Trade Deadline Post-Mortem

I was on the road while everything went down, so let’s take a look at what exactly happened…

Tales from Cooperstown

Okay, here’s the deal. My trip to Cooperstown totally kicked me in the posterior. Don’t get me wrong, it was the trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t be happier that I got to represent and meet so many Padres fans, but I was hoping to provide reports along the way. For various reasons, that didn’t happen, so I will be sprinkling bits and pieces into my posts over the next few weeks. I also will be including an account of my journey in the 2008 Annual.

Padres Trade Rob Bowen and Kyler Burke to Cubs for Michael Barrett

This is old news, but if you’d like a refresher, we touched on it back in June. In a nutshell, it cost almost nothing to acquire Michael Barrett, who has been productive in the past, particularly against left-handed pitching. Barrett hasn’t hit much since joining the Padres, but given his track record and what the Padres paid to upgrade from Rob Bowen to him, this was a no-brainer. It has been suggested that Barrett’s presence in San Diego is damaging the team due to his poor defense and leadership skills, but the evidence is a bit sketchy:

Team Records with or without Michael Barrett Starting at Catcher, 2001-2006
Year Tm Barrett Other Diff
W-L Pct W-L Pct
Note: I’m not using 2007 because it’s a pain in the neck to calculate due to Barrett’s switching teams and I don’t believe the added data will make enough difference to justify the effort involved.
2001 Mtl 53-76 .411 15-18 .455 -.044
2002 Mtl 54-48 .529 29-31 .483 +.046
2003 Mtl 33-30 .524 50-49 .505 +.019
2004 ChN 63-56 .529 26-17 .605 -.076
2005 ChN 53-62 .461 26-21 .553 -.072
2006 ChN 40-57 .404 26-39 .400 +.004
tot 296-329 .474 172-175 .496 -.022

Overall, there’s not a whole lot of difference here (about 3 1/2 games per season if you’re keeping score at home). What is interesting to note is the huge discrepancies in 2004 and 2005. This screams fluke and makes me wonder who pitched in the games Barrett didn’t start. The only thing I could find was that Mark Prior usually (75%) worked with Henry Blanco. Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux, who together started 38.6% of Cubs games over 2005-06, each worked with Barrett and Blanco:

Maddux and Zambrano, Barrett vs Blanco 2005-2006
  Maddux Zambrano
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
with Barrett 1010 .291 .320 .455 1122 .208 .300 .355
with Blanco 472 .252 .286 .408 657 .215 .312 .329

The discrepancy in batting averages for Maddux is weird, but the fact that we don’t see the same pattern in Zambrano’s starts leads me to believe that this is just random fluctuation. It’s possible that Barrett has a negative effect on his pitchers, but if so, it’s not easy to detect. Whatever the case, a guy who might cost his team 3 1/2 games over the course of an entire season doesn’t deserve to be known as someone who will “kill your winning percentage” (save that for the likes of Mark Bellhorn and Vinny Castilla). Although it was a worthwhile question to ask, the evidence simply isn’t there. That said, Barrett has been an offensive zero since joining the Padres, so his play behind the dish may not be our greatest concern.

Padres Trade Andrew Brown to A’s for Milton Bradley

We’ve already touched on the acquisition of Milton Bradley. I liked the deal when it was made, and Bradley has done nothing to change my opinion. He is hungry and talented, and the Padres gave up a spare part to get him. I still believe that Bradley would make a nice option for the 2008 center field job. With all the crazy money that is likely to be flying toward guys like Mike Cameron, Torii Hunter, and Andruw Jones, maybe the Padres can keep Bradley here on a 1-year deal, kind of like the Dodgers did a while back with Nomar Garciaparra.

