Black Named Manager, Barfield Dealt to Cleveland

Pretty uneventful day, huh? Somehow I get the feeling “uneventful” is not a word that will ever be used to describe Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Padres. And it’s nice to see that Kevin Towers isn’t content to rest on any laurels after receiving a contract extension.

You might want to sit down for this one. We’re going to be here a while tonight.

Back in Black

So, the Padres made a decision on their next manager. Bud Black gets the call over Trey Hillman and, let us all breathe a huge sigh of relief, Dusty Baker.

Black played at SDSU with Tony Gwynn in 1978 and 1979, and enjoyed a fine big-league career, winning 121 games over parts of 15 seasons. Since 2000, he’s served as pitching coach for the Angels, where he helped develop the likes of Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, and Francisco Rodriguez.

According to his Angels bio, Black hasn’t managed at any level. How much does that matter? Eh, the difference between “has fresh ideas” and “lacks experience” is about the same as that between winning and losing.

Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy with either Black or Hillman (Blez at Athletics Nation likes both as well). I’m just glad the decision has been made and we can get on with life.

Who Moved My Barfield?

I’m a huge Josh Barfield fan. I’ve been covering him at Ducksnorts since July 2, 2001. After his monstrous 2003 season, I geeked out big time on the kid. No, I mean really big time.

Heck, one of the key chapters in the book I’m writing focuses on an improbable walk-off home run he hit just over two months ago. I made T-shirts because of that homer (get ‘em now; soon, like Barfield, they’ll be gone forever!).

None of this, of course, is a compelling reason not to deal Barfield. I can be sad to see him go but also acknowledge that, from an organizational standpoint, moving him for a third baseman makes sense.

The one concern I have is that in filling one hole, the Padres are opening another. This is mitigated to a large extent, I believe, by the fact that second base should be a much easier hole to fill than third base has proven to be over the past few years (Sean Burroughs, we salute you!).

Case in point, here are this winter’s free agent second basemen of note, along with how they did in 2006:

  • Ronnie Belliard: Age 31, .272/.322/.403 — solid, unspectacular; about on the same level as Barfield, obviously without projectability
  • Mark DeRosa: Age 31, .296/.357/.456 — flukish season aided by home park; useful talent but could be overvalued
  • Ray Durham: Age 34, .293/.360/.538 — had a career year, but he’s been extremely consistent over most of the past decade
  • Adam Kennedy: Age 30, .273/.334/.384 — not many secondary offensive skills; good defensive reputation
  • Mark Loretta: Age 35, .285/.345/.361 — on downside of career; previously enjoyed success in San Diego

This doesn’t include guys like Atlanta’s Brian Marcus Giles, or the Padres’ own Todd Walker. So, really, we’re looking at five relatively useful guys, one of whom (Durham) stands out a bit from the others.

And here are the third basemen:

  • Rich Aurilia: Age 35, .300/.349/.518 — enjoyed second best season ever since career year in 2001; with four seasons of extreme mediocrity in between, someone else can pay to see whether he’ll repeat or revert
  • David Bell: Age 34, .270/.337/.399 — we’ve had enough third basemen in San Diego who can’t crack a .400 SLG, thank you
  • Pedro Feliz: Age 31, .244/.281/.428 — can’t get on base
  • Aubrey Huff: Age 29, .267/.344/.469 — decent option who will be overpaid due to lack of competition
  • Aramis Ramirez: Age 28, .291/.352/.561 — opted out of an $11M deal with the Cubs; hint: he doesn’t expect to make less this year

Japan’s Akinori Iwamura is also available. So, here we’ve got one guy who will break the bank (Ramirez), one who should do pretty well for himself (Huff), and three who should scare the heck out of you and me.

In short, there are more options at second than there are at third, and none should cost so much as to prohibit bringing in a legitimate power hitter to play left field and/or a big-name starting pitcher.

[Brief pause for hot chocolate]

Kouzmanoff? Gesundheit!

For their troubles, the Padres received Kevin Kouzmanoff (pronounced kooz-MAHN-off) and minor-league right-hander Andrew Brown. Peter Friberg has profiled Kouzmanoff quite nicely at Padres Run Down. Basically he’s a 25-year-old hitting machine. His minor-league numbers are impressive, to say the least. Yes, he’s a tad old, but so were Mike Lowell, Bill Mueller, and Phil Nevin when they got their big-league careers started.

Baseball Think Factory’s Dan Symborski likes the deal for the Padres from a talent standpoint (he compares Barfield to Rennie Stennett; I think Orlando Hudson is a better comp) but cites the aforementioned hole it creates at second base as a negative. Symborski’s ZiPS projection system tabs Kouzmanoff as a .279/.334/.452 hitter. Sure, I’ll take one of those.

