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Do the Padres Trade Away Their Stars?

A debunking? Moi? Why, I’d love to give it a go… Reader Peter Thomas writes:

I keep reading on message boards and hearing on Hacksaw [San Diego radio personality Lee Hamilton] “react to me” that the Padres are constantly trading away All-Star players and that there’s no reason to root for a team that is just going to trade away all its best players as soon as they get good.

I don’t disagree with this point because I think it’s necessarily wrong, I disagree because it has no basis in Padres’ historical fact. I can’t think of a single player in the last 5 years who’s left the Padres and made an All-Star team the following season. Obviously, Adrian Gonzalez will make this coming All-Star Game, but he’s one of the best five players in the league, and we received fair compensation for trading him.

First off, thanks for writing. I love when folks give me story ideas, and this is a fun one… if a bit easy to debunk.

Second, you can’t think of a single player in the last 5 years who has left the Padres and made an All-Star team the following season because there haven’t been any. Since January 1, 2006, the Padres have traded away 52 players. Of those, exactly one has made an All-Star team since. That would be Evan Meek, who did it several years later, with a team other than the one that acquired him from San Diego. (The Padres traded Meek to Tampa Bay for Russell Branyan in August 2006; Meek made the NL All-Star team in 2009 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.)

Going back a little further — and it’s only a few weeks, really — we do find a player that made an All-Star team immediately after being traded. In December 2005, the Padres sent Mark Loretta to Boston for Doug “I Suck and Don’t Want to Be Here” Mirabelli (terrible trade, but not because Loretta was great at this late stage in his career; fortunately Josh Bard couldn’t catch Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball and the Red Sox bailed out Kevin Towers by taking Mirabelli back in exchange for Bard and Cla Meredith, but I digress).

Loretta didn’t play like an All-Star in 2006 (.285/.345/.361, 80 OPS+, 0.9 WAR), he played for the Red Sox. Some folks confuse the two, and thus he represented the AL at second base that year. I don’t want to go down the “No True Scotsman” path so we’ll give Loretta full credit for what actually transpired. He isn’t to be blamed for being named to the All-Star team.

During that same stretch, the Padres traded for two future All-Stars: Gonzalez (named to three teams, acquired with Terrmel Sledge and Chris Young in January 2006 from the Rangers for Adam Eaton, Billy Killian, and Akinori Otuska) and Heath Bell (named to two teams, acquired with Royce Ring in November 2006 from the Mets for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson). This doesn’t include guys who played like All-Stars, e.g., Mike Adams (acquired for Brian Sikorski) and Luke Gregerson (acquired for a soon-to-be finished Khalil Greene).

What if we go back even further? In the Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual, I chronicled every trade Towers made as GM of the Padres (brief overview), dating back to December 1995. In addition to Meek and Loretta, Towers sent seven other future All-Stars packing:

  1. Brad Ausmus — Traded with Andujar Cedeno and Russ Spear in June 1996 to Detroit for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez; Ausmus made his lone All-Star team in 1999
  2. Derrek Lee — Traded with Steve Hoff and Rafael Medina in December 1997 to Florida for Kevin Brown, who helped lead the Padres to the World Series in ’98; Lee was named to his first All-Star team in 2005 while playing for the Chicago Cubs
  3. Greg Vaughn — Traded with Mark Sweeney in February 1999 to Cincinnati for Josh Harris, Damian Jackson, and Reggie Sanders; Vaughn made the AL All-Star team in 2001 while hitting .233/.333/.433 (102 OPS+) at age 35 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and was out of baseball less than 2 years later
  4. Matt Clement — Traded with Eric Owens and Omar Ortiz in March 2001 to Florida for Cesar Crespo and Mark Kotsay; two teams later, Clement made his lone All-Star team in the midst of an undistinguished season (13-6, 4.57 ERA, 99 ERA+) pitching for the Red Sox and threw his final big-league pitch the following season at age 31
  5. Woody Williams — Traded in August 2001 to St. Louis for Ray Lankford; this trade should have worked but didn’t, and Williams became an All-Star for the first and only time in 2003 at age 36
  6. Jason Bartlett — Traded in July 2002 to Minnesota for Brian Buchanan (terrible trade, although there were questions about Bartlett’s ability to remain at shortstop, and the Padres had just drafted Greene to anchor the position for years to come… doesn’t excuse it, but helps explain the thought process); Bartlett made his first and only All-Star team in 2009 while playing for Tampa Bay
  7. Jason Bay — Traded with Corey Stewart and Oliver Perez in August 2003 to Pittsburgh for Brian Giles (still a good trade, but I’m tired of defending it… nobody knew how good Bay — acquired for almost nothing — would become, the Padres were gearing for their move to Petco Park, and Giles posted better numbers in San Diego than many people realize); Bay represented the Pirates in 2005 and 2006, and the Red Sox in 2009

We’re back to 1996 and still, Loretta is the only player traded by the Padres who was named to an All-Star team the following season (we should mention Rondell White, whom the Padres traded in August 2003, a few weeks after he made his only All-Star team). How about the 1993 Fire Sale? Hey, we finally have a second name!

In July 1993, the Padres shipped Fred McGriff to Atlanta for Donnie Elliott, Vince Moore, and Melvin Nieves. That didn’t work out so well… such is often the nature of fire sales (although Randy Smith did a heckuva job given the circumstances). And in case you’re wondering, Gary Sheffield wasn’t an All-Star in ’94; besides, the player acquired in that trade is having his number retired by the Padres in August.

