One Actionable Item

It’s easy, in a season where almost everything imaginable has gone wrong, to forget that the Padres won 89 games a year ago with comparable talent. The lazy and somewhat impractical suggestion is to say we should blow everything up and start over from scratch.

Nice Debut

Speaking of the future, we’ve already seen four members of the 2005 draft class surface in San Diego this year. Monday night marked the debut of second baseman Matt Antonelli, the first member of the 2006 class to arrive. Antonelli started his big-league career in fine fashion, lacing a sharp single to center off 354-game winner (and ex-Padre) Greg Maddux in his first at-bat.

A more challenging and instructive approach entails identifying specific, actionable items and weighing the pros and cons of each. The idea is that if we focus on individual areas that can be improved, the larger issue will seem less daunting.

(Breaking large, amorphous entities into smaller, more digestible pieces is a neat trick I learned during my project management days. It’s also a good way to get a book written and published with a minimum of freakouts.)

Define goals, establish targets. Do something — It feels a lot less helpless than sitting around watching your team suck and whining about it. Even if nothing comes of the actual ideas, at least we’ll have a clearer grasp of the situation.

With that out of the way, here are my questions to you:

  1. What one thing would you do this off-season to improve the club?
  2. Why would you do this? How will it help?
  3. What are arguments in favor of your proposal?
  4. What are arguments against it?
  5. Is it realistic to think that the Padres might actually do something like this?
  6. If not, are there alternatives that could achieve similar effect?

This could be anything — player procurement, draft budget, concession delivery, parking, whatever. The only constraint is that it has to be focused, and you must offer solutions. Here’s an example:

  1. Trade Kevin Kouzmanoff or Chase Headley (whichever fetches more) for a front-line starting pitcher.
  2. Beyond Jake Peavy and Chris Young (assuming he’s healthy), the Padres are severely lacking in reliable starting pitching.
  3. The Padres have a surplus of big-league caliber third basemen, one of whom is miscast in left field, where there are other options.
  4. Both Kouzmanoff and Headley are young and cheap, and should provide excellent return on investment for the foreseeable future; why give them up when you’re trying to rebuild?
  5. Possibly, if the deal is right.
  6. They might try moving Khalil Greene for the same, although his poor season and injury may limit his trade value at the moment.

Keep it somewhat high-level. If we get some good responses, we can revisit them later and maybe dig a little deeper (e.g., talk about the pitchers we might target for Headley or Kouz).

Those are the ground rules; now dazzle me with your acumen. Have fun!

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16 Responses »

  1. I agree 100% with you on the Kouz/Headley trade and since you took my #1 option ill go with plan B:

    What one thing would you do this off-season to improve the club?
    Trade Greene and trade/spend the money for a good veteran SS to fill the gap until the farm system can fortify the position in the long term. There are a few options here the pads could go for a guy like Furcal who is a great player but does have some off field issues or go with a safer pick like Orlando Cabrera who is a nice stable player and could easily fill the hole for the next 2 to 3 years but would prob not produce at the same level as Furcal. They could really try and hit it out of the park by trying to trade for JJ Hardy in the off season since they do match up nicely with the brewers.

    Why would you do this? How will it help?
    This will shore up the Padres weakest position for the next 2 to 3 years and give them time to build through the draft.

    What are arguments in favor of your proposal?
    See above

    What are arguments against it?
    It will take a major financial commitment by the team to do this and is somewhat of a risk.

    Is it realistic to think that the Padres might actually do something like this?
    Maybe signing Cabrera but I don’t see them signing Furcal or trading for Hardy because it does not match the FO’s philosophy.

    If not, are there alternatives that could achieve similar effect?
    If Greene stays healthy and finds his swing again but it will just leave a hole at SS in 2010.

    Also I like that they are cleaning house right now they did win 89 games last year but it really was a different team with Cameron and Bradley and I think the guys in the pen last year overachieved and are coming back down to earth this year.

