Cantu Hear Me Knocking?

The Padres reportedly will sign veteran infielder Jorge Cantu to a 1-year deal pending a physical. The club had pursued Cantu earlier in the off-season but backed off after signing Brad Hawpe to play first base.

In keeping with this winter’s trend of reporting roster moves well in advance of when they actually occur, details are fuzzy. From what I can gather, the deal appears to be for $850,000. For the sake of having something to discuss while waiting to see whether Cesar Ramos is involved, let’s assume this is accuratish.

The 29-year-old Cantu has experience at first, second, and third base. He hasn’t played second base much (total of 21 innings) since 2006, but he probably could do it again in an emergency.

Either way, Cantu gives the Padres a right-handed bat off the bench with some pop (his career ISO of .172 puts him in the general vicinity of Nick Johnson and Lyle Overbay) who can play the corners. Perhaps most importantly, he gives the Padres an excuse to sit Chase Headley once a week so Headley doesn’t go Houdini on us again come September.

For the purpose of hiding Headley from tough left-handers, it would be nice if Cantu had terrific platoon splits, but he’s all over the map (2007 omitted due to sample size):

Year vsR vsL
2005 833 737
2006 696 704
2008 789 869
2009 754 892
2010 716 647
Car  764 773

It’s a year-to-year thing, which is consistent with his general inconsistency. As Myron at Friar Forecast notes, sometimes (2005, 2008, 2009) Cantu hits .280 and is useful; other times (2006, 2010) he hits .250 and is the opposite.

Which version is coming to the Padres? Hey, if anyone knew the answer to that, Cantu would be getting a better deal.

Comps? Yeah, I have a few in mind. Cantu is an on-base-challenged version of Garrett Atkins or Fernando Tatis:

Player    PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
Cantu   3239 .274 .320 .446  99
Atkins  3273 .285 .350 .449 100
Tatis   3468 .265 .344 .442 101

He’s kind of like Wil Cordero at the same age:

Player    PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+
Cantu   3239 .274 .320 .446  99
Cordero 3635 .279 .332 .438  98

Context is everything. Back when rumors started floating around that Cantu might be the “solution” at first base, the idea didn’t thrill me. Now that he’s here as a backup, I have no problem with the signing, especially at the alleged price.

* * *

And in the linkage department…

  • The BGMAT (Baseball Prospectus). Ken Funck introduces the Baseball General Manager Aptitude Test. He had me at, “Kidnap Kevin Towers and tickle his feet until he tells you his secrets.”
  • On the Media: What Is a Sports Reporter? (FanGraphs). Alex Remington offers his thoughts on an area of interest to me.
  • Trevor Hoffman Career Profile (Minor League Ball). John Sickels weighs in on Hoffman’s career and the improbability that a 22-year-old shortstop who couldn’t hit his way out of Low-A ball would become a Hall of Fame relief pitcher. [h/t @wrveres]
  • Forty Three Percent (Baseball Musings). David Pinto talks collective bargaining agreement. He speculates that the union and rich teams will push for a “big bump in minimum salaries.” The reasoning behind rich teams making such a push is interesting: “The teams that send money to their poorer competitors are likely tired of seeing that money go into the owners pockets rather than to improving the quality of competition.” I think David has it right. Of course, another option would be to eliminate the Florida Marlins and ensure that Jeffrey Loria never gets his hands on a baseball team again… The disadvantage there is that Bud Selig would need to find a new hatchet man, so maybe an increase in minimum salaries makes more sense.
  • That’s a really, really old baseball (Platoon Advantage). A baseball used in 1859 appeared on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. How very cool.
  • The 2011 National League West: A first look (Dodger Thoughts). Jon Weisman shares my concerns about the Giants and Rockies.
  • New uniforms make Padres’ military tribute harder to see (U-T). The Padres have changed their Sunday look.
  • Kelly touted in’s Top 50 Prospects ( Everyone loves Casey.

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4 Responses »

  1. I suppose you should expect a Dodgers’ writer to be optimistic about their team, but I have a hard time considering them better than the 4th best team in the NL West. Their rotation should be very good, but their offense is going to be worse than the Padres’, and their defense is going to be absolutely atrocious.

  2. I kind of can’t wait for the first time Cantu makes a nice play and Mark Grant says something along the lines of “Cannot! CANTU!”

    Assuming Adrian had to be traded pre-season for maximum value, one couldn’t really ask for more from Hoyer in terms of replacing him for 2011. Recalling the list of first basemen FAs, Hawpe is not too far removed from serious success in the NL, and Cantu at 29 is still probably in his prime (even with limited upside) and with some positional flexibility. Plus you have Rizzo and Blanks waiting in the wings for 2012 and beyond.

  3. Cantu has some rather horrific defensive numbers at 2B and 3B (according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference) so let’s hope he doesn’t play too much in either of those positions. Also, I guess that this signing means that Oscar Salazar is ticketed for Tucson. Personally I would have liked the Padres to let Salazar play 1B vs. lefties; it’s not like he would have been much worse than Cantu – but then again there’s probably at least 10 guys floating around Triple-A that would outproduce Cantu vs. lefties.