Monthly Roundtable: June 2007

Welcome to the latest edition of the Ducksnorts monthly roundtable. Participants this time include Anthony Trifiletti (Friar Watch), Peter Friberg (various; currently covering prospects here at Ducksnorts under the title “Padres Prospect Report”), Jim Higgins (FriarBall), John Conniff and Denis Savage (, a webzine that covers the Padres’ minor leagues), Larry Brown (AOL FanHouse), and yours truly.

To the table…

Geoff: What does the acquisition of Michael Barrett mean to the Padres? How will his presence on the roster affect this club?

jbox: Barrett gives the Padres some experience and is supposed to give us both an offensive and defensive upgrade. I don’t think the change from Josh Bard to Barrett is going to be that noticeable, though. The rampant base stealing is apparently the result of our pitchers, so I don’t see too much change. I always liked Rob Bowen but he’ll get playing time in Chicago and we get a better catching crew, so it’s a win-win.

Dex: Barrett immediately provides some depth. While Bowen was an adequate backup catcher, Barrett (or Bard as the case may be) is an excellent backup catcher. Lots of chatter on Gaslamp Ball has been about the type of clubhouse presence Barrett will be, but look at it this way: the Cubs had planned two giveaways around this guy and he’s a very active community guy so unless the current Padres are jealous types when it comes to new players trying to become fan favorites, then I think we’ll be fine.

Geoff: I have a pet theory that winning solves a lot of “clubhouse presence” issues. That and getting away from Lou Piniella.

Jim: I think Barrett provides some sorely needed pop to the lineup. Granted Bowen was a nice guy and it sounds like a lot of guys were upset he was traded but neither he nor Bard is the type of hitter Barrett is. And with Adrian Gonzalez slumping, Mike Cameron not hitting as well as he used to and everyone else not really a power hitting threat, Barrett gives the Padres another bat capable of driving in some runs. He is definitely an upgrade and hopefully the winning the Padres have done this year will keep him and Milton Bradley happy.

Larry: I’ve always been a fan of Barrett — probably because I’m not in the locker room with him every day, leaving me to judge him based on his stats. He’s one of the more underrated catchers in baseball when it comes to offense, posting three straight seasons with an OPS over .800 with Chicago. He might not be able to pop out as many home runs for the Padres playing in Petco, but he’s still an offensive boost to the club. I also can somewhat overlook his controversial incidents — one was with A.J. Pierzynski, and the other was with Carlos Zambrano. Barrett isn’t the first player to have a run-in with A.J. (as Jake Peavy pointed out), and Zambrano isn’t exactly the most tame player in baseball. As far as depth in the organization goes, there isn’t much there, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres sign Barrett to a three-year deal at the end of the season when his contract expires.

Geoff: Seems like this might be an audition of sorts for Barrett.

Anthony: Despite his success at the plate last year, Bard is probably best suited for a reserve role. Barrett has a proven track record as an above-average offensive catcher and his poor defensive reputation, like his reputation as a troublemaker, appears to be exaggerated.

Geoff: Agreed. The throw that caught Dave Roberts stealing to end a game last week in San Francisco is about as strong as I’ve seen from a Padres catcher in the past couple years.

So, Barrett should help right away. Beyond that, what impact will this trade have on the organization as a whole?

Peter: Kyler Burke had been passed up by Chad Huffman and Cedric Hunter, and even newly drafted Kellen Kulbacki has a greater shot of reaching the Padres than Kyler had. Furthermore, with Kevin Kouzmanoff at third, the Padres potentially have to find a use for Chase Headley and David Freese… So in giving up their backup catcher and a blocked corner outfielder, the Padres essentially gave up nothing of significant value to improve their catching corps.

Denis: I am a big believer in giving up minor-league talent for major-league players — within reason. Burke has the chance to be “a player,” but the timetable for his rise to prominence is four to five years and that kind of projectibility is hard to, well, project. Barrett fills a definitive need. Bard is a nice player but is a backup that will log valuable time off the bench. Barrett is a better option offensively — and the team needs offense. The names are different in the Bradley deal but the facts above remain the same.

