Arbitration Avoidification

The Padres avoided arbitration with all five of their remaining eligible players on Tuesday. Jed Hoyer appears to share his predecessor’s distaste for the “you stink, but we love you anyway” method of determining salary.

Heath Bell signed for 1 year at $7.5 million. He still wants a long-term deal, and Hoyer says they’ll talk. I don’t like long-term deals for relievers (hello, Scott Linebrink), and the current market concerns me (if Joaquin Benoit can get 3 years, $16.5 million…). Bell seems like a cool guy and I hope he finds the security he seeks, but maybe at some other team’s expense.

Ryan Ludwick signed for 1 year at $6.775 million. I still don’t understand why he’s here. Say hi to Aaron Cunningham if you’re ever in Tucson.

Mike Adams signed for 1 year at $2.535 million. If he stays healthy, Adams is one of the best bargains in baseball. Over the past three seasons, among pitchers who have worked at least 150 innings, only two men have a better ERA+ than Adams:

Player    IP  ERA  H/9 HR/9 BB/9  SO/9 ERA+
Rivera 197.0 1.64 5.85 0.59 1.32  8.86 265
Soria  186.0 1.84 6.58 0.68 2.47  9.97 236
Adams  169.0 1.81 5.91 0.53 2.66 10.22 207

Chase Headley signed for 1 year at $2.325 million. He did a capable job in his first full-season at third base, although the collapse at the end (.215/.282/.262 in Sept/Oct) left something to be desired. Headley notes that he lost 15 pounds during the season and “was running on fumes” at the end. With the departure of Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres need Headley’s offensive game to catch up to his defense. If it does, they could lock him up for a while; if not, they could turn to James Darnell at some point.

Tim Stauffer signed for 1 year at $1.075 million. Stauffer remains one of my favorite stories in baseball. He’s overcome a great deal to achieve success, and he’s done it with class. Here’s to his health.

Meanwhile, the Padres have brought on several other players over the past few weeks:

Rob Johnson

Isn’t he a quarterback? Or that creepy dude from wood shop who’s, like, way too into glue guns? Actually, he’s Bob Uecker without the comic genius… which, come to think of it, is funny. So maybe he is a comic genius… or just a guy competing to back up Nick Hundley behind the dish in 2011. Johnson once was a decent prospect in the Mariners organization (no. 10 in 2006 according to Baseball America) but hasn’t done anything since then.

Kevin Frandsen

Frandsen turns 29 in May and plays everywhere. The non-roster invitee is either a poor man’s Luis Rodriguez or a better Sean Kazmar, depending on how badly you want to depress yourself. BA rated Frandsen no. 9 among Giants prospects in 2006, ahead of Brian Wilson (12) and Pablo Sandoval (15).

Guillermo Quiroz

Quiroz is easily the best Padres catcher whose last name starts with “Q” since Humberto Quintero played here in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, BA rated Quiroz the no. 3 prospect in the Blue Jays system, noting that at one point, “coaches used videotape of Quiroz taking batting practice as an example to hold up for other players.” His hitting exploits didn’t accompany him to the big leagues, where he has been — in admittedly limited duty — a poor man’s Rob Johnson. The folks at Batter’s Box interviewed Quiroz back in the day.

Gregg Zaun

Rick Dempsey’s nephew, who turns 40 in April, signed a minor-league deal. Zaun is kind of like former Padres catcher Greg Myers. Since I’m leafing through old prospect books, and since getting these things right is damned hard, I thought I’d share a little of what John Sickels wrote about Zaun in 1996: “He will have a long career as a backup, and could possibly hit enough to earn a regular job eventually.” I can’t speak for Sickels, but I’d imagine that being right about a guy like Zaun takes some of the sting out of missing on, say, Steve Gibralter.

