Underwhelmed, Thanks for Asking

Well. That was quite the frenzy considering nothing of real consequence got done. Movement for the sake of movement, like a child who waves his arms and screams, “Look what I can do” when the only activity is his waving and screaming.

In the end, one trade was made. Another was reported by numerous sources, but didn’t actually happen. And so much is left undone.

Ceda for Walker

The Padres acquired Todd Walker from the Cubs for minor-league pitcher Jose Ceda. Taken on its own, this is a nice pickup. Walker is a professional left-handed hitter, who should help fill the void left by the departure of Robert Fick and Mark Sweeney this past off-season. Walker knows the strike zone and can drive the ball into the gaps with some authority. He’s a real good fit for the Padres.

He’s also not a third baseman.

Walker’s last stab at the hot corner came in 1997, when he played 40 games there for the Twins. For some perspective, Phil Nevin has played 427 big-league games at third base since Walker last manned the position. Sean Burroughs and Xavier Nady were still in high school.

I’m not saying that Walker can’t do it, just that he hasn’t done it in a long time. And it’s a curious move for an organization that just a year ago seemed so reluctant to experiment at third base during a pennant chase.

There are those who believe that the Padres shouldn’t have released Vinny Castilla without having a plan to replace him. To them I would reply that bringing Castilla to San Diego in the first place didn’t exactly constitute a plan. We were going to pay for that sooner or later. Now, Walker is here and being asked to do something he hasn’t done in more than eight years. Quite the reversal from last year’s strategy.

Anyway, I like the addition of Walker, but I’m not crazy about how the Padres intend to use him. He’s a potentially useful piece who came at a reasonable price (yeah, I know Ceda throws a bazillion miles an hour — so do a lot of guys; I hope it works out for him and the Cubs, but the odds are pretty heavily stacked against him) and he gives the Padres a legitimate left-handed bat off the bench. The only downside with Walker is that he doesn’t solve or even begin to address the problem at third base.

Linebrink for Perez and Bell

This one was reported by more than one source as a done deal. The Padres were to have sent Scott Linebrink to the Mets for former Friar Oliver Perez (acquired earlier in the day in a deal — ironically enough — for Nady) and reliever Heath Bell.

Many years ago I was an angry young man. Periodically I would rage at this or that, like a child who waves his arms and screams. Movement for the… well, you know.

These days, I prefer to pick my spots. I assure you, if this deal had gone through, I’d be getting my money’s worth right about now. No disrespect to Perez, but the fact that this trade was even being considered still bothers me. Why would you hold Linebrink out of a deal for a third baseman (Wilson Betemit) who filled a real need and then turn around and move him for a guy who couldn’t crack the big-league staff right now (Perez) and a scrub reliever (Bell — yeah, I’ve seen his peripherals; ask Steve Andrade how far those and a cab will get you).

Assuming the Betemit deal was even out there (I read the same stuff as you), [Richard notes in the comments that no assumption is necessary -- according to the North County Times article linked below, it was offered and declined] I can’t even begin to imagine the thought process that led to a preference for Perez and Bell in exchange for the one bargaining chip the Padres had. The only thing I can think (or hope, anyway) is that maybe whoever the Pads are trying to acquire a third baseman from (Houston, we have an Ensberg) expressed an interest in those two pitchers.

But who knows.

The fact that Linebrink didn’t go anywhere leads me to suspect that this isn’t over yet. I have to think the Morgan Ensberg fires are still warm (or maybe that’s smoke from the pipe of whoever thought tossing Adam Everett and Khalil Greene into the deal made sense). But even if they aren’t, I’m good with hanging onto Linebrink. Sure, the guy has had a rough couple of weeks, and he’s served up a few too many jacks this year, but there still aren’t many better at what he does — and the rest of the league and its GMs know it.

Now What?

A third baseman would be nice. I could’ve gotten behind Betemit — he’s not great, but he’s solid enough now and has projectability. I hate to see him in a Dodgers uni (especially since they were able to unload Danys Baez in the deal that brought him to LA). I hold out some hope for Ensberg.

I know the market is allegedly soft at the hot corner, but that didn’t stop the Dodgers and Astros (Aubrey Huff) from upgrading the position. As a fan, it’s frustrating to sit around and watch nothing happen when improvements are needed.

I’m hoping this isn’t where the story ends. Because if it is, even if the Padres are able to win the division again, I have a hard time seeing them go deep in the playoffs without a big-league third baseman. And if that happens, we can all look forward to a nice, long winter of “what if?”

Other Reports and Reaction

  • Preserving pitching the right move for Padres (North County Times). Shaun O’Neill’s report includes this quote from Padres GM Kevin Towers: “Well, we’re not sitting on our hands. It just doesn’t make sense to do something unless it significantly increases our chances to win.” Hard to find fault with that logic. The potential Perez – Bell deal is corroborated here. I can’t emphasize enough how glad I am that didn’t happen. The only reason you move Linebrink is to solve (not remedy) the third base situation.
  • Padres acquire Walker for 3rd (North County Times). Brian Hiro notes that the Padres “aren’t done searching for an everyday third baseman” even after the trade for Walker. The theme of not wanting to break up the bullpen is echoed here. Towers apparently consulted Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and thinks that Walker’s biggest problem — throwing — will be alleviated by the presence of Adrian Gonzalez at first. As for Walker, he’s saying all the right things: “If I can’t do it, it’s not going to be from a lack of effort. I’m going to go over there and give them everything I’ve got.”
  • Padres get Walker from Cubs in effort to plug third-base hole (San Diego Union-Tribune). Tom Krasovic’s piece includes a sidebar of other deadline deals that were and weren’t made.
  • Padres land Walker for prospect (Padres.com). Lyle Spencer covers the story over at the offical site.
  • Cubs trade Walker to Padres (Cub Reporter). Apparently Walker wasn’t the most popular guy in the Cubs clubhouse. Then again, the Cubs clubhouse probably isn’t a real happy place to be these days.
  • Padres Get Walker To Play Third Base (Baseball America). Will Lingo breaks down the deal for both sides. His report on Ceda is a little less glowing than some others I’ve seen: “At this point he’s a one-pitch pitcher with mechanical issues, but as a teenager with a big arm he has potential.”
  • Todd Walker is not Aundrea (Gaslamp Ball). I don’t watch “reality television” so this reference is lost on me, but Dex et al. don’t seem happy either.