Kouzmanoff for Hairston

New Padres GM Jed Hoyer made his first trade on Friday Saturday, shipping third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and minor-league second baseman Eric Sogard to Oakland for outfielders Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham.

I’ve thought about this trade a lot, and the word that keeps coming to mind is “fair,” which is one I didn’t tend to associate with deals made by former GM Kevin Towers. As a friend said on Facebook, “Towers would have found a way to get them to throw in a pitcher.”

Still, a fair trade can be a win. It may be more subtle than, say, stealing Adrian Gonzalez from the Rangers, but I like what the Padres have done here for a few reasons:

  • Kouzmanoff makes a lot of outs (does anyone else find it ironic that Billy Beane would acquire a guy with a career .308 OBP?). The Padres moved him while he still had value. Consider what they did with Khalil Greene (trading him after he’d lost much of his appeal). Now look at Kouzmanoff and Greene through age 27:

    Kouz 1775 .261 .308 .435 .248 102
    Khalil 2219 .254 .312 .444 .363 102

    No two snowflakes, etc., but that is uncanny. For as much as I love Kouz (I’ll never forget the time Brian Giles assaulted him when Kouz knocked a game-winning hit after getting off to that terrible start as a rookie, or the time Kouz came out for the world’s shortest curtain call after hitting a grand slam against the Brewers), I’d be lying if I said I had no concerns about his ability to maintain current levels of production well into the future.

  • The Padres needed to clear a spot at third base for Chase Headley, who is not an outfielder. If Headley is going to fulfill his potential (and that’s still a big “if”), it will be at his natural position, where he doesn’t have to worry so much about bumping into things.
  • Hairston is better than any of the free agent right-handed hitting outfielders the Padres reportedly were considering, and it’s not close. He is a stellar left fielder and a decent center fielder, and he isn’t intimidated by Petco Park:

    Hairston, Kouzmanoff, Gonzalez at Petco
    Hairston 382 .285 .346 .535 20.11
    Kouzmanoff 858 .239 .280 .394 34.32
    Gonzalez 1315 .264 .362 .443 28.59

    It’s a relatively small sample, but Hairston has been a serious threat at Petco Park — much moreso than Kouzmanoff, and even more than Gonzalez. I don’t know how the Padres intend to use Hairston, but I’m assuming he’ll see a lot of action against lefties (against whom he owns a career line of .287/.338/.528 — think slightly lesser version of Sammy Sosa). If he gets 400-450 PA, I’ll be happy, especially if they don’t come at the expense of Kyle Blanks or Will Venable.

  • As for the minor leaguers, Sogard is a decent offensive player whose primary skill is the ability to discern balls from strikes. I ranked him as the Padres #15 prospect coming into 2009, and he proceeded to hit .293/.370/.400 as a 23-year-old at Double-A. That’s not bad for a second baseman, but Sogard isn’t a brilliant defender and he hasn’t shown much power yet, which means there’s not a lot of margin for error. Right now he looks more like Warren Morris than Todd Walker, although you never know.
  • Cunningham? Daniel at Friar Forecast talks about him a little. I look at Cunningham’s numbers and see a better Chad Huffman, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Daniel also says something that I think captures the essence of this trade (it’s why I keep coming back to the word “fair”): “The Padres traded from an area of surplus for talent in an area of need.” Interestingly, Nico at Athletics Nation reaches the same conclusion, using almost the exact same words, looking at the move through a different lens: “The A’s just traded from depth to fill need.”

Which team “won” this deal? We won’t know for a while, but I suspect the somewhat unsatisfying answer is “both.” If that is the case, chalk one up for Hoyer, who may have found himself a future trading partner. As his predecessor demonstrated, those can come in handy.

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10 Responses »

  1. Hey Geoff! Do you really want to see Blanks playing in the OF at Petco this year? I’m really hoping they keep him at AAA unless they move Gonzalez and put Blanks at 1B. I, like you, don’t see the team being competitive this year and would just as soon keep Blanks service time from starting. Plus, if he’s going to play the OF, he could use more time in AAA to learn the position/s. I’d be happy if both Hairston and Cunningham took away PA’s from him.

