Adams and Ludwick Go, Bell Stays, Godzilla Threatens to Destroy Village

You know how all those people in the Godzilla movies are running around like crazy all the time on account of the giant lizard thing that keeps chasing them? Twitter at baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is like that, only without the lizard.

Jed Hoyer isn’t doing anything. Why isn’t he doing anything? Oh crap, he finally did something and it sucks, we’re all gonna die — hey, is that Godzilla?

If you pay close attention, you’ll learn a lot. Mainly you’ll learn not to pay close attention.

Anyway, Hoyer traded a reliever and an outfielder on Sunday. The reliever was Mike Adams, not Heath Bell. The Padres sent Adams to Texas for a couple of minor-league starting pitchers, 20-year-old left-hander Robbie Erlin and 21-year-old right-hander Joe Wieland, both of whom were at Double-A Frisco.

Our pals at Baseball Time in Arlington offer their thoughts on the two young pitchers the Rangers gave up to acquire Adams. On Erlin:

The book on Erlin is fairly simple — nice, solid-average stuff, with a low-90s fastball and two good secondary offerings that play up thanks to his advanced command within the strike zone.

And Wieland:

Wieland wields an upper-80s to lower-90s heater and two good secondary pitches, all of which come tumbling out of his 6′ 3″ frame with good command and sequencing. Like Erlin, Wieland has thrived at the professional level because of his advanced feel for pitching and intelligence, but the projection is somewhat muted, as he profiles as more of a mid-rotation starter due to the lack of upper-end velocity and a strong secondary offering, and his fly ball tendencies also wouldn’t have served him especially well in Arlington.

John Sickels called Erlin a B prospect and Wieland a C-plus prospect before the season. Sickels now considers Wieland to be more in the B to B-plus range.

My colleague Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus says of the deal that “the Padres just added two major league quality pitchers to the mix.” Neither pitcher placed on Kevin Goldstein’s preseason rankings, although Erlin checks in at no. 32 on Goldstein’s midseason update.

Both prospects have seen their stock rise in the eyes of some evaluators. This may or may not mean anything, but it’s worth noting that people who are paid to pay attention to such things like what they see.

As for Adams, it’s tough to watch him go. The Padres got him for almost nothing and helped turn him into one of baseball’s elite relievers. (Be sure to thank Kevin Towers for signing Brian Sikorski from Japan and flipping him for Adams back in 2006.)

For as dominant as Adams has been over the past few years, when you’re 14 1/2 games back headed into August, how critical is to protect an eighth-inning lead? Other priorities, such as assembling pieces of the next contender, become more pressing when the season unravels.

In the day’s other trade, San Diego sent outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the Pirates for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Who? What? I have no clue, but Hoyer’s words were music to my ears: “Trading Ludwick clears a spot for our young players to get at-bats.”

It also clears salary. Between Adams and Ludwick, the Padres save a little more than $3 million, which could prove useful over the next couple of weeks as they try to sign all of their draft picks by the August 15 deadline.

The Padres didn’t give up much to get Ludwick from St. Louis at this time last year, he didn’t do much while he was here (659 PA, .228/.301/.358, 87 OPS+ — slightly better than Deivi Cruz’s San Diego numbers of 547 PA, .263/.294/.366, 81 OPS+), and he didn’t fetch much on his way out of town. Like following rumors on Twitter or running from Godzilla, the Ludwick experience represented activity for its own sake, without any real purpose.

The good news for Ludwick is that he no longer has to watch fly balls die on the warning tracks of cavernous NL West ballparks every night. Or as Tom Krasovic so eloquently put it:

Padres need to think extra hard next time they target NL Central hitter for Petco National Park, NL West. Ludwick, Randa, Edmonds stunk.

Ludwick’s departure, whatever or whomever else it might bring, paves the way for any number of kids to get a shot at left field. Kyle Blanks, Aaron Cunningham, James Darnell, and Blake Tekotte all appear to be worthy candidates. Cunningham is expected to replace Ludwick on the roster, with 24-year-old right-hander Robert Hamren being recalled from Double-A San Antonio to take Adams’ spot.

Aaron Harang didn’t get moved, nor did Chad Qualls. Neither did Bell, whom Ken Rosenthal declared “a goner” on Saturday night.

With Bell staying in San Diego for now (and receiving a rousing round of applause on entering to close out Sunday’s 8-3 victory over Colorado), a few options exist for the popular closer:

  1. The Padres can try to work out a contract extension with Bell, who is willing to take a discount to remain here. (I’m guessing 3 years, $24 million.)
  2. They can try to trade him in August as part of a waiver deal.
  3. They can let him walk as a free agent and — assuming the new CBA includes provisions for compensatory draft picks — offer him arbitration, hope he declines, and then collect two picks. If the CBA doesn’t include such provisions, or if Bell accepts arbitration, this doesn’t work.