Between Kouzmanoff and Russell Branyan, the Padres should be in pretty good shape at the hot corner for the first time since Nevin played there.

Big Picture

The Padres still have holes to fill. But that was the case even before they moved Barfield for Kouzmanoff (and Brown). In making this deal, they’ve just shifted the nature of one of those holes, presumably making it easier to fill.

I hate to see Barfield leave. And I have concerns about the perception among some fans (mostly the ones I hear on the drive-time sports talk shows) that the Padres somehow aren’t trying to improve themselves through this and other moves. I don’t know if it’s a general misunderstanding of Moneyball, fueled in part by some members of the media who maybe can’t (or won’t) figure it out themselves, but I hear a lot of negativity about the direction Alderson, Towers, and company are headed. I don’t think it’s very well founded.

But never mind what I think. Just let me know the last time the Padres had three straight winning seasons. Or the last time they reached the playoffs in back-to-back years.

Alderson talks about the Padres teaching their young hitters to be aggressive, with judgment. He mentioned on the radio Wednesday afternoon that he holds the front office to that same standard. Dealing Barfield for Kouzmanoff and Brown is consistent with this philosophy. Does it upset fans from time to time? Yes, probably so. We all get comfortable with what we know. But there’s a difference between being comfortable and being great. And when push comes to shove, as a fan of this team, I’m glad that the guys running the show appear to be more interest in greatness than in comfort. As for those of us who find change difficult, rest assured, we’ll feel better when this team becomes great.

135 Responses »

  1. *Atlanta’s Marcus Giles

    Nice analysis overall.

  2. Thanks, Richard; got it. I’ve also added Kouzmanoff and Brown to the org tree. And I took the liberty of sponsoring Bud Black’s page at Baseball Reference. :-)

  3. Geoff,

    Once again your analysis is SPOT ON! I agree with you completely. I hate to see Barfield leave but I am very pleased with the possibility of having a relatively young and potential option at 3rd for the future. It’s been a really boring few weeks but I am so ready for this off-season to start taking shape. Thanks for giving myself and all these other die hards a place to go!!!!

  4. Holy Cow! When you said Barfield for a 3B I was thinking Marte. Kouzmanoff? Can I call the 1090, XX, or whatever it’s called and whine about how I’ve never heard of this guy? ;-) I think I’ll trust the guys who do this for a living to have scouted him enough to know whether he’s worth moving Josh for or not. Still I’ll miss Josh, he was an exciting, young player and I wish him well.

    I like having Bud Black on board, too. Nothing particularly against Bochy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Black is more in tune with Alderson and the rest of the Front Office. I hope having a pitching coach as the manager doesn’t make Balsley want to go elsewhere though. Anyone know if he and Bud have any sort of prior relationship? I really love the job Darren does with our staff.

  5. One possible negative with Kouzmanoff that deserves mentioning is his injury history. He’s had back problems and pulled his hamstring recently. But other than that I do like the aggressiveness this shows, and hopefully it does solve the third base problem for the foreseeable future.

  6. I like the analysis Geoff, but I think the stability that Barfield brought was invaluable. I don’t really care if Sandy says that second base is an easy position to fill – having a new guy there every season isn’t exactly a quality I associate with a winning ballclub. Moving a cheap, proven commodity with room to improve for an unknown, especially with a glut of third basemen in the minors, isn’t a very good move.

  7. Indians fan here- looking for Padres fan’s perspective on this. Overall reaction has been favorable from Cleveland standpoint. We had gaping hole at 2B since trading Belliard and giving Brandon Phillps away.
    We had a glut of corner/dh guys with no potential to play other positions- Kouz, Marte, Garko, Hafner, Victor Martinez. No ready replacements from within for middle IF. Also lacking 2 hitter since losing Vizquel and no team speed whatsoever beyond Sizemore. Free agents at 2B were not attractive considering age and $$. Looks like win/win depending on how SD fills in at 2B. Andrew Brown was out of options and not likely to make the club.

  8. #5: Good point about the injury history, Ben. That is a risk.

    #6: True, Bryan, there is something to be said for stability. As for the “glut” of third baseman, it’s mainly Chase Headley, and he’s even less proven than Kouzmanoff. Again, I’m not ecstatic about this deal but I understand it.

    #7: Hey, Kevin, thanks for stopping by to give the Cleveland perspective. It does sound like a win/win. I think you’ll be happy with Barfield, although his low OBP probably makes him better suited to the bottom of the order (#7 or lower) at this stage in his career.