  2. Pat, I think Blanks showed enough (.250/.355/.514 in 172 PA) at the end of 2009 that he deserves first crack at the starting LF job. Also, for a guy who hadn’t played much outfield, he looked surprisingly comfortable out there — much moreso than Headley ever did.

  3. Normally I don’t worry too much about player psyche’s, but sending Blanks back to AAA seems like it would be a major insult, something that might stop us from negotiating a favorable contract in the future.

    Odds are the playing time issue for the outfielders will be resolved by trading our first baseman.

  4. Kouz always found a way to come through with hits when they didn’t even matter. His production seemed steady as a second-half player, and his defense REALLY shone this year, but I like the move. We have a surplus of corner infielders, a dearth of outfielders, and we already know Hairston is a good fit at petco. But really, Hoyer, you couldn’t have gotten them to throw in a used treadmill?

  5. I think this deal favors the Padres. The A’s got a 3B who can’t get on base and a utility IF who can’t field or hit the ball out of the IF, while the Padres got a CF who likes to hit at Petco (one of the few players on earth you can say that about) and a LF who can either be a 5th OF or can sit in AAA until the Padres trade Adrian and move Blanks to 1B.

    Could KT have done better? Who knows, would he have gotten an arm as well, maybe but it would have probably would have been instead of Cunningham and to be honest the last thing this team needs at the moment is another AAAA relief pitcher.

  6. Thanks for the insight Geoff; it’s great to have DS back!

    Tom, always appreciate your insights, too. One of my first thoughts when we received 2 OF back in the trade was Gonzalez is gone and Blanks will move to 1B. I’d be sorry to see him go, very sorry, but trying to keep Blanks in the OF, especially in Petco, doesn’t make sense to me. I have heard others, and of course Geoff noted it too, say he’s athletic enough to be out there, but a guy his size is not well suited to running around a big OF like Petco for a full season. He may be able to handle it skill-wise, but the physical wear and tear will likely take a toll.

    Very curious to see how these personnel and positional issues will pan out this season.

    Did I mention how awesome it is to have Ducksnorts back in my life? :-) !!!

  7. Decent trade. Kouzmanoff’s value will never be higher than right now, and he’s about to get expensive. His “gold glove” exploits aside, he’s a pretty average third baseman, offensively and defensively, and the value of an average center-fielder is more than the value of an average third baseman. Also allows the Padres to move Headley back to his real position and gives Blanks an everyday job. This probably makes Gwynn the 4th/5th OF and that’s good, since he’s just not very useful as a starting major-league outfielder. Makes the Lineup something like this: Cabrera, Eckstein, Gonzalez, Hairston, Blanks, Headley, Venable, Hundley. That’s not going to win 90 games, but it’s at least interesting and with some upside. Still would like to see the Padres pay more attention to OBP, but in due time, hopefully.

    This does seem to shut Oscar Salazar out of any kind of job sharing arrangement in the outfield, no? I can’t see San Diego keeping 6 outfielders. (I’m including Jerry Hairston as a backup outfielder.)

  8. I’m happy about the Hairston trade, and I’m happy you are back, Geoff.

    re: David

    I don’t think the acquisitions of the Hairston bros. takes a job away from Salazar at all. Salazar is more of a pinch-hitter specialist than a reserve outfielder. He pinch-hit in about half of his 55 games last year.

    You’re right that Jerry can play outfield, but that’s not why he was acquired. He was acquired to back up at second and short, because those areas have been big weaknesses over the past few years. He played just 36 of his 131 games in the outfield last season.

    So the bench would be … Salazar, Jerry, whatever fourth outfielder is not starting that day, some catcher … with one more spot to fill.

    It will be interesting to see how Hoyer fills it, because I don’t see a big weakness.

  9. Geoff, thanks for the analysis. When I first heard this trade, my reaction was “huh” given no minor league pitcher came back. On reflection, it isn’t too bad, though whether Cunningham is AAAA or a major leaguer is apparently in a lot of doubt.