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. 99: If he’s healthy…

  2. Burrell doesn’t have great range, but he’s solid and has a good arm. Pretty sure he can hit a little, too.

  3. How about Bret Boone for 2B?


  4. Over the last three years of Boone’s career, he was a worse fielder than Soriano. True story.

  5. Potential Batting order for 2007:

    LF- Marcus Giles
    RF- Brian Giles
    2B- Bret Boone
    3B- Aaron Boone (Remeber his big Home Run for the Yankees?)

  6. Another name in the LF sweepstakes: J.D. Drew opted out of his contract so he’s a free agent now. He was due $33 million over three years if he exercised his option.

  7. RE: 106

    How anyone could not exercise that kind of option is beyond me. He might put up Brian Giles type power numbers playing 81 games at Petco.

    I am feeling another bargain for LF. Maybe via a trade. I just don’t see them spending foolishly on big-name free agents, despite the sudden windfall.

  8. RE: 104

    I believe it Richard! Living up here in Olympia, WA I saw plenty of, how can I put this nicely, routine grounders somehow “sneak” past Boone for singles. When he started to boot groundballs on top of that, his lone defensive asset (glove) was effectively nullified. He is a good example of a player who dosen’t know when to hang it up, and with those Mariner teams, there were at least a half dozen players fitting that discription. Does anyone remember John Olerud or Wiki Gonzalez!:)

  9. Richard,

    Why are the Phillies, the Philly writers, and their fans so eager to get rid of Burrell? Seems like just about every team would love Soriano — at least it was that way at the all-star break (short-term, though) — despite his laziness and self-absorption. Just perception? I’d prefer to avoid both of them and their big contracts and go after another starter, and I think KT-SA will.

    As for stolen bases (Roberts) — why many managers have traditionally said their is no substitute for speed on the base paths — there are so many intangibles that are difficult to quantify when defining their importance. For example, more fastballs thrown to the batter, easier to guess certain pitches depending on the count, a routine grounder (hit-and-run) turning into runners on the corners, pitchers losing focus and making more mistake pitches, pitchers having to throw better pitches to avoid putting a speedy runner in scoring position, etc. Just counting stolen bases and saying they account for these many runs is absurd. There is a lot more to it than just saying it’s the difference between having a runnner on first and one on second. The mere ability to steal a base — depending on your lineup — can change a game dramatically.

  10. #80
    I think if you want to compare a player to the league, as you desire, then you have to look at OPS+, as Geoff has in post #74. This is a very simple but effective measurement of a player’s value relative to the league – HRs and Slg% are a fairly arbitrary set of stats – OPS is a better overall measure because it measures the two most important basic offensive stats, not just one of them. OPS+ also compares a player to his league, which is what is important. A score of 100 is a league-average player.

    Through age 31, Klesko’s OPS was 34% better than his league.
    Soriano, through age 31, was 15% better than his league.

    Am I trying to argue that Soriano is worse than Klesko? No. I don’t think there’s much difference between them at age 31, though. Klesko had a platoon disadvantage more pronounced than Soriano’s, and I don’t think 40 steals is anything to scoff at. It’s possible Soriano might get a little better, or at least stay at this level of production for a couple seasons. Of course, the same could have been said about Klesko at 31.
    What I am trying to argue is this: through age 31, Klesko was a demonstrably better offensive player than Soriano at the same age, and he still wasn’t worth a 6 year, 90 million dollar contract (can you imagine the bind the Pads would be in if they had given a deal like that to him?). And Soriano, for all the flashy baubles, isn’t worth it either.

  11. Rosenthal reports that Yankees turned down Linebrink for Sheffield.

  12. I think by now I have finally learned that Rosenthal has no good source within the Padres organization…..I mean Jason Kendall is a Padre right?

    Oh and Greg Maddux signed that FA deal here a few years ago right?

  13. I am very wary of any of the big names. The Moneyball idea is bang for the buck, as others have stated. I think buying players is like buying stocks; sure Google is going to earn a ton of money, but you have to pay so much for it. I much prefer, and have done much better, finding those lesser known stocks that aren’t as hot but much less valued. So if Lee, Soriano or Zito lands in SD, given the interest and star caliber, the market will bid up the price very high. I think some of this is driven by the fact that some GM’s still like bringing home the big name to show the fans they are serious about winning. We don’t want that.