  9. Breat analysis GY. Always fun to log on and get your reasoned perspective. I was thinking about the 2b hole now. One thought that I had was to still go after Iwamura, only now for 2b. First, the posting fee is a one year hit, leaving us money and flexibility for next year. Second, he gives us a hedge at 3b, in the event Kouz gets injured or has some difficulty adapting at the ML level.

    I met Barfield once at a Padre function. A great kid and I thought he’d turn into a plus 2b. But, if we can stay even on production at 2b, we’ll have a huge upgrade at the black corner. Hopefully, Kouz will be as likeable as Barfield and he’ll become a fan favorite. (If he hits like he did in the minors, fans will be saying, “Josh who?”)

  10. What about Soriano? He wasn’t listed in the 2B section – isn’t he available? Or, is he not on the wish list?

  11. #3: No, KRS, thank you for reading and exchanging ideas. I probably don’t say it often enough, but I couldn’t do this without y’all.

    #4: Pat, a few of us have wondered about the impact Black’s presence might have on Balsley. I have no clue whether they have any kind of history, but out of anyone on last year’s staff, Balsley is the one guy I don’t want to see leave.

    #9: Thanks, LaMar, for the Barfield story. I really hope he does well with the Indians. I’ll be following him like I followed Nady this year. When you see a kid in A-ball, it’s hard not to get a little attached.

    #10: Mike, thanks for the note. Everything I hear indicates that Soriano can’t actually play the position. Several folks have talked about his selfishness; I can’t speak to that, but if the price is right, it wouldn’t kill me to see him play LF for us next year.

  12. I like the Black hire – don’t know how he’ll do, but I’d rather watch him than some tired old skipper (Hello, Dusty) bumble around for several years.

    On trading Barfield – like most everyone, I liked Barfield and thought he played pretty well, particularly for a rookie. I understand the thinking that 2B is easier to fill than 3B and Kouzmanoff’s minor league numbers are impressive. So the trade makes sense from that standpoint. Trading a guy who played a solid, full big league season for a guy who has not is an aggressive move – so the folks on the radio that are complaining about the team’s unwillingness to improve are missing that.

    My concern is this – 3B is such a tough position to fill. So many teams over the last 10 yrs have thought they had “The Guy” to be the next Mike Schmidt – a player who could play the position in the field and bring a serious bat – and most of them have been dead wrong. Rolen is the only guy that immediately comes to mind who fills that description, though David Wright seems on his way to doing it, too. I’m probably missing a couple of others. But rosters have been littered with guys who were supposed to be the next big thing at 3B and most disappeared quickly. Kouzmanoff is still learning defensively and has already experienced back trouble – not something that usually goes away when a guy’s a power hitter and has to hit the ground a lot to cover the 3B line.

    So while I understand the team’s thinking and I do think this was a move that could make the team better, it also seems to be a bit of a gamble. The odds on finding a productive, healthy 3B just don’t favor most teams.

  13. I always hate trading young proven talent for young unproven talent, but I do understand this move.

    I also like the fact that no one is untouchable on the pads and that they are making moves for the sole intent of making the team better. This move was not make because of a money issue but because Towers/Alderson felt that it would improve the team which you could not say about alot of the padres moves in past years.

  14. UT is saying that Counsell, Garciaparra or M Giles may be considered for 2B.

  15. How does Koozy sound for a nickname?

  16. Wow Counsell is a step back, Nomar was talked about last year but I thought he had some throwing issues, and Giles may be ok, he can also fill the hole left in the leadoff spot since it lookes like the pads will not re-sign roberts.

    Giles
    Giles
    Gonzalez
    Piazza (Maybe)
    Cameron
    Greene
    Kouzmanoff/Branyan
    Johnson/Sledge

    Not to bad still lacks that big bat though.

  17. Barfield is on 1090 right now. He says he feels like the rug was pulled out from under his feet. He had absolutely no idea it was going to happen. He was in town for the awards banquest and was eating breakfast.

  18. JB just said he feels like he got dumped (as in by a girlfriend). Wow, it sounds like he is really bummed.

  19. He said he may not go to the awards banquet tonight, but will think about it.

  20. Here’s the U-T article mentioned in #14 (thanks for the heads-up). Didn’t realize Barfield is represented by Boras. Interesting…

  21. Cammy II tried to convince him to go.

  22. GY I wonder if that had anything to do with Towers decision. Not for the immediate future, but for when they do have to negotiate with him in 5 years. I know Boras is not anybody’s best friend around here.