  2. 1. Trade Kyle Blanks and Josh Bard (tried something different0
    2. Blanks is blocked at this level by Gonzalez and baring a complete fire-sale he won’t be able to play 1B. Furthermore he’s not athletic enough to play the outfield. Bard should be traded because A) we have some depth at catching and B) The Padres want to go with Nick Hundley who has done very well for himself.
    3. Bard is still a front line catcher who has good pop in his bat and is incredibly good at handling a young pitching staff. Blanks is at the top of the Padres prospects and has tangibles and a batting average that make scouts drool.
    4. Bard has had injury trouble this year and was one of the Padre players that fell off the wagon making trading him rather difficult. Blanks doesn’t have the power that individuals of his size usually have (though part of that is his age, he’s still young). Blanks is also only suited for 1B or DH, that’s it.
    5. I still think Bard would be an awesome fit with Cincinnati which needs front line catching, same with Tampa Bay especially considering their young staff. Whether THEY agree with me is another issue. As for Blanks, I think he could net quite a few good prospects in return for a team looking for that 1B presence (Braves maybe?). Its quite possible but I don’t know whether that means its probable
    6. They could talk about moving Hundley but I’m not sure why they’d do that. Ditto with moving Gonzalez. I don’t know what other position Bard could play. If they wanted they could try and move Blanks into the outfield but though the Headley experiment worked, I have serious doubts about Blanks.

    Btw I’d love to keep Kouz and Headley for another year and combined with Gonzalez they’d make for a very solid 3-4-5 hitting combo. Still Kouz could fetch a nice price, but if no one bites, it wouldn’t hurt for another year of that combo.

  3. Darnit GY, you stole my actionable item! Here’s what I’d do:

    1) Acquire Oliver Perez.
    2) I would offer him 3 years/$30 million with incentives based on starts. Maybe something like an extra $300,000 for every start past 20.
    3) We badly need starting pitching. Right now we’ve got 1.5 starters (CY still scares me) and could use a strong middle-of-the-rotation guy.
    4) It’s all about the money. Last year, I would have never though that 3 years/$30 would get it done, but I feel like some of Ollie’s shine has worn off. If we can sign him to something sensible, I think we’d do it. I also think he’d like pitching at PETCO.
    5) See number 4.
    6) I’m sure there are other starters out there, but not many that I’d like the team to aggressively pursue. I think we should try to trade Kouz for Dave Bush as well, but that’s a whole different story.

  4. This is a single focused move that will dovetail with current youth movement and not deplete the farm system.

    1: Sign Ben Sheets

    2: This move adds a third reliable starter to the mix, without taking away a much needed bat.

    3: With the addition of Venable and Antonelli the athleticism issue has been addressed. The Padres are now younger faster and more athletic. Along with that they have dropped payroll by losing: Wolf, Maddux, and Giles. This allows the opportunity to sign a front line starting pitcher, like Ben Sheets.

    4: Sheets will require a long term big dollar contract, exactly the kind of thing the gives Alderson indigestion. Should Sheets suddenly get hurt, or turn into Zito, it could get ugly.

    5: NO, I do not believe the Padres will pursue a front line starting pitcher.

    6: An alternative would be to trade Kyle Blanks for a solid pitching prospect.

  5. Following your example, what about Kouz in a deal for Kevin Slowey of the Twins? Great K/BB & WHIP, but gives up a lot of HRs (which Petco would suppress). Twins could use the help at 3B.

    I’d fill out the pros/cons of this, but thankfully you’ve done that already.

  6. It seems like Minnesota is a team tailor-made to trade Kouzmanoff to:

    a) The Twins are short on pop and without a third baseman

    b) The Twins have a surplus of good young pitching – Blackburn, Perkins, Bonser, Baker and Slowey. (Bonser’s been bad this year, granted, and I’m going to assume Liriano is untouchable)

    c) The Twins proved, last offseason, that they weren’t averse to trading a youg pitcher for a young starting player – Garza for Young.

    d) While none of the above pitchers is a huge talent in terms of stuff, each (except Bonser) has had a good year in a good hitting park in a tough division in the superior league. It’s not hard to imagine Slowey or Baker turning into a star in this park, division and league.

    While Geoff makes a good point above in number 4 – that Kouzmanoff and Headley are both young and cheap – neither is great at his current position, and Headley, at least in the minors, proved he could play a good third base. Kouzmanoff’s only other position is probably first base, and he doesn’t hit enough to replace Adrian there. Therefore, I think KK is the one to go. Or at least should be.

