago, and a similar deal could be made involving another established major league talent, especially if Headley gets off to a good start. Possible candidates for acquisition in a Headley trade could be outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Starling Marte

This signing could create excellent leverage in negotiations with Headley as well as provide a back-up plan if San Diego does not want to trade him at the deadline. Diaz would put an impressive cherry on top of an offseason that has already brought in Josh Johnson, Alex Torres, Joaquin Benoit, Seth Smith, Tony Sipp, Xavier Nady, and many others to San Diego.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Padres, Rays Announce Seven-Player Trade

The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays announced a seven-player trade on Wednesday morning. The Padres packaged three prospects with utility infielder Logan Forsythe and reliever Brad Boxberger and sent them to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for left-handed pitcher Alex Torres and prospect Jesse Hahn. The deal fills holes for the Rays and the Padres, with both teams dealing from positions of strength to fill a need.

Interestingly enough, the Padres often make trades involving a package of players for less players of higher quality, or vice versa.
 The Jake Peavy (4 for 1), Adrian Gonzalez (4 for 1), Mat Latos (4 for 1) and Jason Bartlett (4 for 1) trades come to mind. Of those four trades, the results were somewhat balanced.

The Rays netted some excellent pitching depth by adding right-handed pitchers Matt Lollis, Matt Andriese, and Brad Boxberger, while also bolstering their infield depth by adding the versatile duo of Maxx Tissenbaum and Logan Forsythe. 

Logan Forsythe was once rated as one of the top prospects in the Padres organization, behind fellow third baseman James Darnell, who recently signed a minor league contract with the Rays. Forsythe has served a critical role for San Diego, providing depth at shortstop, second base, third base, left field, and right field. Forsythe has excellent on base skills and hits well against left-handed pitchers. Forsythe should fill a utility infielder role. He is slightly above average defensively at second and third base, a tick below average at shortstop, and can play left and right field if needed. Forsythe will surprise you with the clutch home run every so often, but I wouldn't expect more than 15 annually if he were to play full-time. Forsythe is coming off the worst season of his career, having posted a .214/.281/.332 slash after posting a .273/.343/.390 slash in 2012.

Middle reliever Brad Boxberger came to the Padres in the Mat Latos trade. This is the second time that Boxberger has been traded to a new organization as part of a package. Boxberger was nearly designated for assignment earlier this offseason, but was kept in favor of Brad Brach, who was eventually traded to the Orioles for reliever Devin Jones. Boxberger has set-up man potential, and should be a key cog in the Rays bullpen, which recently added new closer Grant Balfour back to the mix on a two year contract. Boxberger has a career ERA of 2.72 in almost 50 innings with San Diego, but also had a 5.6 bb/9. The 24-year old should provide a cheap bullpen option to a low-spending team that can put up some good numbers. The Rays did not have a shortage of left-handed relievers, so they could afford to trade a lefty and get back a righty.

Maxx Tissenbaum was an 11th round pick in the 2012 draft by San Diego out of Stony Brook University. The 22-year old posted a slash line of .277/.365/.359 in Fort Wayne last season. In his time with the Padres, he has seen time at first, second, third, shortstop, and even catcher. Tissenbaum's best comparison is ironically Logan Forsythe, or in other words, a serviceable utility player with good on base skills.

Matt Lollis was once touted as a top prospect in the Padres organization, before falling into a spiral of irrelevancy. A conversion to a relief pitcher put the 6'9 right hander back on the map, as he looks like a potential middle reliever down the road. This December, Lollis was specifically left off the 40-man roster and therefore exposed in the rule 5 draft. Lollis was not taken, but has found a new home with the Tampa Bay Rays. He should start the season at the AA level.

Matt Andriese was an excellent pickup for the Rays. Andriese, a former third round pick, would have been blocked by the excess of starting pitchers in the upper minors for San Diego. At this point, it was looking like the right hander would be forced into the bullpen in order to get some major league experience. It is quite a bit more likely that Andriese ends up getting a shot in Tampa Bay's rotation than he would have in San Diego's. Andriese is most likely a mid-rotation starter, and should provide excellent depth for a Tampa Bay pitching staff. With a good spring, he could make the starting rotation.

On the San Diego side of things, the Padres got quality instead of quantity, adding left handed pitcher Alex Torres and right handed pitcher Jesse Hahn to a Padres team that was in need of a left handed reliever for the bullpen and had a plethora of young pitchers and middle infield depth.

Alex Torres is easily the key to this trade for the Padres in the short term. Torres should open camp as a bridge in the 7th inning to the pricey combination of Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street. The southpaw has experience as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, but has never started a b game in the major leagues. The Padres organization stated that they would be open to using him as a starting pitcher. Last season, Torres was fantastic out of the bullpen, posting a 1.71 ERA as a rookie. Torres will not be eligible for free agency until 2020, but he is out of options, meaning he cannot be sent down to the minor leagues.

Jesse Hahn is a high upside pitcher who could start next season at the Double-A level. Hahn was rated as the Rays' 6th best prospect according to Baseball Prospectus, and is arguably better than any of the prospects that the Padres sent packing. He is a little bit on the older side (24), but he has excellent potential. Last season at the single-A level, he posted a 2.09 ERA. In his minor league career (2 seasons), he has allowed one home run in 121 innings. He also brings a 3.70 k/bb ratio to the table. He has been electric in the minor leagues, but he has also had some injury risk.

The Padres acquired the two best players in the trade, but the Rays may have the edge when considering the overall talent. It was certainly a quality for quantity trade that should work out exceptionally well for both teams.

This move essentially finishes the offseason for the Padres, putting together a very impressive cast to try and reach the playoffs. With health, they
should be hard to beat. Alex Torres and Joaquin Benoit represent major upgrades to a San Diego bullpen that recently saw Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher head to new cities.