Chad Qualls

The veteran right-hander signed for $1.5 million in 2011 with an option for 2012 that includes a $1.05 million buyout. Like Brad Hawpe, Qualls used to be good and then stunk in 2010. He should be an adequate replacement for Edward Mujica as the guy who soaks up low-leverage innings out of the bullpen. Here’s how they compare over the past three seasons:

Player    IP  ERA  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 ERA+
Mujica 202.0 4.37 9.18 1.47 1.56 7.80  87
Qualls 184.2 4.48 9.70 0.78 2.24 8.04 100

Assuming last year was a fluke for Qualls (he’s only 32), that’s close enough for me.

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There you go…

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6 Responses »

  1. I like the matter-of-fact Ludwick assessment: “Ryan Ludwick signed for 1 year at $6.775 million. I still don’t understand why he’s here.”

    It’s a lot of money to be paying a guy who did about as close to nothing as is humanly possible. But the overall payroll is still low. Maybe he bounces back… to the fluke form he displayed in ’07. I’m cool with flukes.

    Link, cheers!

  2. Cunningham’s inability to hit right-handed pitching probably helps explain why Ludwick’s here.

  3. @ Ray: Not so sure he’s unable to hit RH. There’s hardly enough big league evidence yet to judge, 291 PAs over 98 games isn’t really even half a season. Judging by his minor-league track record, he’s hit them pretty well. It would be nice to see him get a crack at a starting job, but maybe you’re right and the team’s talent evaluators also think he is not able to hit RH well enough to be a starter.

  4. It seems to me that ALL of the avoid-arb signings were for the top of the expected range. Jed had to have the go-ahead to do that, but I’m beginning to wonder if there were other considerations, namely keeping from being seen as tearing down a 90-win team so as to build up attendance. Raising the payroll so it’s nowhere near the bottom also avoids having the press remark on how low it is, should the Padres keep winning. Now I’m wondering if the salaries might make it hard to make trade deadline moves if the Padres DON’T keep winning. Has Jed limited his mid-season options?

  5. @Larry

    No arb player signed cheap, that’s for sure. I’m sort of surprised they didn’t take the chance of arbitration with Headley or Ludwick. Chase’s fWAR was terrific, but esoteric stats haven’t played a big role in arbitration hearings historically.

    Still, nobody signed for an outrageous amount, nothing that would prevent a midseason offloading. Ludwick at 6.75 (so about 2.75 at the trade deadline) isn’t significantly less attractive than Ludwick at 6.25 (2.25), which is probably as low as you could get him. If he or Bell are performing well, their prorated salaries won’t impede anything. The other guys probably aren’t moving anyway, and if they are, they’re still making peanuts.

    Does it stop us from bringing in more talent if we’re competing? Hoyer might (and I emphasize the conditional nature of that word) have overspent by a million, maybe a million and a half, to avoid the nastiness of arb hearings. For the last 2 months of the season, that’s less than 500K. It shouldn’t stop us from acquiring anybody we otherwise could afford.

    The big financial question is what we’d have done without paying Ludwick at all.

  6. re: Omar Vizquel … I consider him an HOFer … and it occurred to me that his case is similar to Hoffy’s … Hoffy’s specialty is different from “best pitcher” (which is typically a starting pitcher) … and Omar’s specialty is different from “best hitter” …

    Omar, imo, is one of the best defensive players of all time … and he was an OK hitter for a long time ( … shows almost 2800 hits at a .273 clip … with almost 600 XBHs … and almost as many walks as Ks) …

    But it’s clearly his defense that’s “famous” … and deserves the recognition of “HOF” status … and I may be biased by a single highlight … which you can see at the 0:55 mark on this video …

    What makes this notable is that Omar *called* this play!!! In other words, before the pitch, he told the 3B-man to be ready to take his throw!!! In other words, he could see the situation developing whereby a slow roller to 2B would make it such that he’d not be able to get the batter at 1B … and so figured he’d take a shot at the runner at 3B snoozing … EYE-POPPING!!! Genius!

    One man’s opinion … not an Indians fan, not a Mariners fan, not a Giants fan … but after seeing soooo many highlights (and being an Ozzie fan, of course), I turned into an Omar fan.