John: I’m with Denis in that one of the primary purposes of the minor leagues is to be able to make trades like the one for Barrett. However, I do think a few too many pundits were a little quick to give up on Burke because he was struggling in Fort Wayne; his numbers in the last month showed significant improvement. If you’re going to take high school players with high “tools” upsides, which Burke has, quite a few times its going to take them a little longer before you start seeing the performance equal the potential.

I still like Bard as the regular catcher because even though the Padres need his offense, the team is built around pitching and defense, and I don’t think Barrett is close to Bard’s ability to catch those low sliders in the dirt.

Geoff: It will be interesting to see how manager Bud Black uses both catchers. Moving on, now that Kouzmanoff appears to have acclimated himself to the big leagues, the main sticking points on offense are Marcus Giles and Jose Cruz Jr. Both got off to hot starts but currently are creating way too many outs at the top of the lineup. How should the Padres address this problem?

[Ed note: The Padres since have acquired Milton Bradley, who currently is on the disabled list with a left oblique strain but who is expected to take over the left field job when healthy.]

Peter: I can’t help but remember hearing one of the Padres announcers (TV or radio, I don’t recall) tell their audience that they heard from the Giants’ media types that Cruz always started fast. I think what we’re seeing now is the real Cruz. Now what should do about it? I don’t know… Find an outfielder like… say… Milton Bradley and buy him off the clearance rack. Anyone else notice that we essentially got two starters, Kouzmanoff and Bradley for one; Josh Barfield (along with Barfield we received Andrew Brown, who we used to get Bradley). As for NOG… We hope he comes out of it or that Matt Antonelli develops quickly.

jbox: I don’t think that Marcus or Cruz need to be singled out for their lack of offense. You can look up and down our line up and we haven’t had much consistency from anyone. Even the great Adrian Gonzalez has been streaky. The Pads will be like this all season and still win plenty of games, due to the pitching and timely hitting. As a fan I don’t know what you can do to get these guys to perform. I’m sure Merv Rettenmund has tried everything under the sun. The players just need to stay aggressively patient, wait for their pitches and be consistent with their method and their practice.

Geoff: Giles hit .214/.301/.294 in May and June; Cruz hit .228/.313/.304. Still, you make a great point that the Padres likely will be inconsistent on offense throughout the season, frustrating though that may be at times. As for Rettenmund, I think he’s demonstrating that a hitting coach is only as good as his hitters. The results since he returned to the Padres aren’t appreciably different from those achieved under his predecessor, Dave Magadan.

Other ideas?

Dex: Move them from the top of the lineup. Bud Black obviously isn’t hesitant to play with the lineup so a shift would be possible if necessary. At this point, I don’t know if it is necessary. Our options for the leadoff spot are limited. If Bud just makes sure that one isn’t ever batting immediately after the other, I’d be willing to bet that they’ll bring it around eventually.

[Ed note: The Padres have listened to Dex, moving Brian Giles to leadoff, Marcus Giles to #2, and Cruz well down in the order; way to go, Dex!]

Anthony: The Bradley acquisition takes care of the Cruz situation; Cheo is a good fourth outfielder but playing every day has exposed some of his weaknesses. The Giles situation is tougher to handle because when he’s going well he’s an ideal #2 hitter. The Padres don’t have much of an alternative to leaving him be and hoping he breaks out of it. Perhaps the All-Star break will allow Marcus to get some rest and he’ll come back strong in the second half.

Geoff: I sure hope so. He really looked good in April.

Jim: I think with veterans like Giles and Cruz sometimes you just have to ride out the slumps and hope they get hot again soon. Marcus just barely turned 29, so he should still have some good years left in him and when healthy he can hit over .300. As for Cruz, with Bradley now on the team he will probably be the fourth outfielder and top pinch hitter, which isn’t a bad thing considering Bud Black has been relying an awful lot on Geoff Blum and Russell Branyan as pinch hitters and spot starters. Cruz’s move to the bench only gives the team more depth and more options.