  23. Another interesting link at

    http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/10277755/detail.html

    “A source inside the Padres organization said the team feels very confident they’ll sign Alfonso Soriano when the free agent signing period begins, NBC 7/39 reported.”

    Couple that with Towers’ statement in the UT that “We’ve talked to 2 or 3 second baseman, one of star quality” and you have the makings of a really hot stove.

  24. Interesting La Mar, thanks for the link.

    GY, expand on your point about Soriano not being able to play 2B. Is that widely understood? If so, why would KT want him for that position?

  25. I still have to believe that if the do go after Soriano it is as a LF not a 2B…

  26. I heard the Barfield interview. Seems like a great kid. I’m 30, I can say that. Made me a bit bummed this morning, even if his lobs to first and swing-first MO drove me nutty. The new guy’s back and hammy problems scare me a bit.

    Ryan Zimmerman is another 3B worth mentioning. Not to mention Eric Chavez and Mike Lowell. Those two may fall short of the MIke Schmidt hemisphere but still pretty good. Does A-Rod count?

    I think Soriano is considerd a minus at second, simple as that.

  27. #24: I’m not as well versed in the latest and greatest defensive metrics as others, but my understanding is that Soriano’s numbers at second base were terrible before being moved off the position. I found some discussion on this at Get Up Baby from earlier in the year. Maybe Richard or someone can chime in with their thoughts?

  28. 27: Soriano’s hands, footwork and instincts are all negatives. He’s almost avergae on plays to his right or straight on, but is probably the worst in the business at going to his left. He is significantly (and I mean significantly) worse than every other second baseman in the Majors. Hopefully the guy KT thinks is a star is Nomar and not Soriano.

  29. One thing that caught my attention-if Soriano can’t make plays to his left, is that problem lessened significantly because Adrian Gonzalez is one of the 2 best 1B defensively in the NL?

    I think watching Adrian, he certainly makes a lot of plays to his right that other 1B don’t even think about making.

    If they do sign Soriano then I suggest extra practice covering 1B for the pitchers!

  30. If I remember right, in last year’s off-season the Padres explored the possibility of Garciaparra at 2nd, but the Padres had some question on whether his throwing motion was suited for 2nd base and whether he could make the pivot. I don’t know enough to make this up, so I must have read it somewhere.

  31. Geoff, thanks for reminding me again why I love this site and your analysis. I think we’re pretty much on the same page 98% of the time.

    Kouzmanoff (who, by the way, was nicknamed “Koozy Bear” – I wish I were kidding) is a kid who is going to flat-out hit the baseball. He’s got a great approach to hitting, and doesn’t seem to be the type who’s thinking power first. He reminds me (and I talked to Ed Barnes of Channel 4 about this yesterday on our podcast) of an Adrian Gonzalez-type hitter. I pegged Kouzmanoff as a .280 with 20 homer type hitter (which is what we projected for Adrian before last year), and that’s something Padre fans would have to be happy with. Sure, the Friars need a big bat, but I still think that bat can be had in left field, if not in another position.

    The key thing to remember here is that the Friars will have two corner guys under the age of 26 that crush the baseball. Branyan did a nice job in his time in San Diego, but we’ve seen him over the course of a year. I don’t think that’s something we need to see again.

    Add to this the acquisition of Brown, who throws the hell out of the baseball, even if he may not know where it’s going all the time. The Angels have had a history of guys like this (Brendan Donnelly is one that comes to mind), and I think Black and/or Balsley can get this guy under control a bit. KT is already expecting him to break camp with the big club.

    Barfield’s a really strong young player, but his being dealt, while shocking, is not going to cripple this team. Signing Soriano as a six-year solution at second base, however, just may do so. I saw Soriano in Anaheim, and he takes bad angles to the baseball at second, he jabs at the baseball instead of exhibiting soft hands, and he gets in bad throwing position. The problem with signing Soriano is that he’s going to have to play left, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

  32. The past 3 to 4 months: Let me explain … no, there is too much. Let me sum up.

    Castilla in – Castilla out.
    Walker in – Young out.
    Branyon in, Walker to 2B, Barfield to Bench.
    Bochy out.
    Black in.
    Kouz in – Barfield out.
    The “huge” pending FA moves we are expecting and holes to fill at 2B and LF

    At this point, this is like a Vegas cab ride with cab driver Sandy Alderson. We are running stop lights, jumped a couple of curbs, we almost hit some guy with a Utah plate who looks lost and I have no idea how we are going to get where we are supposed to be headed going this way.

    I am going to trust that you know what you are doing Sandy because all I can do at this point is take a huge swig of my beer and watch like its a video game all the while thinking, wow, I wouldn’t have done that in my car.

