The Khalil Conundrum

Khalil GreeneLate last week talks broke down between the Padres and shortstop Khalil Greene. The Padres control Greene through 2009 but are interested in pursuing a long-term deal with him.

According to the U-T, the club offered a 3- or 4-year deal (no money disclosed) without success, and the two sides now have exchanged salary arbitration figures. Quoth GM Kevin Towers:

A long-term contract with Khalil at this time is probably doubtful. I don’t know, it might not be able to get done. Khalil’s family is on the East Coast and I think there are some health concerns.

With Khalil, it might have nothing to do with the money. It might be family.

First off, it’s tempting to doubt the veracity of “nothing to do with the money,” but considering that it came from Towers, and not Greene’s camp, I’m inclined to believe it. Towers gains nothing by employing the phrase.

Towers also knows Greene better than you or I do. Even then, his use of the word “might” serves as a good reminder that none of us really understands what motivates Greene (or anyone else, for that matter).

Sure, we might jump at more money and scoff at those who claim they wouldn’t, but this speaks more to our own desires than to the situation at hand. Not everyone thinks along those lines. Ask Tony Gwynn, who could’ve profited greatly by leaving San Diego.

Anyway, Corey Brock adds a few thoughts of his own and asks a tough question:

Do you trade Greene after the season rather than head into the last season that he’s under club control? He’s coming off a huge year at the plate, he’s very good defensively and his trade value is through the roof right now and, at 28, he’s in the prime of his career.

Two quick points:

  1. The Padres worked out a long-term deal with Adrian Gonzalez shortly after they renewed him for 2007. Yes, Gonzalez is a local product who may have had additional incentive to stick around San Diego for awhile, but from an outsider’s perspective, I find it a bit premature to dismiss the possibility of both sides reaching a deal at some point. This doesn’t mean it will happen, of course, just that we (and more importantly, the Padres) shouldn’t assume that it won’t.
  2. I’m not certain that Greene’s trade value is “through the roof” right now. Petco Park creates a tremendous drag on his overall offensive numbers and it’s possible that this could affect his value in any potential trades the Padres might wish to explore.

I’ve been thinking about this. A lot. Here are a couple excerpts from the upcoming Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual:

At some point, Greene and the Padres need to make a decision. For Greene, the key questions will be how much he values money and prestige. The fact that San Diego is a mid-market town in a part of the country that isn’t well represented by national media affects everyone; Greene faces the additional challenge of having his offensive skill set largely neutralized by Petco Park.

Are the Padres willing to pay top dollar for a player who may not be able to reach his full potential playing at Petco Park? Does it make sense for them to do so? Is Greene willing to forego greater fortune and fame by remaining in such an environment?

These are difficult questions to answer. Greene is the best shortstop in club history, but Petco kills his game. This hurts both player and team.

Another question is this: If the Padres move Greene, how do they replace him? Drew Cumberland is the best internal hope, but he’s light years away.

The list of potentially available short-term replacements underwhelms. Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson (yawn) probably is the best of the lot. Only problem is that he has a good year about every three or four seasons, and he just had one.

I think the more fundamental issue is that “we can’t sign this guy to a long-term deal” doesn’t fit into my concept of good reasons to make a trade. It’s ahead of “I’m bored” but way behind “we have a chance to improve the club.”

For all Greene’s faults, if the Padres deal him, they will downgrade the shortstop position. The players who are likely to be better than him over the next 3-4 years (Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Johnny Peralta, Jimmy Rollins, J.J. Hardy, Jose Reyes) aren’t available in trade.

For the club to take a loss at shortstop — a key position, and one that has haunted the Padres for years (for instance, I have Damian Jackson at #6 all time) — they would need to make gains elsewhere. Pitching and center field seem to be the logical choices, but good luck finding anyone willing to trade impact players at those positions.

Could the Padres trade Greene? Sure, it’s possible. But there shouldn’t be any sense of urgency to it. Greene plays a premium defensive position, is in his physical prime, will be paid well below market value for the next two years, and will net the Padres a draft pick if he leaves via free agency.

The Padres should be more concerned with procuring talent than with giving it away. If they can move Greene for something that fills a need and provides value going forward, great, but what that “something” is must be identified before proceeding.

In other words, we’re asking the wrong question. Or at least, we’re framing it the wrong way. “Should the Padres trade Greene?” No. “Should the Padres seek to add talent, possibly using Greene to acquire it?” Well, maybe.