Padres Trade Scott Linebrink to Brewers for Steve Garrison, Will Inman, and Joe Thatcher

I was a bit surprised by this trade. After all the talk over the years, and with just a few months remaining on his contract, I really didn’t expect to see Scott Linebrink leave San Diego before the off-season. You can find excellent analysis of the deal at Friar Watch, Friar Forecast, and Brewerfan; I’ll just ask a few questions that came to my mind when I heard about the trade:

  • Given Linebrink’s diminished effectiveness and subsequent demotion to lower-leverage situations, how difficult is it to replace him in the current bullpen?
  • What impact will Linebrink’s departure have on staff and team morale?
  • Without an established “eighth-inning specialist” on the staff, might we see the elimination of that contrived role in favor of using the best available pitcher on a case-by-case basis?
  • If the Padres had offered Linebrink arbitration to ensure receipt of compensatory draft picks, what are the chances that he would have accepted the offer and possibly been awarded more than the Padres were comfortable paying for his services (let’s not forget the Todd Walker fiasco this past spring)?
  • If the Padres had received a pick as compensation for Linebrink, what are the chances that the player drafted would have developed into a prospect as good as Inman (#91 in BA’s Top 100 for 2007), and how long would it have taken for the player to reach that status?

I’ll always have a soft spot for Linebrink because I saw him pitch in his Cal League debut at San Jose back in ’97; he fanned 10 batters over 6 innings and from then on, I made it a point to follow his progress. I also like what Linebrink represents in terms of the Padres’ philosophy. The Pads, you may recall, claimed Linebrink off waivers from the Houston Astros in June 2003. During his time in San Diego, Linebrink compiled a nifty 2.73 ERA over 339 innings. Over that stretch, nobody in the big leagues had a lower ERA in as many innings.

Big thanks to Linebrink for the work he did here and for providing tremendous return on minimal investment. I hope he succeeds in Milwaukee and wherever else his career leads him.

Padres Trade Leo Rosales to Diamondbacks for Scott Hairston

Back in May, we identified the presence of a right-handed power bat off the bench as one of the most pressing needs for the Padres. Hiram Bocachica was a nice idea, but he didn’t work out as planned. Scott Hairston, like Bocachica, is a former top prospect who came up as an infielder but who now primarily plays the outfield. Hairston always showed excellent power in the minors but benefited from calling a couple of serious offensive parks (Lancaster and El Paso) home along the way.

While moving up the ranks, Hairston drew comparisons to Ellis Burks (John Sickels, The Baseball Prospect Book 2003), Gary Sheffield (Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2003), and Jeff Kent (Baseball America Prospect Handbook 2004). Those are some pretty elite hitters. Sheffield and Kent both sound like code for “good bat for middle infielder, but won’t stay there,” while Burks is just plain high praise. It’s hard to get a read on Hairston’s ability because of sporadic playing opportunity, but there is upside here, albeit probably not as much as prognosticators once envisioned. Then again, on the current Padres squad, he doesn’t need to be another Burks, Sheffield, or Kent; he really just needs to be an improvement over the likes of Bocachica and the recently released Jose Cruz Jr., which I think he is.

The cost? Leo Rosales. As in the Bradley deal, the Padres parted with a spare minor-league reliever that they weren’t using. That’s a small price to pay for someone who could help the club right now.

Padres Sign Shea Hillenbrand

Eduardo Perez was a guy I wanted to see the Padres sign back in May, but apparently his playing days are over. Shea Hillenbrand offers a similar package. He was particularly effective against left-handers in 2005 (.325/.361/.525) and 2006 (.338/.373/.489) and could end up being useful at some point down the stretch.

Padres Trade PTBNL Jon Link to White Sox for Rob Mackowiak

Before I even looked up Rob Mackowiak‘s list of comps at Baseball-Reference, the guy that I thought of was Robert Fick. Wouldn’t you know that Fick turns up at #1 at B-R. That’s exactly the type of production I expect from Mackowiak. A left-handed batter with moderate power, Mackowiak gives the Padres a little versatility off the bench — he’s played everywhere but pitcher, catcher, and shortstop in the big leagues. The only downside is that the Padres have to pay Mackowiak, who was quoted as being “extremely disappointed” on learning of the trade, either $3.25 million to play in San Diego next year or $300,000 to go away. Based on his track record and likely role, I know which I’d prefer.

