Reshaping the Padres: Let’s Make a Deal (or Three)

On Thursday, we examined what the Padres have and what they need. Now we turn to the question of which teams might make good trade partners and then consider some possible scenarios.

As of this writing, about half the teams in baseball appear to be in contention. Some will fall of the pace, although it’s impossible to know which ones. Others may not be interested in adding payroll despite their hot starts — Oakland, Florida, and Minnesota come to mind. The NL West teams are probably out as well — Kevin Towers has made a total of four trades (one with each team) within the division in 12 1/2 years. That’s out of 139 total trades, at last count.

Almost everyone needs pitching to some degree. Teams that could use help at second base, third base, or right field include Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, possibly the Angels (depending on Howie Kendrick’s balky left hamstring), the White Sox, Cleveland, Minnesota, Oakland, and Tampa Bay. Without running through all the particulars (I’ve scoured these teams’ rosters; you are free to do the same), here are a few ideas that I’d be looking to explore if it were my place to do so.

Talk to the Cardinals and White Sox about Iguchi

The Cardinals have Adam Kennedy at second base. He probably isn’t different enough from Tadahito Iguchi in terms of likely overall production to merit serious consideration. If St. Louis feels otherwise, though, I’d be asking about — and this should come as no surprise — right-hander Anthony Reyes.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, the White Sox have Juan Uribe, who has been awful (.198/.262/.328) while making the switch from shortstop. They also have the untested Alexei Ramirez and might be inclined to bring in a more known quantity to fill the hole. Iguchi played for the Pale Hose as recently as last year and won a championship with them in 2005. As far as I know, he left Chicago on good terms.

Assuming the White Sox have interest, I’d be targeting center fielder Brian Anderson, who hasn’t done much in the big leagues but who has been a decent hitter (.293/.361/.474) in the minors. He is nothing special, but then, neither is Iguchi. We’re not looking for a savior here, just someone who can help plug a hole until Cedric Hunter is ready sometime in 2010.

I suspect the White Sox may be a better fit, although I’d rather find a way to get Reyes.

Talk to the Phillies, Astros, and Twins about Kouzmanoff

Kevin Kouzmanoff is a personal favorite of mine. I love the way he handled his poor start as a rookie and refused to get down on himself when things weren’t going well. That said, if the Padres can improve themselves in other areas, I have no problem moving him, especially with Chase Headley ready at Portland. The big question with Kouz is whether his perceived value might be too low because of his somewhat slow start (as Richard reminds us, his numbers are better now than they were at the same time last year).

The Phillies have Pedro Feliz at third base. He stinks. They also have Shane Victorino in center field. He and Kouzmanoff have similar contracts and should provide similar value. Philadelphia also has been giving Jayson Werth a lot of time in center, and aside from one memorable clank job against the Padres, he’s played well. I’m thinking the Phillies might be willing to fill a hole without creating another. Throw back a spare outfielder for a low-level prospect if needed. Or go bigger and try to include right-hander Carlos Carrasco in the deal.

(After initially coming up with this idea I bounced it off Eric Seidman, who is much more familiar with the Phillies than am I. He seemed to think they would be more interested in dealing Werth — no thanks — and that they aren’t prepared to give up on Feliz, who is signed through 2009. In other words, this may not be as good a fit as I originally thought.)

The Astros have Geoff Blum and Ty Wigginton. As a team, their third baseman are batting .215/.253/.323. There isn’t anyone on Houston’s big-league roster that could help the Padres, but down on the farm, right-handers Fernando Nieve and Bud Morris are somewhat intriguing. I don’t know much about either of these guys, but their numbers look good. According to Ben Badler at Baseball America, Morris throws in the low-90s but needs to refine his secondary pitches and may move to the bullpen. Houston gave up a boatload of prospects to get Miguel Tejada, and the system is a bit thin. I like the concept here, but I’m not sure there’s a good fit.

Up north, the Twins have Mike Lamb at third, but he’s more of a role player. Minnesota probably won’t want to take on salary, which should make Kouzmanoff an appealing option. The Twins have some talented but unproven youngsters at areas where the Padres need help, including right-hander Kevin Slowey (which is the worst name for a pitcher since Bob Walk), shortstop Trevor Plouffe, and center fielders Denard Span and Jason Pridie.