In vacuo, getting rid of Greene creates more problems than it solves. Hopefully the two sides can continue working toward a mutually beneficial agreement and get something done a la Gonzalez. Otherwise we’ll just enjoy the remainder of Greene’s stay in San Diego and hope that whoever succeeds him will be an improvement over Ricky Gutierrez, Andujar Cedeno, Chris Gomez, Damian Jackson, D’Angelo Jimenez, Deivi Cruz, and Ramon Vazquez.

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49 Responses »

  1. A very well-reasoned analysis. I really think that you’re dead-on about most of these points (especially nobody really having any idea what’s motivating Khalil). I also agree that the Padres shouldn’t assume that signing Khalil long-term is a possibility.

    As I have suggested a few times (and you’re primary suggestion), the Padres need to hold onto Khalil for 08 and revisit these talks periodically over the next year. Nobody knows for sure what’s going on between Khalil and the team, but I expect that Khalil doesn’t want to leave San Diego just because he hates the team or PETCO. I really think that there are some personal matters that may potentially resolve themselves over the next 14 months.

  2. Very well said and I agree 100%.

    My opinion: I think Khalil’s faith motivates him and he’ll make his decisions from that center.

    Bottom line is I hope he stays with the Padres, but if he needs to be on the East Coast to be closer to family who can blame him?

  3. KG trade timing: Waiting until next year could (emphasis could) backfire. One, teams that want a SS but don’t think they can sign him as a FA will not pay as much for a player they control for only one year. Two, if he gets hurt during the season his trade value plummets.

    They absolutely have to be looking at acquiring cheap, controlled, and productive players. Moving KG for a 5th starter and a generic corner OF would be a waste.

  4. 3: I definitely think you bring up some valid points, especially with regards to what the return on Khalil should be. Obviously you have to listen, but the deal HAS to be something that blows you away. What hurts us is that we almost have to get a SS back in a trade. So, unless we throw something else into the trade, we’re pretty limited on return.

  5. DAMN! I just saw this:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=3206971&type=blogEntry

    I lost some respect for Gammons over his stance on steroids, but if he’s giving GY the love, I’m willing to classify his “sewer rats” comment as a blip.

  6. Good post GY but I agree with TW, if the FO feels like they will not be able to do a long term deal with KG then I think his highest trade value is now or in July.

  7. 4: “Almost” have to, but not quite. The Rays have Reid Brignac behind Jason Bartlett; we’re never getting Brignac, but we might get Bartlett for Geer and/or Ramos.

    That’s a deal I’d consider making anyway. He’s as good a hitter as our other utility options and he’s a legitimate SS. But the Rays would need to find someone to hold the fort until Brignac is ready.

  8. (As a Reds fan), I wish the Reds hadn’t traded Josh Hamilton already. Hamilton + Alex Gonzalez for Greene and something in the way of a pitcher. (I’m too lazy to figure out which one would be fair for both clubs).

  9. 5 … that is a good read, thanks, TW!!!

    Here’s a bottom line from Gammons which I wish I would have written … to both GY directly, and to all y’all who comment here …


    As fans, we are so much better off for all the work that is being done.

    And for those of you who don’t have time to read the whole article, here’s the specific shout out …


    It’s amazing how many club officials read USS Mariner (Seattle), Fire Brand of the American League (Boston), Ducksnorts (San Diego), Athletics Nation (Oakland), Viva El Birdos (St. Louis), Lone Star Ball (Texas), River Ave. Blues (Yankees), MetsBlog.com, FishStripes (Florida), Dodger Thoughts, Bronx Banter (great writing), The LoHud Yankees Blog, Reds Reporter (Cincinnati), Bleed Cubbie Blue, Brew Crew Ball (Milwaukee) and more.

  10. Personally, I’d like to see us hold onto Khalil this year and trade him after evaluating whether or not we can sign Rafael Furcal. He’s a SS I’d love to see at Petco at the top of the order. He can replace Giles as our leadoff hitter and it would open up the options for who we trade Khalil to, since we’d have no gaping holes.

    If we did trade Khalil before the 2008 season, I’d be hoping that KT can work out a deal with the Angels involving Erick Aybar & Reggie Willits.

  11. 10: The only way I see the Padres signing Furcal is if he repeats his 2007 campaign, with a ~76 OPS+. And then we probably won’t want him.

    If Willits can play a quality CF, he’s an interesting idea. If he can’t, it’s too hard to live without any power in a corner. Not just OG limited power, next to zero power.

  12. I think the last paragraph of this post says it all:

    “In vacuo, getting rid of Greene creates more problems than it solves. Hopefully the two sides can continue working toward a mutually beneficial agreement and get something done a la Gonzalez.”