    If they perform in line with the best seasons through the whole contract period, then they are good signings. But it is very risky. If they decline, then you spending a lot of money and getting nothing back. We cannot afford that. Yankees, Boston, LA, sure; not SD.

    Look at the FA’s that we have picked up in recent years: Loretta, Roberts, Piazza, Woody, Giles (exception): good values, but not hotly sought after so we got solid players at good prices (again, Giles was a bit different, but the Pads seemed to acknowledge that they were overpaying to make sure the offense had something). I would much rather fill out a team that way; yes, there are players worth paying a lot for, but you really want those guys to be a lock. Beltran, Rolen, A-Rod, Manny come to mind. Zito consistency qualifies, but who would you rather have, Young or Zito? Kind of a toss up to me. So, we got Young out of nowhere. Zito is steady, quality but will not be worth the money for team with our budget capacity. Maybe our extra budget allows us to go a bit more up-market in the FA’s, but don’t want to go premium.

    Soriano looks very volatile; in the last six years, in three of them he has had OPS of 736, 807, 821, these latter two in Texas, where the ballpark inflated his numbers. Yes, in other three seasons he had great seasons, but given the price tag he is going to command, no way.

    Lee is a solid player, with an OPS in the mid to upper 800s. I would like someone like that, but not for a crazy price. He is 30 years old, so a 3-4 year deal would be max. For an OK price, sure, but my guess is that he will command a lot more.

    Yes, it would be nice to have a lot more offense, but remember….

    Team OPS for the Padres with NL rank:

    2006: 789 (2)…….706 (16)
    2005: 741 (7)…….707 (15)
    2004: 787 (2)…….722 (14)

    2003: 731 (10)…..711 (14)
    2002: 691 (15)…..714 (12)

    This huge gap between home and road emerged with Petco. Again, my hypothesis is that our offense has been pretty darn good, just that Petco is pretty impossible to have good offensive numbers. Yes, we have holes to fill, but the team has done it, historically, without blowing a bunch of cash on some big name free agents. I would like to see that trend continue.

  14. 109: I’ll look into the first part later and answer back.

    As for speed and its effects… they have been studied. BP has baserunning stats (first to third, that sort of thing). The Book looked at the effect of speed on hitters. Hitters’ production go up with a man on base (regardless of basestealing prowess). However, after an attempted steal, their production takes a dive. Apparently hitters are the ones affected by stolen base threats.

    Why do managers claim the things they do? Why did Dusty Baker (3 time manager of the year) insist on playing Neifi Perez and claim that high OBPs result in “clogging the bases?” Why did the great Bruce Bochy routinely pencil in Vinny Castilla and refuse to take direction from the front office? Just because guys have been around a long time doesn’t mean that they automatically know more than everyone else.

  15. 109: Burrell signed a big contract and the following year batted .209. He strikes out a lot. I think he’s thought to be less than clutch. There’s a desire to move in a new direction in general. A lot of writers and fans aren’t terribly bright.

    He’s been a pretty damn good hitter since the first year of his contract and he can play a decent left field.

  16. John Donovan has the sober “don’t be a dope and sign a pitcher for five years” story posted on Good stuff.

    JD Drew – what a dirtbag. Yeah, I know bizness is bizness and the Dodgers didn’t have to give him that clause. I didn’t call Aramis Ramirez a dirtbag, but for some reason it seems to fit Drew. Would we want that guy roaming RF in Petco? Good all-around player but the old-school “soul” guy in me says no way. I hope it backfires – the same way I looked forward to the D’Backs looking like morons for the Ramon Ortiz contract.

  17. That Rosenthal article is… interesting. “continuing their pursuit of Wes Helms”? I must have missed that rumor. So M. Giles would cost us Linebrink and we’d have to pay him $5.5 million. Maybe we’d be better off signing Loretta or Kennedy for a couple million and spending the extra money on LF/SP?

    I know very little about Burrell but I always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone that gets on the bad side of Philly fans. They don’t seem to be the fairest judge of talent.

  18. Drew opting out really hurts the Dodgers. Their current outfield is Ethier, Kemp, and nobody, really, maybe Werth. It looks like they’ll have to panic and overpay someone like Soriano or Lee and Matthews Jr. Great to see as a Padre fan, although facing Soriano next year wouldn’t be so great.