Slowey is a command specialist who probably fits into what the Padres like in a pitcher, though not necessarily what they need. He profiles as a back-end rotation option without much upside. Plouffe, who turns 22 next month, is a strong defensive shortstop whose bat has started to come around (.274/.326/.410 at Double-A in 2007, with slightly better numbers at the same level so far this year). This is a guy the Padres might want to target anyway, regardless of what they decide to do (or not do) with Khalil Greene — Pridie would give San Diego some insurance at the position and options further down the line should the club decide to move Greene or watch him walk away as a free agent after ’09.

As for Span, he’s a toolsy guy who is hitting well (.327/.431/.471) at Triple-A but who hasn’t shown much of a bat in the past. Like Slowey, he is 24 years old. Pridie, who came over from Tampa Bay along with Delmon Young this past winter, is the same age as Span and was more highly regarded coming into the season — Baseball America ranked Pridie #6 among Twins prospects and compared him to ex-Padre Steve Finley — but he’s been brutal (.220/.271/.305 at Triple-A) so far in ’08.

Of these possibilities, I like the way the Padres match up with Minnesota the best. I’m not sure how highly the Twins regard the prospects mentioned (especially Plouffe, who would seem to be the key to any deal), but this might be an area to explore. I’d at least want to be talking with these guys.

Talk to the Indians and Mets about Giles and/or Wolf

Because of Brian Giles‘ contract, any deal involving him is almost certain to include cash passing from the Padres to his new team. That said, there are potential suitors.

The Indians have Franklin Gutierrez in right field. Giles, who got his start in Cleveland, would represent a substantial upgrade. The Indians have several promising young pitchers, including Adam Miller, Ryan Miller, and David Huff. I don’t know how good (or available) they might be, but these are some names that stand out to me based on their numbers. Adam Miller once was considered a top prospect but has been slow to develop.

The Mets have Moises Alou in left field — Giles’ primary position before coming to San Diego. They also have a young left-hander who seems to have fallen out of favor (Oliver Perez), as well as some intriguing minor-league arms (Nicholas Carr, Angel Calero, among others). Perez won arbitration this past winter and is making $6.5 million in 2008. Wolf is cheaper and presumably less of a headache to the likes of Billy Wagner.

I’m guessing that the Padres wouldn’t have to pay as much of Giles’ salary in a deal involving Perez (because the Mets would be unloading a hefty contract of their own). It can be tough to get an accurate read on what’s really going on in New York because there’s always so much drama, but I’ve also heard that the Mets might be looking to move Aaron Heilman. I might suggest expanding a potential deal to include Heilman and Heath Bell, but judging from the latter’s first go-round with the Mets, that would be cruel.

Here, I like the Mets’ potential package a little better.

What I Would Do

Well, it’s really what I would attempt to do. Obviously the other teams involved have a say in all this…

  • Trade Iguchi to the White Sox for Anderson (assuming the Cards balk at moving Reyes)
  • Trade Kouzmanoff to the Twins for Plouffe, Slowey, and either Span or Pridie — possibly expanding the deal to include more players on both sides (I’m very uncertain of this move; there’s a lot of risk involved)
  • Trade Giles, Wolf, and some amount of cash to the Mets for Oliver Perez and a minor-league arm
  • Recall Headley and Antonelli (if he’s not ready, then go with Craig Stansberry or Edgar Gonzalez)
  • Release Shawn Estes and Justin Germano (in fact, Germano was DFAd during the course of writing this post over several days), recall Josh Geer and Cesar Ramos
  • Keep Greene — at least until Plouffe is ready
  • Keep Greg Maddux — he won’t bring enough in return to offset the loss of his presence

So we now have a lineup that looks like this:

C: Josh Bard/Michael Barrett
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Antonelli/Stansberry/E-Gon
3B: Headley
SS: Greene (with Plouffe in minors)
LF: Paul McAnulty/Scott Hairston
CF: Anderson (with Span or Pridie in minors)
RF: Jody Gerut

Maybe one of McAnulty or Hairston emerges, maybe not. Whatever the case, Chad Huffman should be knocking on the door in spring 2009 anyway. Heck, if you’re feeling real crazy, you might even bring him up after the All-Star break.