Padres Trade Jon Link PTBNL to Astros for Morgan Ensberg

In July 2006, I said of Morgan Ensberg that “if he’s healthy, this is the guy we want.” In 2005, Ensberg hit .283/.388/.557 at age 29. Due in part to injuries, he hasn’t come close to that since then, but Ensberg, who compares well with ex-Padre Phil Nevin at the same age, has displayed terrific power and plate discipline in the past. I still like Kevin Kouzmanoff as the everyday third baseman into the future — this isn’t the same as bringing in a declining Joe Randa to replace a punchless Sean Burroughs. Ensberg has plenty of upside, cost almost nothing, and should offer short-term help. From what I can tell, the Astros are paying the bulk of his salary, so there’s really no reason not to be ecstatic about this move.

Padres Trade Royce Ring to Braves for Wil Ledezma and Will Startup

A former Rule V pick by the Detroit Tigers, Wil Ledezma hasn’t enjoyed much success at the big-league level, but the 26-year-old left-hander has loads of talent. Ledezma has been held back by injuries and lack of minor-league development time. After working a total of 136 innings over three seasons (none above Low-A ball), Ledezma jumped to the big leagues in 2003 and languished at the back end of the Tigers bullpen. Since then, he’s shuttled back and forth between the minors and majors, and never had a real chance to establish himself at any level. He may not turn into anything, but there’s at least potential here. Ledezma probably isn’t a worse option than Royce Ring out of the ‘pen right now and he might be an option for the 2008 rotation.

The Padres also picked up right left-hander Will Startup from the Braves. A fifth-round pick out of Georgia in 2005, Startup is a reliever who has shown the ability to throw strikes and get batters out at the Triple-A level. Like Thatcher, acquired in the Linebrink deal, Startup could see some action with the big club sooner rather than later.

Padres Release Russell Branyan and Jose Cruz Jr.

I’m sorry to see Russell Branyan leave the Padres. He did a great job in San Diego down the stretch in ’06 and showed flashes this year, too. Unfortunately, his game is not well suited to pinch hitting and he’s a terrible outfielder, which means he probably belongs in the American League. In 194 at-bats with the Padres, Branyan hit .232/.357/.474, which is roughly what Dan Uggla does for the Marlins. Given the right situation, Branyan could be useful to someone. At age 31, however, time is running out.

Jose Cruz Jr. got off to a great start but hadn’t done anything (.196/.280/.278) since April. With the addition of Bradley, Hairston, and Mackowiak, there really was no need for Cruz.

Padres Fire Hitting Coach Merv Rettenmund, Hire Wally Joyner

Last year, some folks were calling for the head of Padres hitting coach Dave Magadan. He was fired and replaced by Merv Rettenmund, who saw some short-term gains but ultimately proved no more capable of getting results than was his predecessor. I thought at the time that Magadan was a bit of a scapegoat (and his success in Boston reinforces that thought), and I suspect that Rettenmund falls into the same category.

I love Wally Joyner, and I’m happy to see him back in an on-field role with the Padres. That said, at some point you have to ask whether the coaches are to blame. Presumably these guys are all teaching the same stuff — why else hire them — so maybe it’s a matter of finding the person who is best able to communicate ideas to the players? I really hope that Joyner won’t be the next fall guy.

The Padres now have a manager, pitching coach, and hitting coach who had no previous big-league experience in their respective roles before joining the staff. Bringing in an unknown quantity as coach mid-season while chasing a third straight division title could be seen as a panic move or as thinking way outside the box, depending on how you look at it. For many fans who have grown tired of watching the Padres “play it safe” over the years, the addition of Joyner extends a recent trend of hiring the best people regardless of what conventional wisdom might suggest. It’s a bold way to conduct business and one that has the potential to work beautifully or miserably, as opposed to the comfortable mediocrity that is assured by recycling the same familiar names.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, I have tremendous respect for Trevor Hoffman as a player and a person, but his public comments regarding the moves made by the front office are just asinine:

When you make some kind of silly changes, and changes that are more lateral, you take away a huge part of the portion of your club that is very important down the stretch.

I’ve got no real problem with Hoffman or anyone else complaining about management in private. As a paying customer, however, I’m not interested in hearing players accuse a front office that has brought unprecedented success to this organization of making “silly changes.” I would much rather see them remain focused on the task at hand, which is winning. Play good baseball and the rest will take care of itself, right?