    Even if money is really ‘not the problem here’, would you guys agree that Towers offers a bit more than market value in order to keep his bat and defense for your incredible pitching staff? Or is the injury history making it too risky?

    Let’s face it, any bat you may replace him with will have to deal with the Petco Park effect anyway and you already have a guy that can shoot it over the fence there (12 HRs at home in 2007).

    His OBP numbers since 2005 worry me, though….

  13. The general feeling is that Khalil isn’t motivated by money but I’m suspicious when KT says it, simply because it could be a smokescreen for a below market offer. If he lowballs Khalil and then says, hey I tried but he’s not motivated by money, a lot of fans might accept that. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on, just that it’s one possible reason for KT to say something like that.

    Let’s not be too quick to ascribe some sort of mystical enlightenment to Khalil either. Yes he’s a spiritual guy but do any of us really know anything about his faith? He’s a professional athlete and I’m sure takes pride in his abilities and wants to put himself in the best situation. I love the way Petco plays for our team but the fact is it kills Khalil more than anyone and he has to realize that.

    8: If Khalil has to leave I’d love to seem him go somewhere like Cincy. He’d hit 40 home runs in a park like that.

  14. Greene’s OBP is atrocious. The fact is he’s a #7 hitter who plays great defense.

  15. 13: I wouldn’t say he’s not motivated by money, just that it doesn’t seem to be the most important factor for him. He didn’t roll over and accept whatever the Padres offered in arbitration. He didn’t sign with the Cubs after his junior year in college.

    14: Greene has his limitations, definitely. He’s still not the easiest guy to replace. A 100 OPS+ hitter with very good defense at the most important defensive position is rare.

  16. Boy, you can tell it’s the off season when a “trade or not to trade” Khalil discussion starts up and only has 15 comments by noon.

  17. Thanks for the thoughtfulness GY…as someone who thought trading Greene was the right idea for a while, I really appreciate your words.

    What do y’all think about going after someone like Brett Lillibridge in PA? He has a good defensive rep, has some speed, and even a little bit of pop…

  18. #5

    I find it ironic that Gammons calls out a political blog such as Daily Kos for its effect on public discourse, but then recognizes a number of baseball blogs that are part of Sports Blog Nation (http://www.sbnation.com/) that was founded and underwritten in large part by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.

  19. One thing I meant to say in 17…People forget that MLB players are asked to be away from their families from Feb through Sept and potentially October…that is 8-9 months away from your home if you are not from the area in which you play…sure, there are great stories like AGon, Joe Mauer (Minn) or Jeff Franceour (ATL), but for the most part these guys have to spend their career in a place that is unfamiliar. While great for some, others, seemingly like KG, it is very difficult. How can any of us fault a guy for wanting to honor his team and commitments, but eyeing a way to get back to his family and home? Very few of us will ever get a glimpse of the stress and heartache that can come from being away from your family that long each year. I have not been a big fan of KG’s game, but I respect the heck out of him and if it truly is something he wants, then it would be in everyone’s best interest to explore the best way to make it happen.

    ———————————————–

    This next little bit is without comment or direct reference to today’s post…simply something I found interesting. Please do not think I am suggesting we have a solution for the KG situation in-house.

    An excerp from John Sickels 2008 Baseball Prospect Book:

    Lance Zawadzki, SS, San Diego Padres
    Bats: S Throws: R HT: 5-11 WT: 185 DOB: May 26, 1985

    Zawadzki was drafted in the fourth round last June, out of Lee University in Tennessee. He had previously played at San Diego State, but injuries cost him playing time there and he didn’t really thrive until transferring to Lee. Scouts like his tools, especially his speed and arm strength. He needs to get more consistent with the bat, and he might not develop much home run power, although his pop to the gaps can be impressive. His pro debut was OK, and he’s worth keeping an eye on with some sleeper potential. Grade C.

  20. 19: Well said. The scouting report on Zawadki is also interesting. And let’s be honest, given the current climate of this situation, we should start learning a little more about any in-house options.

    I wonder if Khalil knows that Center and Brock have published their articles, and I wonder what kind of effect that has on him. Like I said last week, I sometimes wish there were ways we could show players how much some of them mean to us.

    Even though it’s probably not warranted, if Khalil is traded or gets away, the FO is probably going to get buried in the public eye.

    And if KG has to leave us, can he please go to the AL where I won’t have to watch him hurt us a few times a year?

  21. #3: True, waiting could backfire. Still, the odds should be in the Padres’ favor.

    #5: As you might imagine, I was pretty blown away by the mention from Gammons.

    #6: Everything depends on what the Padres can get for Greene, and who they can find to replace him.