Here’s the rotation:

Jake Peavy
Chris Young

Geer and Ramos look like marginal big-league pitchers to me, at best, but you might as well run ‘em out there and see what they can do. Once LeBlanc stops tipping his change-up, or whatever the heck his problem is, then you give him a more serious look. Same with Inman when he’s ready, probably mid-2009.

Concluding Thoughts

My suggestions may not be as radical as some people might like, but I don’t see a need to blow up the team based on the quaint notion that “48 games are more important than four seasons worth of games” (thanks to MB at Friar Forecast for expressing this sentiment more eloquently than I can). The important thing is to make incremental improvements and maintain a disciplined approach to whatever moves you end up making.

The problems with this team feel monumental because we’re experiencing them right now, but really this is just part of the cycle — well, unless you’re the Pirates — and things will get better. Not because of some magic pill or because anyone believes it will (ugh, please!), but because the management team in place has a proven track record of success. Does this mean they’ve never stumbled in the process? Well, you really don’t need to look further than the first third of this season to find your answer. But it also doesn’t mean they stumble all the time, or even most of the time.

It will be interesting to see what kinds of changes are in store for this team over the coming weeks and months. That’s the great thing about baseball: Even when the on-field product is scarcely worth mentioning (Thursday night’s power surge being a notable exception), there’s always something happening. Guess that’s why we keep coming back for more…

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173 Responses »

  1. #126@Dave H: I think Carl Crawford’s skill set is ideal for Petco. I was convinced of that after the D-Rays swept us here back in ’04. Crawford was 7-for-15 with five runs scored, two triples and two SB’s. If I remember correctly, everyone was talking about how he would be the ideal player for Petco at the time.

  2. #150@Richard Wade:

    By “House of Cards” I meant winning with a team that had a couple of really good players, aging vets and guys having career years in a division that was filled with inexperienced teams loaded with young up and coming talent. And all this time making bad decisions wth regards to the draft and farm system.

    It was no guarantee, but you could see the D-Backs, Dodgers and Rocks loading up to dominate the division and make the Pads a perennial 3rd and 4th place team for years to come.

    Hey, it was a decent run, they did bring post-season ball back to SD. Hey, I hope Headley and Antonelli come up next year and lead a resurgence, but again forgive me for being skeptical…

  3. #151@JMAR:

    Word, I would love to see a guy like Crawford play in Petco.

  4. #148 Tom Waits:Lets not forget Kouz is in the very start of his second full year in the majors. How can you expect him to be hitting with the same ferocity as someone manning the post for 5 years. You are right, he’s not the fleet of foot third baseman a prototype would be, but he is not costing us anything. If he were hurting the team, I would concur.

    As far as his hitting goes, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think KT and the front office pay Kouz to take walks. His job is to try to drive the ball. I’ll concege he has not been hitting extra base hits with ANY frequency, but again, this guy is playing in his 200+ game. If you are riding him with this type of visciousness, I better see you taking that temper to Headley when he struggles.

  5. #150@Richard Wade: The “one of two NL teams to have winning seasons the past four years” is a cherry picked comment to frame your argument. The Cardinals won 100 games twice, have an NL pennant, and a WS championship in that same time frame. Last year, they only won 78 games. Your comment attempts to mislead people into believing that the Padres have been more successful the past four years.

  6. #155@parlo: What’s cherry picking about saying the Padres haven’t had a losing season since moving to PetCo Park and pointing out that in that same time frame only one other NL team has managed to avoid a losing season? That the Padres have not managed to win short series after the regular season is hardly an indictment. There is nothing misleading about my comment.

  7. #104@Phantom: BA still has him as the Angels #1 prospect, although they list him as 3B, not SS. He was only 21 in 2006 and had a very good year in AA, but he struggled a bit last year at AAA, if an .835 OPS at 22 in your first year of AAA is struggling. Right now he’s playing 3B for the big club so doesn’t seem like he would be available, or viable if we’re looking at him as a SS.

