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?
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 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]
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.
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.