Padres Prospect Report

by Peter Friberg

You will not see me complaining about the offense. The Padres have scored 9, 1, 18, 0, 5, 11, 4, 3, and 5 in their last 8 games (5.67 runs per game).

Friday, August 3, 2007

AAA

Yordany Ramirez: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI; HR, BB, SO

AA

Colt Morton: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 2 RBI
Chad Huffman: 3 AB,1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI; HR, BB
Cesar Ramos: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO, 0 HR

High-A

David Freese: 4 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; 2 SO
Will Garrison: 8.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, 0 HR

Low-A

Cedric Hunter: 6 AB, 1 R, 4 H, 2 RBI; BB, SO
Drew Miller: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO, 3 HR – yikes!

Short Season-A

Eric Sogard: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B, BB
Mitch Canham: 4 AB, 1 R, 0 H, 1 RBI; BB, 2 SO
Danny Payne: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; BB, SO
Mat Latos: 2.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR

Rookie

Drew Cumberland: 6 AB, 3 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; BB, 2 SO

Commentary:

Two Double-A players, each of whom I frequently dismiss, are quietly re-inserting themselves into the “prospects” discussion…

Colt Morton has only played 24 games. When he began the season on the DL it was easy to forget about him… Overall Colt is hitting .375/.434/.750 with 12 doubles and 7 home runs.

Cesar Ramos has a 5.35 K/9 rate… I’m a big proponent of guys with gaudy strikeout rates, so I’ve always been skeptical of Ramos. However, the Padres are bigger fans of solid defense and pitching to contact. And they contend that Ramos’ high hit rates from 2006 (161 hits in 141 IP) were more a product of shoddy defense than Ramos’ ability. Furthermore, they contended that as he moved up the developmental ladder, and the quality of defenses rose as well, Ramos’ hit rates would improve. The Padres have proved prophetic, as Ramos has allowed only 127 hits in 134 1/3 IP. In the offense-friendly Texas League (and on a team that led the circuit in first-half losses) Ramos has posted an impressive 3.68 ERA with a 10-7 record…

Good to see Mitch Canham back from his surgery.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

AAA

Shawn Estes: 3.1 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO, 3 HR – not ready

AA

Chase Headley: 3 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; BB, 3 SO
Colt Morton: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI; HR, SO

High-A

Nic Crosta: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 4 RBI; HR, 2 SO
Ernesto Frieri: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR – High-A debut

Low-A

Cedric Hunter: 5 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 1 RBI; BB, SO
Keith Conlon: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; 2B, 2 BB, SO

Short Season-A

Mitch Canham: 5 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 1 RBI
Yefri Carvajal: 4 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; BB, SB

Rookie

Matt Bush: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR

Commentary:

Nothing to say…

Sunday, August 5, 2007

AAA

Yordany Ramirez: 5 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 4 RBI; HR

AA

Wade LeBlanc: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R 4 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 2 HR

High-A

No significant performances…

Low-A

Cedric Hunter: 5 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 1 RBI; 2B
Keith Conlon: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 2 RBI; HR, CS
Aaron Breit: 2.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR

Short Season-A

Luis Durango: 5 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 0 RBI; 3B, SB
Eric Sogard: 5 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; 2B, SO
Robert Woodard: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, 0 HR

Rookie

Paul McAnulty: 3 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 2 RBI; 2B – rehab
Lance Zawadzki: 4 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; HR, BB

Commentary:

Aaron Breit’s stock has fallen further than any other Padre prospect this season. He began the season generally regarded as a top 15 prospect. He features a low-to-mid-90′s fastball and solid secondary pitches. He was among the league leaders in K/9 last season in Eugene and had a solid ERA as well… This season Breit has thrown 85 innings and has given up 122 hits and has a 44/58 BB/SO ratio. Last year Aaron had an outstanding 9.65 K/9 rate, this season he has fallen back to an ordinary 6.14 K/9…

Thanks, Peter. The Padres are in St. Louis for four against the Cardinals beginning Monday night. We’ll have the IGD up and running by 3 p.m. PT or thereabouts.