  8. #154@MinnesotaMo: Any player with a 303 OBP is a liability. Even Dave Kingman was often a liability.
    KOUZ: 274BA, 303OBP, 398SLG, 90 OPS+, 4BB, 38K

  9. #155@parlo: I kind of agree with him in that the Cardinals are a fluky team this season. If you looked at the rosters before the season, I don’t think many people thought that the Cardinals were going to be better. Except for Pujols and Duncan in LF against RHP, everyone of the Cardinals players were huge gambles. Ankiel had 700 AB’s in the minors where all he showed was great power but a poor average and terrible plate discipline. Ryan Ludwick’s minor league numbers were worse overall then Paul McAnulty’s. Glaus can still hit but has only played two full seasons in the last five. Their middle infield was a wreck and their catchers haven’t ever hit. Their pitching staff was in even worse shape. Except for Wainwright (a converted reliever which rarely succeeds in the majors) they were relying on retreads, and/or converted relievers. Todd Wellemeyer wasn’t even a good reliever, Braden Looper was terrible last season and Kyle Lohse signed his contract in March. The bullpen was also filled with older (with the exception of Kyle McClellan) pitchers who had mixed success in the past. Sometimes teams like the Cardinals get lucky in that all their players have career years — or at least career starts. Unfortunately some of the time they are like the Padres who have three players doing well and the rest of the team far below their normal expectations.

  10. #150@Richard Wade: I like the idea of attributing his slow start to his being a slow starter. :-)

  11. #158@parlo:a liability!? Give me a break.

    I’ll go along with you on this….so now give me a replacement thats better….other than a guy that is in the minor leagues with an OBP of 0 at the ML level.

  12. #154@MinnesotaMo:

    Kouz may not be costing us a lot of money but he could cost us a lot developmentally by forcing our best prospect who is a better 3rd baseman to play a new position. I think if we can get decent return on Kouz keeping Headley at 3rd provides our best prospect with the best opportunity to succeed at the big league level. If we can’t get anything for Kouz fine he has too much value to ship off for weeds but if he can net another valuble piece then I think it makes a whole bunch of sense.

  13. #159@Schlom: My point is simply that you can frame any argument around a quirky stat. The Phillies have won 80 games or more the last 7 years. What does that mean ?
    They also havent gone anywhere in those 7 years.
    The Yankees won more games in the 1980s than any other team.
    Its also the first decade since pre Ruth that they never won a World Championship. They were consistently a second or third place team that never had a great year (maybe ’81) or awful year.
    I have never heard Phillie fans bragging that they have won 80 games or more the last 7 years. I hear them stating that they want to take the next step up.

  14. #136@Dave H: Disagree. Bell is the next best bet we have for a closer right now. I sure as hell can live without Merideth.

  15. I think we are being too hard on Kouzmanoff here (if in fact this is just a slow start and the way he hit from mid-May on last season is the true measure of his ability). Remember that we have to take park effects into account. As bad as Kouz has been at home — 260/273/417 — he’s still a lot better then the average hitter. The Padres as a team are hitting 225/303/337 while the pitchers have limited opponents to 224/293/334 (oddly, despite out-hitting their opponents at home they are being outscored 82 to 70). His main problem is that he’s only walked 4 times. He’s never walked a lot in his career but he’s never been this bad before — he walked in about 8.5% of his minor league AB’s and 6% last season but he’s at only 1.9% so far this season.

    As far as his defense goes, the only easily accessible numbers are Fielding Percentage, Range Factor, Win Shares and BP’s stats. This season he is above average in all those stats. Last year he was bad (or terrible) in all of them. Now it might be just sample size and we all know that defensive stats are unreliable but it’s certainly possible that he’s an average defender.

    As good as a prospect as Headley is, there certainly isn’t any guarantee that he’ll be better then Kouz. He was drafted higher which implies that he was higher regarded coming out of college and he’s been about a year younger at each level of the minors. However, outside of last season, Headley’s minor league stats aren’t anywhere close to Kouz’s. Headley’s 2006 and 2008 so far are worse then any year that Kouz had and his 2006 season was better then Headley’s last season.

