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.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Tribute to Jerry Coleman

Last Sunday, a baseball legend and a war hero was lost. Jerry Coleman (September 14th, 1924 to January 5th, 2014) passed away due to complications from a fall in his home. Coleman had a nine year career with the New York Yankees and a five year military career. He served in World War II and the Korean War. He was the only major league player to see live combat in both wars. 

Coleman was born into a poor family located in Northern California during The Great Depression. His father was an abusive and violent alcoholic. After several years of suffering his abuse, Coleman's mother divorced his father and moved away with Coleman and his sister. Eventually his father tracked them down and shot Coleman's mother four times. She survived the shooting but was no longer able to work. After high school, Jerry Coleman signed with the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent.  

Coleman's career was delayed by three years of military service, before starting in 1949 after serving in World War II as a Marine Aviator. Once he started his baseball career, it took off. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting and put up 1.6 defensive WAR at second base in his first major league season. The majority of Coleman's value as a player came from his outstanding defensive abilities. In his second year, he was an all-star and the World Series MVP, hitting .287 and putting up another 1.1 defensive wins above replacement. 

His 1951 season was another typical Jerry Coleman year, putting up exceptional defense and average offense. In 1952 and 1953, Coleman abandoned major league baseball to fight for his country as a pilot in the Korean War. He gave away his prime years as a baseball player in order to serve his country in Korea. In 1954, when he came back, but he was no longer the player he once was. An injury hampered his performance and derailed his career. For the next three seasons, Coleman was regulated to a bench role on the Yankees, leading to his retirement. In Coleman's career with the Yankees, he won four championships.

Coleman's player career may have ended in 1957, but his baseball career lived on. In 1958, he joined the Yankees front office, where he stayed for the next three seasons, before being part of a front office purge by new general manager Roy Hamey. He began his broadcasting career shortly thereafter.

Coleman conducted pregame interviews for CBS from 1960-1963 before becoming a broadcaster for the Yankees for the next seven seasons. After his Angels career, he joined the California Angels for two seasons. In 1972, Jerry Coleman started his career as the recently created Padres play-by-play man, a position that he would hold until his passing, with the exception of 1980, where he managed a Padres' team owned by Ray Kroc that included future Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, and Dave Winfield. He won 73 games in his managing career, before returning to the broadcast booth in 1981.

Over the next 40 seasons, Jerry Coleman was the voice of the Padres. He introduced "colemanisms" such as, "Oh Doctor!" and "You can hang a star on that baby!" to the Padres' broadcast booth. Coleman was a constant in the often-changing world of Padres fans, a world that recently saw three different ownership groups and two different general managers in just the last year and a half. 

In September 2012, the Padres revealed a statue in PETCO Park of Jerry Coleman. The only other statue in PETCO Park is Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Last Sunday, the baseball world lost one of the greats.