Before that, we have to go back to December 1991, when the Padres sent Bip Roberts (and Craig Pueschner) to Cincinnati for Randy Myers. So, in slightly more than 20 years, four guys traded by the Padres were named to an All-Star team the next year: Roberts, traded Dec 1991; McGriff, Jul 1993; Loretta, Dec 2005; and (assuming he backs off his threat to boycott this year’s exhibition on moral grounds) Gonzalez, Dec 2010.

We haven’t even touched on the talent acquired during that stretch — Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin — often at minimal cost. Honestly, I wish this question presented more of a challenge, but it doesn’t. The notion that the Padres “trade away all [their] best players as soon as they get good” is demonstrably false. That it persists despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary defies reasonable explanation… maybe folks just like to feel sorry for themselves.

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60 Responses »

  1. @Phantom – I have floated the Idea of trading Mat Latos as recently as about a week or 2 ago…. not sure if it was on this forum. I know I was roundly ridiculed and written off as being “stupid”. My logic was that it is easier for the Padres to replace a Mat Latos via inhouse or through a veteran signing than to sign a Top hitter. Petco is going to attract pitchers and repel hitters. If I truly thought the Padres were serious title contenders in the next 2 years I would not want to trade Latos. I think the Padres could be 2-4 years from being serious contenders if the farm system produces what it currently promises. By then Mat Latos will be heading towards FA and likely bye-bye SD. Why not get a couple impact bats for him now? I would only trade Latos for the right deal. But I agree with you that it is an idea worthy of thought.

  2. PF, doubt it was here as Geoff wouldn’t tolerate people calling you, or anyone, stupid. I think your logic about trading pitching for hitting is reasonable as it seems to be much easier to attract FA pitchers to Petco than hitters. However, trading players, as in selling anything, should follow the “buy low, sell high” principle. We shouldn’t be trading Latos, or any player, while his value is down. If we don’t believe he will live up to his potential, or if we believe there is an underlying injury issue, wait until he has established a higher level of performance and then make a deal.

  3. @Justin: Peavy WAS injured when we traded him. The White Sox were foolish and we took advantage. That being said, no, it’s highly unlikely there will be another Gwynn here or anywhere outside of New York. But no one gets that opportunity any longer with the advent of FA. Nothing to moan about, it’s just a fact of business.

  4. The key qualification is that it’s easier to attract “a certain kind” of free agent pitcher to San Diego. Who have we signed, even when the budget was higher? Ismael Valdez. David Wells. Randy Wolf. Greg Maddux. Jon Garland. Woody Williams. Kevin Correia. Chad Gaudin. Pitchers who will sign a short-term deal and, if you’re lucky, provide league-average production, but you probably won’t be that lucky. We’re not getting a staff ace on that kind of deal. We’re not ever going to make a serious play for a top FA starter.

    It may make sense to trade Latos — if you think he’s hurt now or is a more-than-normal injury risk for the future or that he’ll never turn his potential into consistent production. But let’s not underestimate what we may be giving up. #1 starters are rare and beautiful creatures. You’d better be doubly sure of your prospect evaluation before moving one.

  5. Very good points, Tom.

  6. @Pat and Tom- Thank you. All I ever intended with the Latos proposition is a discussion about whether or not it is worth while to consider. I enjoy the discussion because it is an excercise worth happening. I am glad we have a Padres discussion outlet that allows people a free exchange of ideas with an appropriate amount of scrutiny and not all of the quick dismissals and negative conotations that often come with online blogging. Great job Geoff at putting together a Padres blog that is both meaningful and enjoyable.

  7. @PadresFuture: Thanks for the kind words and for participating. Regarding your quote: “All I ever intended with the Latos proposition is a discussion about whether or not it is worth while to consider.” And a worthy discussion it is. How can we make the best decision without examining all options? These are great thought exercises, even if they result in no action.

  8. @PadresFuture…….guaranteed steroid users: Caminiti, Leyritz & Vaugh. I have my questions about Finely and Brown. I’m sure more guys than that were doing it. I know you think you are very deep with all your stats but common sense can tell you a lot. Like I said before, until things change we will be a minor league team. Last year was exciting but anyone could see that they were not built for playoffs. Almost everything went our way. All the planets were aligned. They traded the best player we have had since Gwynn and look at where we are now. I think that is the simplest answer. I say trade the entire team and call up the Tucson team.

  9. I posted this question on another thread, but I’ll re-post it here, since it seems to make more sense in this discussion:

    If, hypothetically, the Padres could trade Bell, Ludwick, Qualls for three solid prospects, what positions would you want them to address? For me: 2B, SS, and Catcher.

    Compared to those three positions, I am more comfortable with where we are throughout the organization at 1B, 3B, OF, and pitching.

    I could probably be convinced that we’re alright at 2B, since Belnome is playing well, and Spangenberg is off to a great start, but for now, I’d like to shore that position up with a very good young prospect.

    Anyone else?

  10. Ludwick and Qualls for a solid SS + more would be fine. Bell is the soul of this team. He teaches the young guys how to act and he has more intensity than the rest of the team combined! I might lose my mind if and or when they trade him.