Larry: I agree that the acquisition of Bradley has addressed the Cruz Jr. issue for the most part — Bradley will likely be starting every day along with Cameron and Brian Giles in the outfield, and batting in the middle of the order. Bradley is a productive hitter when he’s not on the DL or blowing a gasket — which seems to occur quite frequently. As for Marcus Giles, I still think he’s a top of the order guy who’s been underperforming. I would just wait him out.

Denis: Bradley. ‘Nuff said. Say what you want about Bradley — the kid can stroke when healthy. The off the field stuff is overblown, in my opinion, and Bradley will be a tremendous boost to a lineup that lacks any real threat outside of Adrian Gonzalez. Bradley is patient, hits the ball hard each time up, and creates a little breathing room for those hitting around him. Now — if, and it is a big if, he can stay healthy is another question…

Geoff: Couldn’t agree more about the off-field stuff. Let’s see what the guy can do in a new environment.

John: I know Cruz did well his first month, but I thought the solution was to go with Paul McAnulty in left field everyday from the start. He put up good numbers in the minors against right- and left-handers and he would have given the team a solid consistent bat out there — but the team already had one rookie in there every day, and I don’t think it wanted to have two. To me the key to winning at PETCO is getting guys who can post good OBP numbers with gap power and PMac does that.

If Bradley starts off well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become the regular right-fielder, where Giles moves to left and the team moves Terrmel Sledge. Bradley is a good addition, and the team gave up very little.

Geoff: You know, I’d thought about the possibility of moving Giles back to left field. I agree that there probably isn’t room on this team for Sledge when Bradley returns from the DL. Sledge’s bat seems to have suffered from a lack of consistent playing time, and he is way too “exciting” on defense for my taste.

Shifting gears, although Bud Black has done a tremendous job in his rookie season as the Padres’ manager, his use of the pitching staff continues to confound at times. Acknowledging that we don’t know his players the way he does, what, if any, strategies might foster greater efficiency and production from the arms at his disposal?

Peter: Call more umpire conferences…

jbox: I’d just like to see Black use all his pitchers and find the right time to use them. In recent weeks he’s eased off of his overuse of Cla Meredith, which was a welcome relief. Mix up Heath Bell, Scott Linebrink, and Meredith, and use them in some different situations. Linebrink doesn’t always have to pitch the eighth. Hard to complain too much, though; Black gets the results more times then not.

Anthony: Linebrink should be demoted from the eighth inning setup role, with Bell taking his place. Kevin Cameron needs to be worked into some higher leverage situations; letting him rot on the bench doesn’t help anyone. As a whole, the Padres bullpen has been so good that any poor performances are probably magnified in our minds and we tend to point the finger at Black.

Geoff: Yeah, a lot of this is nitpicking. I would like to see a little more flexibility in terms of bullpen usage. I’m also not thrilled — and I expected at least one other person to jump on this — with Black’s tendency to leave Greg Maddux and David Wells out on the mound to face a few too many batters.

Dex: My theory is that Black is getting some direction from Kevin Towers and Paul DePodesta when it comes to the pitching staff. Linebrink has built a summer home on the trading block and the way that Black has been using him has been as something of a showpiece even though he’s been sporadic. I wouldn’t be surprised if Linebrink were moved once he’s able to put together three dominating appearances in a row. His last two have been good and if he comes into the next game with three strikeouts in 13 pitches then he’ll be on his way to New York. Once that happens, I would venture a bet that the front office will be done tinkering with the bully, Kevin Cameron will start seeing more regular action, and Bud Black will truly be able to use the guys how he sees fit.

John: I think Black has done a pretty good job with the ‘pen, especially keeping Trevor Hoffman fresh and a very good job with Justin Germano.

