Padres Reacquire Jason Bartlett

The Padres have traded 2B/SS Cole Figueroa, RHP Brandon Gomes, LHP Cesar Ramos, and RHP Adam Russell to the Tampa Bay Rays for SS Jason Bartlett and a player to be named later.

Without knowing who the PTBNL is, my gut reaction is that Jed Hoyer may have overpaid for Bartlett. Then again, the deal initially was reported — back in the late Pleistocene — as Ramos and Russell for Bartlett, which in all honesty wasn’t much to give up for a decent shortstop. It’s entirely possible that those initial reports have affected my judgment.

Bartlett, whom San Diego picked in the 13th round of the 2001 draft and then deemed expendable thanks to the selection of Khalil Greene in the first round a year later, should bring stability to a position where the the Padres had none in 2010. Among Bartlett’s most similar players through age 30 according to Baseball-Reference are two guys who are currently active, David Eckstein and Ryan Theriot:

Player     G   PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+  WAR
Bartlett 721 2801 .281 .345 .385  96  13.3
Eckstein 725 3233 .282 .351 .362  89  15.2
Theriot  663 2748 .284 .348 .356  82   4.9

Bartlett’s overall numbers are boosted by an insane (.320/.389/.490, 132 OPS+) 2009 campaign that screams fluke but which is part of his permanent record and as such cannot be dismissed. However, given what we know about how Petco Park affects hitters, the smart money focuses on Bartlett’s larger body of work and sees him as a guy somewhere between his prime and decline phase (as they say on cop shows, we won’t know for sure until after the autopsy) who plays 130 games and hits .270/.330/.360.

Bartlett is a reliable, proven big-league shortstop with marginal offensive skills. He’d make a great no. 8 hitter, although on this team, he may end up much higher in the lineup, as Eckstein did when he was here.

Expect Bartlett to provide Eckstein-like production as well — possibly a little better, with a slight chance of much better. Whatever Bartlett does, it will be an improvement over what the Padres had in place at shortstop, i.e., nothing. In that respect, acquiring Bartlett makes perfect sense.

We now take a brief trip down Memory Lane, specifically the 2002 block… While rummaging through the archives, I was reminded that I once saw Bartlett play at Lake Elsinore before Kevin Towers traded him to Minnesota for the forgettable (and largely forgotten) Brian Buchanan. According to my notes, Bartlett knocked five hits that day. I recall seeing him play but I’d forgotten he did so well. Good thing I wrote it down, eh? Or maybe not… As John Dos Passos once told the Paris Review, “…when you write about something you often never think about it again.”

Right. Where were we? Ah, Theriot… the other comp. So, back when we thought the deal was Bartlett for a pitcher (two if you count Ramos), I had this whole thing worked out in my head about how nicely it mirrored the trade that sent Theriot from the Dodgers to St. Louis for Blake Hawksworth… But it didn’t happen, and besides, on further review, Bartlett is a much better player than Theriot so it’s only fair that he should cost more. Bartlett for Russell and Ramos seemed, and was, too good to be true.

As for the PTBNL, we don’t know who that will be, but if the inclusion of Eric Patterson in the Adrian Gonzalez trade is any indication, it probably won’t be anyone of consequence.

What did the Padres give up to get Bartlett? More than I would have liked, but still not a lot:

  • Figueroa is a middle infield prospect of modest upside whose dad enjoyed a brief big-league stint. The Padres selected him in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. He can play on either side of the bag and possess good on-base skills (.408 OBP at Elsinore in 2010 as a 23-year-old). I ranked him as the Padres’ no. 19 prospect in the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual, noting that he elicited comparisons to former Blue Jays infielder Russ Adams. I like Figueroa and think he could become a big-league utility infielder.
  • The 26-year-old Gomes has a live arm and has posted excellent numbers everywhere he’s been (career 2.99 ERA, 9.9 K/9). He spent the past two seasons dominating Double-A hitters at San Antonio. Despite the numbers, I don’t sweat losing a minor-league reliever. If you’re smart, you can find more of those. Hoyer is smart, so no problem.
  • Ramos is a wasted first-round pick who has no future. He’s 27 years old and his minor league K/9 is 5.5. His chance to become even Jeff Ballard has come and gone.
  • I like Russell (age 28), in a Ryan Webb kind of way. Like Webb, he throws hard, has good movement on his pitches, and can intimidate right-handed hitters with his size and delivery. Also like Webb, his upside is roughly Jeff Nelson, although Rusell needs better command to get there.

Russell is the most likely to help the Rays right away, while Figueroa may have the most long-term value. Still, the Padres shouldn’t regret moving any of these guys, although hanging onto Figueroa would have been nice from a depth standpoint. Speaking of which, I may be reading too much into this, but the inclusion of Figueroa suggests to me that the Padres are at least exploring the possibility of extending Bartlett (who is arbitration-eligible) beyond 2010.

On a more philosophical note, Hoyer has done a good job this winter of reading the market and using his team’s strengths to address areas of need. When you see the kind of money being thrown at generic relievers (e.g., Joaquin Benoit, Matt Guerrier), it’s clear that these guys have value (perhaps moreso in perception than in reality, but the market isn’t interested in such distinctions).

The Padres had supermassive black holes at center field and shortstop. Hoyer aggressively filled both, at minimal cost:

Gave          Received
Cole Figueroa Jason Bartlett
Brandon Gomes Cameron Maybin
Edward Mujica PTBNL
Cesar Ramos
Adam Russell
Ryan Webb

That’s a middle infield prospect, a minor-league reliever, three decent big-league relievers who weren’t going to play significant roles in San Diego (well, maybe Webb), and a guy who throws left-handed. Bear in mind also that Mujica was a waiver claim, while Russell and Webb were secondary pieces in the Jake Peavy and Scott Hairston (to Oakland) trades, respectively. These guys are out there; it’s just a matter of finding them. Hoyer seems to recognize this and also that it’s much more difficult to find big-league center fielders and shortstops.