  7. BTW, at the moment we’re only a half game back in the Strasburg Sweepstakes.

  8. When KT was asked on the Ch. 4 pregame show what his offseason priority would be, he said “the bullpen” without hesitation. He knows the team’s strong bullpen was the reason why this team was a winner for four seasons straight and he knows the bullpen is likely the main reason the team is one of the worst in baseball in ’08. So I’m certain he’ll try and go after one of the better young relievers in baseball via trade since the going rate for a free agent middle reliever these days is ridiculous. Here are a few ‘under the radar’ relievers that are still young and having very good seasons and might be worth going af`te`. I’m guessing the trade chips that could bring back the most value and that the team is willing to part with are Kouz, Kyle Blanks, and Will Inman. Just my opinion. So here are a few possibilities with ’08 stats as relievers:

    JP Howell, TB, 25 yrs old: 6-0, 2.66 ERA, 74.1 IP, 55 H, 76 K, 13 holds
    Rafael Perez, Clv, 26 yrs old: 3-3, 3.36 ERA, 69.2 IP, 55 H, 76 K, 19 holds
    Joel Hanrahan, Wash, 26 yrs old: 5-3, 3.52 ERA, 76.2 IP, 62 H, 83 K, 7 Sv
    Ramon Ramirez, KC: 2-2, 2.90 ERA, 62 IP, 53 H, 62 K, 16 holds
    Joey Devine, OAK, 24 yrs old: 4-0, 0.78 ERA, 34.2 IP, 18 H, 38 K, 6 holds
    Jose Arredondo, LAA, 24 yrs old: 7-1, 1.12 ERA, 48.1 IP, 33 H, 42 K, 12 holds
    Jared Burton, CIN, 27 yrs old: 4-1, 2.19 ERA, 49.1 IP, 46 H, 51 K, 10 holds
    Jesse Carlson, TOR, 27 yrs old: 4-1, 2.03 ERA, 48.2 IP, 35 H, 47 K, 16 holds

  9. Ok – what is it with you guys and pitching? The free agent market for pitchers is decent next year even if you don’t set your sights on Ben Sheets!

    1. Trade Kouz and maybe another mid level prospect for a catcher that can hit. Doesn’t have to be a star, just a decent hitter and fielder.
    2. The catching position has been a black hole of hitless-ness for the last two years at least. It shouldn’t have been that bad, but it has been and there are no prospects for a catcher from the minors for at least two years.
    3. We have extra players who play third and even a couple in the minors. Nick Hundley may well turn into a serviceable back-up; he has, however, never hit above .270 and that was in A ball. Mitch Canham can hit, but there’s rampant talk that the team will be moving him out from behind the plate. There’s just no one to take this job anywhere in the system and the free-agent market is pretty bad next year for hitting catchers (meaning .280 and above).
    4. Kouz is cheap, but left fielders are much easier to come by than catchers.
    5. I hope they’re thinking of acquiring a catcher through trade – as previously stated the free agent market is not so good right now. I’m sure the deal would have to be right, but then when isn’t that the case?!
    6. There are other packages that could be made, but most would not involve a position at which we have a surplus.

    Honestly, I don’t want Kouz to leave, but it just seems that without trades we won’t be able to fill certain holes in the club’s future.

  10. #9@Mary O:

    1. Catcher is an organizational strength at the moment.

    2. Josh Bard was third on the team in Runs Above Replacement last season. Hundley is a pretty decent catching prospect and has already reached the Majors.

    3. Hundley’s current level of production would over 500 PA be worth roughly 7 runs above replacement and about 8 runs below average. That’s nothing to write home about, but it’s not exactly bad for a prospect that was rushed to the Majors before he had mastered AAA.

    4. This is certainly true, but the need at the catching position just doesn’t justify trading an asset as valuable as Kouzmanoff. Pitching, perhaps, but not catching.

    5. I rather hope they’re not planning to part with Kouzmanoff to fill a practically non-existent hole. The catching production was poor this season, but that can be mostly attributed to Bard playing injured and a lack of quality back ups being available until Hundley was closer to ready.

    6. Pitching is the club’s biggest weakness outside of shortstop and I suspect it’s possible that the Padres FO could land a pitcher in exchange for Kouzmanoff if they were so inclined.