Finally, for those who would abandon all hope, it’s worth noting that the Padres are in better shape now than they were two years ago through 109 games:

Year  W-L    GB
2009 44-65 22.5
2011 47-62 14.5

The team in between those two seasons won 90 games. Just a little something to remember the next time you think the sky is falling… or Godzilla is chasing you…

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41 Responses »

  1. Best AA Rotation in Baseball?!?!?

  2. Worthless. enough is enough. Need to charge AA ticket prices

  3. Everything I have read has said that they wouldn’t change CBA rules until the next year after they are agreed upon.

  4. Nice pickups for Adams and nice to see Ludwick go.

  5. Geoff, you’re kidding about the numbers for a Bell extension, right? $8m per year is hardly a discount.

  6. Tough to see Adams go, but it seems San Diego is better at finding (or creating) RP diamonds in the rough than anything else. Hopefully that isn’t just a KT phenomenon because it’s been the Padres’ biggest chip as of late. Some will say Hoyer should’ve gotten more for Adams and Ludwick, and many will say that Bell’s trade value will never be higher. I may say that as well, in time…
    Now it’s officially time to turn 2011 into 2009 redux. (Thanks for the reminder, Geoff!) For that to happen, the young bats will have to shake off the cobwebs of the I-8 transition (Tucson to San Diego). I’m talking to YOU Blanks and Rizzo!

  7. Yes yes yes! I sat there on a beautiful 90 degree day watching the Twitter feeds and finally realized it was pointless and making my hair hurt. So I went out and enjoyed the day and figured I’d be able to get all of the info by 1:05 anyway.

  8. @Zach

    Bell’s been worth about 9M a year since taking over the closer’s job in 2009. 8M is a big discount over what he’d would make on the open market. It’s a lot less than Joe Nathan, Papelbon, Wilson, and other comparable pitchers make. Less than Kerry Wood got 2 years ago, and Wood had nothing like Bell’s recent record. Much less than KRod got from the Mets.

    Is there any reason to doubt he’d get 3/30 or 3/33 as a free agent? The Angels could give him that without thinking more than ten seconds and he’d still be able to keep his house with the in-ground pool.

    I wouldn’t pay a reliever 8M with a payroll in the 40s, but I don’t have to worry about marketing the team.

  9. @Zach: Bell currently makes $7.5m. It’s been projected/speculated upon he’ll command somewhere in the $11m range. $8m is a 27% discount. That’s a pretty good discount, especially considering he’s in the latter half of his career and won’t be staring $75m in the face.

  10. This whole trade deadline was funny. There was so much buildup about trading Bell that people who were complaining before are now ‘disappointed’ that he is still on the team.

    On the Adams deal, I don’t know what to say. It sounds like it is a good deal for us. These two pitchers were named in other trades and they seemed reluctant to give them up. Good sign. Other than that, I have stopped trying to forecast prospects. It’s like forecasting your child’s future, they will never cease to surprise.

  11. Everyone,

    That’s my point. Padres shouldn’t be spending $8m a year on a 33+ year old reliever.

  12. @ Geoff

    How about some thought’s on Jesus Guzman? Dude is hitting .481 at Petco! Where do you see him playing next year? If he finishes the year hitting above .300 I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be in the starting lineup next year. NOT a bench player. LF?

  13. I may be in the minority but I like the trades. Sure I miss Mike Adams, but 1 reliever at the height of his career for 2 strong pitching prospects isn’t too bad and we’ll know for sure in about 2 years. As for Ludwick, he was a good guy, but didn’t quite fit in here with what we have.

    In simple terms the Padres terrible record this year is due to their lack of hitting, so trading 1 arm won’t doom them anytime soon if they can’t pickup some bats in the off-season or establish some young hitters this year which the trade of Ryan Ludwick will try to accomplish.

  14. @Zach

    A lot of people will agree, but that’s not really a question of a discount. 8M a year is a total discount on what Bell would make on the open market. If he has to take enough of a discount for it to make sense for the Padres, he might have to play for less than he made this year.

    @Ford, although you didn’t ask me

    You gotta love what Guzman has done, but don’t forget Edgar Gonzalez and Oscar Salazar. Both did pretty well for a while (Salazar with a 119 OPS+ in his first 121 Padre plate appearances), then fell off. Guzman feels like Denorfia to me. A weapon when used at the right time, exposed when used too much.