  33. 32: That was, if nothing else, quite humorous.

  34. #32: Great post! Like watching someone else play “Grand Theft Auto.”

  35. Counsell 2B
    Giles RF
    Gonzalez 1B
    Soriano LF
    Sheffield RF
    Cameron CF
    Greene SS
    Kouz 3B

  36. Like many of us, I am sorry in some ways to see Barfield go, but mostly because he was a home grown player who was respectable. But his numbers were really not very good last year. Sure his average was allright, and he hit for a little more power than I would have thought, especuially playing for San Digo, but he drew just 23 unintentional walks last year, and I would guess he drew even less than that when you consider he batted 8th and was pitched around occasionally. He swings a lot, and he swings and misses a lot. This doesn’t make for a great number 2 hitter, and his speed and power are a bit of a waste batting 8th. Defensively he was fine, but I don’t see him developing into an elite player. With Cleveland he’ll imp-rove a little offensively, but I think Kouzmanoff will ultimately be a little better at the plate. Plus, as Geoff points out, there are far more options at second than at third.
    And I really hope the Padres aren’t going after Soriano. I am still a little scared of his defense and inability to draw a walk. I just feel that he’s going to have a massive collapse sometime soon – players of his type don’t tend to age well.

  37. #35-
    That’s an interesting lineup – four outfielders and no catcher. Will they even let us play like that? I see a lot of passed balls….

  38. Wow…I heard the Barfield news but thought someone was kidding!

    Anyone else think that Marcus Giles is on the way here now? I wonder what we’d have to give up to get him. Linebrink + ?

    I also think there’s a fair chance that Sheffield will end up in SD…

  39. Gary Sheffield…..nnnoooooooooooooo!!!

  40. I like Counsell a lot as a backup, not so much as an everyday guy. That’s kind of surprising that the Padres are after Soriano. I’ve never heard so many negatives about a guy with his HR and SB numbers, he’s certainly a polarizing player.

    Mark raised a good point about Gonzalez. I think he saved Barfield some errors on bad throws last year so maybe he would help a little with Soriano. Maybe he goes from bloody awful to just awful. Every little bit helps.

  41. PM, this will be theraputic, repeat after me:

    Gary Sheffield is an asset.
    Gary Sheffield is an asset.
    Gary Sheffield is an asset.
    Gary Sheffield is an asset.

  42. …and no cheating by removing the last 2 letters…

  43. So, given that he is a lousy 2B option, what do we think of Soriano in LF? Seems a risk at 6 years, probably reasonable at 5 and good move at 4+buyout

  44. If I remember right, Soriano had double the errors at 2b over the last 5 years (2001-2005) than anyone else.

    I can say that 40/40 erases a lot of defensive miscues…

    I just wish the Pads were able to be this aggressive when Vlad wanted to come here.

    RE: 36…Soriano has proven to be an anomaly…Stats guys hate him and talk about how he “can’t” keep this up, but look at the numbers over the past 5 years and you can’t argue with the final results…heck, he even did it in the Grand Canyon Ballpark in DC. I seem to remember reading Rob Neyer predicting a huge fall for him…now a couple of years later admitting that he was wrong on the guy and that he is one of the few that can produce HUGE overall numbers despite the lack of plate discipline.

    No, he is not at the top of my list for 2b, but if he will play LF for us, we will be very happy. He improved dramatically in the OF last year and will certainly be average defensively (better than Carlos Lee). He has a body type that projects well as a longer term type player (Tall, thin, long/lanky arms vs. Lee, who, well looks like me).

  45. Jonathan, I was talking to Paul R. (a frequent poster) last night about this. I think he said 5/$75-80. I’d probably do that too, but I prefer Alou or Sheffield plus Zito.

    I don’t think there is a pitcher out there who will be comprably as good or as cheap as Alou is offensively and I think Zito is less likely to decline than Soriano…

  46. Maybe it is just me, but I really do think having Gonzalez takes away a lot of the issues with Soriano at 2B-given the available FA choices and already having Johnson/Sledge/McAnulty as somewhat capable replacements in the organization already……I’d much rather have Soriano at 2B then LF.

    One of the key questions for me regarding Soriano is if the increase in BB rate last year was a change that he made, or simply a function of being pitched around more then ever before.

    Certainly a guy who walks 60+ times and has 90 XBH is worth a ton offensively.

    Add Soriano, Alou and Kouzmanof to the lineup in place of Castilla, Barfield and Roberts and I think it is very apparent that the team is a ton better then they were last season.