Jim: I think the biggest problem is he is relying to heavily on guys like Doug Brocail and not giving guys like Kevin Cameron or Justin Hampson enough regular work to be in a groove. No offense to Brocail but I get really nervous every time I see him enter because he has never really been — in my opinion — a solid, long-term option. He might be great in small doses and you might trade for him at the deadline to get some help for an overworked bullpen but he shouldn’t be one of the first guys you call on. A lot of people are also getting on Linebrink and how he is still the eighth inning guy despite his recent struggles but I think Linebrink is still a good option there, he just needs to get out of his current funk. Black is doing the right thing by letting him keep going out there and working. And if he is ever going to be traded, he will need to keep pitching to get his value back up.

Larry: I understand Maddux has a player option for ’08 that escalates based on the amount of innings he pitches this year. That being said, I would still like to see him pitch into the seventh a bit more than he has this year. The same thing can be said about Germano, who hardly ever goes seven innings. I guess Black is trying his best not to burn out his arms. Both Meredith and Linebrink had their share of struggles — May for Meredith and early June for Linebrink. I think Meredith might be on his way to being overused. Overall, however, the Padres staff is the best in baseball by a large margin, and Black deserves a lot of credit for it, as well as the scouting and player development departments. They have done a fantastic job building the best staff in the game.

Denis: I honestly don’t see the problem. I prefer not to see the explosion waiting to happen in Kevin Cameron and I applaud Black for not giving KC more innings. Ride the guys who are getting it done.

Geoff: Which raises the philosophical question of whether a contending team can afford the luxury of carrying a player who simply cannot (or will not) be trusted to perform in meaningful situations. While we’re busy contemplating that, what do we need to know about the Padres farm system that maybe has slipped under the radar?

Peter: I have a theory that I think the Padres are following. In a recent interview on Mighty XX Grady Fuson talked about “damage plays” (that might not have been the exact phrase he used, but it was “damage [something]“); walks, high-pitch-count at-bats, etc. These “damage plays” are things that get the starting pitcher out of the game earlier, that prevent a pitching prospect from developing, that make winning easier. These “damage plays” also help the hitters develop sound hitting strategies consistent with what the big-league club wants to do. And therein, I think the reason the Padres draft so college-heavy is that they want to surround the “prospects” with high-character, mature, patient hitters and strike-throwing pitchers thus creating a “culture of winning.”

Denis: Sheesh. Are we looking for Ducksnorts, Volume II to hit the bookstands?

Geoff: March 2008; thanks for the reminder. :-)

Denis: Three words: Latin America development. The Padres are making a stand on the international market that most people have yet to fully comprehend. In a year or two, some of the best prospects in the system will hail from Latin America. It is the work of Randy Smith, the Padres’ director of international scouting, and the commitment of the San Diego brass that has made a stamp continually getting a rate increase.

Without getting into names, the Padres have gone away from the smaller players with one dominant tool and looked for body types that are conducive to long-term growth. The dividends are beginning to pay off, as nearly the entire Arizona Rookie League infield is manned by players coming through their Dominican program. Plus, some of the best pure arms in the system can be found in the desert; the exciting news is there are more on the way. They have also found several gems from Mexico — where two prospects could land in the top 20 as soon as next year.

The Padres have been vilified in recent years for their failure to commit dollars to a prospects, but this is an area that goes largely unnoticed. It won’t be long before the results can visibly be seen and the excitement about player development is taken to a new level.

Geoff: Cool. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that!

John: I think my answer is going to echo an article that Tom Krasovic wrote the other day in the Union-Tribune; the team has been able to acquire players that they need ranging from Brian Giles to David Wells from within their system that enables them to win. To me that is one of the ways in which you judge a successful minor league system, does it help the major league team win, and the Padres’ minor league system has accomplished this.

Do I think the Padres have some room to improve, especially in the development of everyday talent? Of course, but I like the direction that the organization is going. I believe that in the future a few of the players on this year’s Lake Elsinore Storm team have a chance to be everyday players in San Diego if given the opportunity, particularly second baseman Matt Antonelli and left fielder Chad Huffman.