  15. Sure let Guzman play as long as he’s hot, but don’t expect that to be very long. He’s going to regress. Pitcher’s will make him adjust once a scouting report gets out. Petco will rein him in eventually. Let’s face it, he turned 27 in June of this year and there just aren’t many players who come up at 27 and turn into starts. He’s hot right now, enjoy it, but don’t expect much going forward.

  16. @ Tom Waits

    Good points. That’s why I threw in that little tidbit about finishing the season. Hopefully he will get 150+ more AB’s and have something close to 250 ab’s for the year and we can look at his stats then. It will be an interesting 2012 spring training if finishes the year with close to the same numbers he has now.

    I’d love to see the Padres put Guzman in LF and trade or sign a good hitting RF.

    2012 lineup?
    Maybin CF
    Headley 3b
    Guzman LF
    Hundley C
    Rizzo 1b

  17. @Daniel: That makes the most sense to me, and I hope you are right. Do you happen to have a link? I ask because I’ve had a heckuva time trying to get reliable info on the new CBA.

    @Zach: No, I’m not kidding at all. I believe Bell will command $10-11M per year on the open market. I believe he will accept $8M (but probably not less) to remain in San Diego. Whether the Padres should make such an offer depends on many factors that I haven’t yet considered. He is the closest thing the team has to a marquee player right now, and the decision will be difficult either way.

    @TW: Yeah, what you said.

    @Ford: I like Guzman, but his age and defensive limitations work against him. He could fill the Scott Hairston role from a few years ago… useful guy to have coming off the bench.

  18. For fun I tried to find some guys who became stars or at least good players who didn’t get started until 27 or thereabouts. Interestingly the two big names are a couple of Washinton state guys from the 30′s and 40′s, Bob Johnson and Earl Averill. Not sure why they got such a late start, but most likely was just the difference in the game then. They both played in the PCL for several years before joining MLB and at the time the relationship between the minors and majors was different at the time. The PCL was not necessarily a feeder for MLB then, it was a legitimate league, albeit a minor league, in its own right.

    At any rate, both debuted at 27 and both were legitimate studs for several years, with Averill making the HOF and Johnson having a career which is very nearly Hall-worthy.

    Another interesting guy is Jim Gentile. Blocked by Gil Hodges, he finally got a shot when traded to the Orioles and was a very good player beginning at 26 and for several years before flaming out at 32. Not quite on the level of Johnson or Averill, but a very good player.

    Still, I don’t expect to see Guzman duplicate the success of any of these guys. Although he’s certainly fun to watch right now!

  19. The next 3 years, Bell will be 34, 35 and 36. What was Trevor Hoffman paid at those ages, adjusted to today’s dollars?

    2002 age 34, 38 saves, $ 6.6 M = $ 8.3 M today
    2003 age 35, 0 saves, $ 9.6 M = $11.8M today 9 IP
    2004 age 36, 41 saves, $ 2.5 M = $ 3.0 M today
    2005 age 37, 43 saves, $ 5.0 M = $ 5.8 M today
    2006 age 38, 46 saves, $ 4.5 M = $ 5.0 M today
    2007 age 39, 42 saves, $ 7.0 M = $ 7.6 M today
    2008 age 40, 30 saves, $ 7.5 M = $ 8.0 M today

    My conclusion is that Bell should be offered a 1 year contract.
    I also think the payroll will be slightly over $50 million next year.

  20. You guys are all right on Guzman. This season has been horrible and he’s been the one shining light (besides Maybin). I just like looking at the box score and seeing his line everyday. He is probably not going to be a everyday player, but I can still hope.

    I’m not asking for Guzman to be a HOF. Just hit .275 with 15-20 hr’s and 60-80 rbi’s and I’ll be happy.

  21. @ Pat / Ford

    There’s Michael Morse of the Nationals, who never got a sustained look until last year even though he held his own as a rookie 5 years earlier.

  22. I don’t see the point in signing Bell…

    By trading Adams for two prospects that won’t be ready until the end of 2012 or 2013 I think the Padres are clearly starting a re-building process that will last at least two seasons. Why give a closer (someone that is really only impactful if the team is contending) $8 mil a season when you have no intention of contending for the remaining years he will be here? That $8mil could be used much more efficiently in other places like signing Maybin and Headley long term.

    I liked the moves that Jed made; however, I was disappointed that he didn’t move Qualls, Harang, Bartlett or Hudson. The way the roster is currently constructed I don’t believe the Padres have much of a chance of competing next season and it would have been nice to get something back (even if minimal) for Qualls and Harang and be able to get clear of Bartlett’s and Hudson’s contracts for next season.