Assuming that Maybin develops the way I (and others) think he can and that Bartlett sticks around a while, a bunch of marginal players is a small price to pay. Granted, those are large assumptions, but my guess is that Bartlett and Maybin will be enough better than Everth Cabrera and Tony Gwynn Jr. to offset whatever value the six players given up might have provided the Padres.

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13 Responses »

  1. If we get a halfway decent 1B, this team could easily be more talented than the 2010 version.

  2. Nice! Great analysis and a good read; thanks, Geoff!

  3. The only player I mind giving up for Bartlett is Figueroa. He has Loretta-type skills, which are valuable even outside Loretta’s peak years, even more so if you can play him at short for a few seasons. Corey Brock seems to think the PTBNL is nobody important. Bartlett’s trade value doesn’t seem to be all that different from Khalil Greene’s after 2008, and if the trade had been Russell and Gomes, the cost would have been similar, too. Right now it seems that the PTBNL should be more valuable than Brock thinks to explain Figueroa’s inclusion. What were the Rays going to do if we balked? They had no interest in paying him what he’ll make in arbitration.

    No pitcher better exemplified the blind spot of the previous front office’s drafting philosophy than Ramos, not even Schmidt.

  4. My feeling is similar once the package increased to include Figueroa.

    It’s possible that Russell was somehow hurt a bit and the trade needed the additional players to make it more palatable to the Rays. In that case, this trade is Bartlett for Figueroa and Gomes, which would be okay with me.

    PTBNL is just not good usually. Hey, is there a stat for every PTBNL from the last decade?

    So to get CF and SS, the Padres traded Figueroa and Webb (the good part of the players with upside) plus other parts. Seems okay to me.

    Before the trade, Khalil Greene would have looked great coming back and manning SS without having to hit.

    On another note, this is so cool:

    Boston might have the better player; I certainly believe that based on Gonzalez’s glove work.

  5. Sitting in KC… just paid my bill for the 2011 season tickets that I won’t get to use since I am living in the Flyover State… I like what has been done here.

    Thanks for keeping me up to date, Geoff.

    Oh yea… everyone around here is so sad about Greinke. I counter with AGon, but they almost always answer, “Who?” Guess real baseball fans in the Flyover are limited to St. Louis!

  6. I think a good judge is to ask yourself, how many wins above replacement are the guys likely to be worth that you gave up? In this case, Webb and Russell have a shot at some decent years, but there isn’t much there.

    Bartlett or Maybin could probably outproduce their entire careers in 2011, let alone that they control Maybin for another 4 years after that.

  7. I like the deals so far, as the upside potential seems higher than any downside potential. I do wish the Pads still had Adrian at first because with Maybin, Bartlett, and Hudson it would be a much better offensive team than the 2009 variation.

    Still, if they can land a decent 1B, the Pads may surprise people again and at least be competitive.

  8. We won’t know until the 1B slot is filled but I think Zack has nailed it. This team has a real chance to be BETTER than the 2010 team.

    What is most amazing about this is that two weeks ago they looked like a train wreck in the making. They had no middle infielders and there were (said the experts) none out there. Hoyer was going to have to put on his Wesleyan uniform and go out there himself. Oops, guess not.

    And through all of this the core strength of the team — its pitching — is intact, assuming that Harang can do a decent Garland imitation.

  9. @Slasher: I expect Harang to provide more value to the team than Garland did, assuming he’s healthy.

  10. @Pat: Thanks, glad you enjoyed.

    @TW: Agreed… Figueroa might be something. Given the lack of organizational depth at the positions he plays, his inclusion puzzles me.

    @Didi: I doubt there are stats readily available for PTBNL. My suspicion is that a team’s best hope is to “luck” into a Luke Gregerson.

    @Coronado Mike: Good to hear from you. Funny that KC fans don’t know who Adrian is. Now that he is in their league, they will learn.

    @Mark: The Maybin trade, in particular, has the potential to be a heist.

    @Zach: I love the enthusiasm in #1. As for #9, Harang’s health is a wild card. One of Garland’s greatest assets was/is his ability to start 30 games every year. I hope you’re right, but Harang hasn’t been a really good starter since 2007.

    On a more general note, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather (nothing serious, just some stupid bug), so I’m behind in putting together my thoughts on the Orlando Hudson signing. The short version is that I’m pleased and surprised by it, which also describes my feelings toward Hoyer’s winter thus far. I hope to have something more substantial for you on Thursday.

  11. My take on Figueroa is he doesn’t project to be a starter. I believe he played at High A last year at 23 YOA. Not young, and maybe a touch old, for the league. If he projects to be a Utility IF and not a starting 2B, what’s the loss in trading him even if 2B is not deep in the organization? A 24 year old in his first year of AA seems like Replacement Level Player to me. I’m pretty sure the 2 years for Hudson was solid enough that it played a role, too.

  12. @ Geoff: And it’s not coincidental that’s when he started to get hit with major injuries. If we’re lucky, and the training staff can keep him healthy, he should be good for 2 wins at least.

  13. So if you’re seeing Bartlett as a #8 hitter, odds are Black will have him batting #1, #2, #3.

    I still maintain that some of the problem last year that led to the lackluster offense was that the players walking into the clubhouse not only didn’t know if they were going to play, they didn’t know where they would be batting as well. This kept players from getting in rhythms or getting “hot.” I can’t think of 4 consecutive games where the used the same lineup; that’s telling.

    At least with the prospects they’re giving up on, there’s more chance for them to come back and bite us.