* * *

That about wraps up this edition. Thanks again to all my guests for laying it down and keeping it real…

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20 Responses »

  1. What the heck does “aggressively patient” mean? ;-)

  2. G.Y. did you ever do a trade analysis for the Giles/Bay & Perez deal? I know it was not in the bottom 5 or top 5 in your book, does that mean it came out somewhat even?

  3. #3: Entering this season, the deal was surprisingly close in terms of win shares. Here’s where it stands now:

    Bay: 89
    Perez: 18 (w/Pit only)
    Pit: 107

    Giles: 90

    Incidentally, I’m planning to include a register of every trade KT has made as an appendix in next year’s book. There won’t be any analysis, just a laundry list of players and win shares exchanged.

  4. cool thanx G.Y.

  5. Dex mentioned that he thought Linebrink would be moved to New York before the deadline, im assuming he means the yankees who have alot of bullpen needs, but what does NY have that the pads would be interested in?

  6. 6: The Yankees have a lot of players we’d be interested in. Their farm system has come a long way in a short time. But they’re 11 back of Boston, 7.5 out of the Wild Card. If they don’t close ground in the next three weeks they might be sellers instead of buyers.

  7. Re: 7 what players were you looking at it seems that all of the yankees top prospects are RHP which im not sure the padres want/need at this point, but I must admit im not to familiar with the yankee’s stystem.

  8. 8: The Yankees deal is mostly my own conspiracy theory as to why Black keeps sending Linebrink in there when he hasn’t shown that he can really lock it down. As far as who we could try to get, I’d rather not move Linebrink for prospects, but rather a solid position player for the stretch (with cash to make up for George’s spending habits).

    Of course, Linebrink has yet to put those three solid outings together so I think he’s ours to keep.

  9. Re: 9 which player would you like to get in return? with bradley and barret the padres lineup seems complete (not saying it cant get better but who would move out at this point?)

  10. Keep in mind if we deal Linebrink we miss out on the draft pick(s) he will get us in the draft next year. Those picks, combined with Linebrink’s services the rest of the year, are likely going to be more valuable than whatever package we could get back for him. So it would have to be a really good offer to deal him.

  11. 8: RHP like Chamberlain and Betances would instantly be in our top 3 prospects. I don’t care what hand they throw with when the ball comes out filthy.

    We wouldn’t get them for Linebrink unless the Yanks were competing and desperate. They don’t need to move players off their major league roster, they have the money to pay them all.

    11: I’d almost always take a good AA or AAA player, even a high A player, over a draftee. The attrition is so high, just making it through A ball is more than many drafted players ever do.

    I don’t see the reward being there for the Padres to take the risk. Linebrink isn’t what he has been. His velocity is down, his fastball is still straight, he’s not striking out guys, but you’re not going to get a big hitter for two months of him and we have more than enough average and above-average hitters. If you wanted a big return, you deal him last winter.

  12. Re Barrett being re-signed to a three year deal: No way, not in a million years. Alderson doesn’t operate that way. He let Hernandez, a year younger, better defensively and comparable offensively, walk; I don’t see any way he’d commit three years to Barrett.

  13. Re: 13 Alderson gave Giles a 3 year deal, the problem is I dont think Barrett will take a 3 year deal.

    Also Hernandez signed a 4 year $27.5 mil deal, Hernadez was not that great defensivly, how many times did we yell because he refused to block the plate?

  14. I also dont see the pads resigning Barrett because he would have no leverage with them, Bard is still a serviceable Catcher and Frenchie (La Forest) will make an ok backup.

  15. 13, 14, 15: They would give Barrett a 3 year deal if the money was right. 3/12 is peanuts, if he’d take it.

  16. Re: 16 I would think that they would have him a 3/15 or maybe even a 3/18 but I think he will be looking more in the 4-5 year range at 5-6 mil a year.

  17. “Thanks again to all my guests for laying it down and keeping it real…”

    Geoff: is this a reference to Ali G?

  18. #18: LOL. Not intentionally, but that works. ;-)

  19. 17: I can envision a 3/18 type deal. Who else will be on the market after the year? Most of the big market and competitive teams all have something in common, they already have good catchers.