    #7: That’s a nice price for Bartlett, and I’d make the deal in a heartbeat if the Rays were so inclined.

    #13: Good point about KT’s potential motivation. His record suggests that he’s a pretty straight shooter, but still, it’s a point worth considering.

    #14: Which is better than most shortstops that have played for this team.

    #17: Thanks for the note, CM. It’s important with questions like these not to get too hung up on dogmatic stuff but to keep digging. Greene is a flawed player, no doubt, but as TW notes in #15, good shortstops are hard to find. The Padres’ history at the position is ghastly.

    #19: Fun fact about Zawadzki: He recorded the first ever base hit in a game at Petco.

  22. KT to be extended, and yet another shoutout for GY and DS. It must really be your day Geoff…

    http://coreybrock.mlblogs.com/coreybrock/2008/01/keeping_kt.html

  23. 21 (14): Yep. Many of our SS have been 10th place hitters with mediocre D.

  24. 22: That’s very good news on Towers.

  25. Look, the Padres have Greene locked up until the end of the 2009 season. KT can afford to take a wait and see attitude until the trade deadline of 2009, a year and a half away. And as we all know, a lot can change in a year and a half.

  26. 19. I’m not sure Zwadecki is going to see that much playing time at SS – Cumberland should be the everyday guy at Fort Wayne this year.

    BTW – Coronado Mike as a transplanted San Diegan on the East Coast I enjoy your blog. Have been meaning to write that for some time.

  27. Thanks John…I can now officially count 4 readers! Good point on Zwadecki…the fact that Sickels included him in his 2008 book is interesting though!

    Jim…I totally agree with you that a lot can change. I think there are two big questions that need to be answered before a decision can be executed on…#1, GY talks about above. If we do trade, are we a better team? #2…and I think this one has to be answered first, can we really contend in 2008. The NL West is a difficult division and while I think the Rockies in 07 were a bit of a fluke, we cannot discount an AZ team that is a year older AND added another frontline starter. But if the FO believes that we really can contend, then we probably need to stand pat on KG and reassess before ’09.

  28. Good write-up, GY.
    I’m hoping that Khalil Thabit Greene will play for the Padres until his FA kicks in if no deal can be done by then. He’s quite a SS and that’s counting his flaws.
    And, hopefully, by then, any of the in house options will be ready.

    However, if he’d bring the Padres a great value in trade that includes an average SS, then, the Padres should consider that. I’m not sure this can happen now that KT let the world knows that Khalil is not interested in SD for long term.
    And I respect Khalil for putting his family in front of his contract ala TGwynn.

  29. 19, 26: Here’s what BA had to say about Zawadzki after he was drafted in 2006 (St. Louis, 15th round):

    “Scouts love Lance Zawadzki’s tools, particularly the Aztecs infielder’s 70 arm (on the 20-80 scouting scale), and many would like to try him as a catcher. Perhaps that would be best for his bat as well, as Zawadzki had fallen apart at the plate as a junior. He hit .335-10-53 in 2005, but just .243-3-26 in 2006. The Massachusetts native has some athleticism, lacks plate discipline and has just enough power to get himself in trouble with the bat.”

    Anyway, as a senior signee it seems like he could go to Elsinore rather than Ft. Wayne. The Wizard’s SS last year was usually Jose Lopez and a 609 OPS probably isn’t standing in Zawadzki’s way.

  30. If Khalil wants to go east to live why not start running through some east coast teams’ systems to see who has a good shortstop. And as much as I like Khalil if its clear he wants to leave, then I’d definitely want to trade him ASAP to get something instead of nothing. I mean the Angels have been drooling over Greene for a few years, we could add alot of parts for him, maybe Willits/Rivera and Izturis (to take over).

    Another sort of weird question – if Iguchi works out well here at 2B, is there a chance we’d consider moving Antonelli to SS?

  31. 30: I think the big problem is that nobody really knows what Khalil wants. As fans, given our limited sources of information, all we can do is speculate (which is probably not fair to both Khalil and the team).

    I think that a year from now, we might be celebrating a contract extension. A lot can change in a year, and the Padres are definitely a stronger team with him than without him.

  32. 30: I wouldn’t worry too much about where KG wants to go. Most teams that want him will be willing to trade for him because they’d have him through 2009, with the ability to sign him for longer a lesser priority.

    The Braves supposedly like him, too. They have Lillibridge (SS) and some interesting arms. Jo Jo Reyes had a rough major league debut, but he’s a 23 year old lefty who struck out almost 9 per 9 innings in the minors. Not that I’m agitating to move KG in any way.