    However, I could see why you’d trade Kouz and keep Headley. Chase is younger by 34 months, a switch-hitter and is reportedly a better fielder (although BP rates Kouz as a better fielder in the minors). One thing is pretty clear however, the Padres are best served by trading one or the other.

  16. #162@KRS1: I wouldn’t put all the eggs in one basket with Headley until he has proven himself at Petco. Kouz has made a few mistakes, but all in all has been holding his own.

  17. #163@parlo: Got it. I was just pointing out the Padres and Cardinals built their teams similarly this off-season although I think most people thought the Padres would be better. Sometimes you get lucky (the Cardinals this year and in the playoffs in 2006, the Rockies from September on last season) and sometimes you don’t — like the Padres this season.

  18. #161@MinnesotaMo: I think a good team can absorb one, maybe two KK type hitters at the bottom of the lineup. Kouz is a career 318 OBP hitter with about a 3.5/1 K to BB ratio. His fielding is not an asset. I realize that you are very fond of him. I have substandard players that I root for too. Regardless, he is not an asset to the team.

  19. #166@Turbine Dude:

    Hear me again… I am not knocking Kouz. I like him, I like him a lot. I really liked the trade when we got him. All I am saying is that I like Headley better at 3rd base. I do not want to give Kouz away. I want to get decent value for him in a trade and replace him with a player I think has more upside. If we can’t get decent return for Kouz then fine let the Headley in left experiment continue.

    Kouz may still rake and become an awesome player and if I didn’t think Headley was a better player I wouldn’t want any part of moving Kouz.

    I would also be totally cool with the Padres experimenting with Kouz in left field as well. Could he be a worse fielder than P-Mac. He is slow but doens’t appear to be horribly un-athletic. The bottom line is I just think Headley is better served at 3rd.

  20. #165@Schlom:

    I agree that there is no certainty that Headly will be better than Kouz. I’ll be surprised if he is, in fact. I suspect that Headley might bring more in return in a trade, though. I’d offer teams their choice of the two, and get as much as I could for one of them.

    Regarding the all-too-frequent Wright/Headley comparisons, it’s worth noting that at age 22, Headley hit .291/.389/..434 playing in the high A Cal League. At the same age, Wright hit .306/.388/.523… the Major Leagues.

  21. #170@Lance Richardson: Yeah, Wright and Headley are only about 15 months apart in age. Wright has 2000 ML ABs. Talk radio or someone else started comparing their minor league K numbers, which are similar. The bulk of Wrights came when he was 19 years old in Single A.
    The issue comes up a lot on the UT site. They also point out frequently that Headley has more HRs. Go Figure.

  22. #150@Richard Wade: Even if you attribute it to his slow-starting nature, the last 7 weeks are in the bank. You can’t get them back. I don’t believe in “slow starters,” just random fluctuations. I’d be even more inclined to move him if I thought he was congenitally ordained to give us below-average production for the first 6-8 weeks every season.


    If you don’t think the front office wants him taking walks, you must think the Padres are under some other management than they really are. The Padres KNOW that not making outs is the most important aspect of scoring runs.

    Any below-average hitter who is average defensively is hurting the team, just like any below-average pitcher would be. He didn’t hurt the team on balance last year, he may not have hurt the team overall when we total up this year’s production, but for the last seven weeks he’s hurt us. Often badly.

    You aren’t honestly taking any of this as viciousness? How many times do I need to write that Kouz is valuable before it sinks in? Where was this “it’s only 200 games” consideration when you were discussing how you want to dump Huber and McAnulty, who don’t have 200 games BETWEEN them?

  23. #165@Schlom: I don’t see anybody being hard on Kouz at all. People are talking about trading him for players that make us substantially better in the future, while maximizing Headley’s ability to contribute. It’s a realistic assessment of each player’s strengths and weaknesses. And nobody has pronounced him useless because of a slow start – but it shouldn’t be ignored, either.