    I also would rather not see Kouzmanoff leave, but if it’s what’s best for the team, I’m all for it.

  11. I’d consider trading CY and Kouz to Cincinnati for Aaron Harang and an IF (Jeff Keppinger/Jerry Hairston Jr.).

    Why the Reds would do this? They have Volquez, Cueto, and Arroyo with Bailey coming up. CY would not be a #2 over there, plus they get a slugging 3B. Harang is getting older and more expensive with numbers that are going up (4-15 W-L). Slide Encarnacion to SS and still have enough IFs. They save money for 2 ML players.

    Why the Padres would do this? Getting a hometown pitcher to play in bigger parks and a better #2 pitcher that can still strike batters out and pitch 200 innings with reasonable salary. Getting an older SS to backup Khalil Greene. Edgar Gonzales can’t play SS and Kazmar is inadequate.
    This frees up Headley to 3B and Scott Hairston to LF where given enough ABs, he’ll hit 25+ HRs. With OG, Gerut, Venable to make up the 4 OF to rotate when needed.

    Why the Padres shouldn’t or wouldn’t do this?
    - Trading away starting pitcher and picking up salary are minuses. Harang has been on the DL a couple of times due to arm troubles in his career including once this season for strained right forearm,
    - Older players are on the decline phase of their career (of the two targeted IFs, Jerry has been on the DL a lot this season and older),
    - Fewer dollars to spend on getting #3 pitcher.

    This is something doable.

    Trade Headley for a #3 pitcher. I must research some more.

  12. 11: Oh, btw, the reason not to do it, is also the hole at #4 and #5 starting spot is still empty. I don’t see the slew of starting pitchers we’ve thrown out there this year as being #4. Even with those at #5, I’d be skipping their starts whenever I can.

  13. #10
    I, respectfully have to disagree. I have seen all of the Padres catchers play except the newest signings, at either spring training or Lake Elsinore. Some have matured, Hundley for example, and some have not, Carlin.

    As much as I like Josh Bard, historically, his batting average last year was a fluke in addition to the fact that he has been injured now almost every year he has tried to play full time.

    Hundley, according to folks who are paid to know (BA, Geoff) is at best an average everyday catcher or a good back-up. I haven’t seen anything in his development to say that that will change.

    I want to build the team for the future and a solid catcher is essential. I know they don’t grow on trees and the free agent market is bad.

    Except for the great pitchers, there’s no way to know what you might get in trade. Though he had solid years before, I haven’t heard anyone that wasn’t surprised by Cliff Lee’s performance this year. There are several good pitchers that will be free agents next year, I’d rather put my money there.

    I suppose it’s just a different way of seeing a team – I think for everyday success you need everyday players to be better. And good hitting catchers are the hardest position to fill, in my opinion. You don’t make the deal unless it’s right, however.

    Also, if you see a diamond in the rough at catcher in our minor league system, I’d love to know where (minus this year’s signings). I think Canham is the real deal (insofar as I’ve seen him), but the rumors of moving him to second base haven’t faded away.

  14. #11@Didi: Assuming Harang and Young are somewhere in the same neighborhood, why would the Padres trade Kouzmanoff for some backup infielder?

    Kouzmanoff could bring more than that.

  15. #4@Field39: Now, that would be a bold move.

    #5@Dalton: I liked the idea of Kouz for Slowey and change back in May, and it still seems like a trade that might benefit both clubs.

    #14@Kevin: I think his assumption is that Harang represents an upgrade. The trouble with CY is that he has no trade value right now. Since returning from the DL last August, his numbers are pretty ugly: 24 GS, 5.36 ERA, 5.36 BB/9, 1.20 HR/9.

  16. 15: Yeah, I like Harang better than CY and you are right, CY’s numbers are terrible since returning, I hadn’t checked that. My bad.

    I wonder what it’ll take to get Brett Myers from the Phillies? Or JA Happ, whose numbers in the AAA are pretty good:

    Here’s another scenario, let OG go, keep Headley in LF with Hairston platooning there and CF, Gerut at CF/RF, Veneble at RF. Put the $6 million saved into the pot to sign a FA pitcher.