  23. @Steve C

    Would you read that much into the trade of one reliever? Hoyer hasn’t forgotten last year, he’s not ignorant of what Pittsburgh and Cleveland are doing now, and we don’t need Erlin or Wieland to compete in 2012. One or both of those kids could be flipped for an offensive player or simply held in reserve. Adams was a great reliever for us, but still, just one man.

    Holding onto Bell and Harang suggests Hoyer sees the chance of being competitive next year. As for Qualls, Hudson, and Bartlett, you can’t sell without a buyer.

  24. @steve – I am cautiously optimistic that the Padre offense will improve next year. Headley and Maybin have made strides. The young guys like Rizzo are taking their lumps now and should at least show some improvement over what they have done this year. Hudson and Bartlett will be in contract years next year… that tends to be a good motivator. I have a feeling Jed will target a young stud catcher via trade or pay some money for a solid veteran catcher after laboring through Rob Johnson this year. I expect an improvement on offense, but then again… just about anything will represent an improvement on offense next year. The pitching staff is still young and should be just as good as this year. I think this team can compete for 85 wins next year if Hoyer gets the payroll up to $50m and if next years bench performs better than this years.

    @all – love the haul for Adams in terms of value and future flexibility. Having 6 deep at AA and an already young ML staff will allow Hoyer the liberty to trade some SP depth for some real bats. Erin and Wieland have impeccable command at only 20 and 21 years old…. they may only have middle rotation ceilings but their floors are very high…. Hoyer just got two of the safest picthing prospects around.

  25. @TW, why trade the better and more cost effective reliever then? Or why not trade him for a position of need instead of strength? The Padres definitely did not have to trade Adams and he would have been a key part to a Padres team that plans on competing in 2012, especially one that has the offensive issues.

    There are just way too many offensive holes for Jed to fill on the 2012 roster with a very limited budget to do it with major league players and a limited upper farm system to provide or trade for MLB ready bats. 2010 is looking more and more like an anomaly, almost every move Hoyer made that offseason worked out perfectly, not to mention they had one of the best player in baseball anchoring your lineup.

  26. @ PadresFuture, I guess it all depends on what the payroll is set at, I’m not sure what veteran and/or stud catcher the Padres will be able to afford with a $40 payroll. Both Stauffer and Headly are due raises after this season, Bartlett, Hudson and Harang will also make $1.5 M more in 2012, and I would imagine that they will have to sign at least one if not two veteran OFs. I just don’t see this team competing with a $40 mil payroll and little MLB ready talent. The model will work over time but they have to still atone for the sins of the past ownership.

  27. @ Steve C

    I believe ownership has said they plan on increasing the payroll to $50 mil next year. Since we’re stuck with Hudson and Bartlett the only positions that need addressing are the two corner OF spots and catcher.

    Not trading Bell when we need help at those 3 positions is what’s discouraging. Unless Hoyer makes some trades in the off-season I’m not sure how we address these needs.

    The 2012 OF free agents that make sense to me are Coco Crisp and Juan Pierre. The money we save from not signing Bell could be used to sign one of them.

  28. @Steve

    I assume they traded Adams because he brought back more value, and that they’re somewhat worried about his health record. Our chances of competing next year aren’t great, but we’d have all said that about Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Arizona before this season. Those teams lost 295 games in 2010.

    Hoyer doesn’t have an easy road to build a winner next year, but trading one relief pitcher is hardly a sign that they’re going into a full-bore rebuilding program.

  29. Cleveland doesn’t have a good record after a 30-15 start, Pittsburgh is only 2 games above .500, and I try to never say anything good about Arizona. I think the best example of why not to give up on the 2012 Padres is the 2010 Padres. Hudson and Bartlett wouldn’t have netted a return on investment, and at least provide veteran presence up the middle next year; and yes, they’ll be in contract years. A solid rotation let by Latos, a couple significant additions to the offense at OF and C, and an elite bullpen led by an elite closer… Now is the time to start building momentum towards a 2012 World Series!

  30. I see the Padres keeping Bell for two reasons: marketing and an increased payroll.

    Keeping Bell for marketing purposes might seem strange given that they traded Adrian but Adrian was never the face of the team the way Heath is. Adrian frankly wasn’t interested in that role and Heath has done a masterful job of being the team’s spokesman. The team is going to need someone to get people excited about coming to the ballpark and Heath is currently that guy.

    I can’t guarantee it, but payroll should jump by at least 10 millon next year due to the new media agreement. I think 15 million is probably more realistic (a combo of the media deal and new ownership’s steadily increasing financial commitment) but Ill give them a pass if we get at least 10 million more. With that extra money, and the need for a marketable guy, I expect Bell to be back next year, be it on a multiyear deal or an arbitration award.

  31. 1. Two young starters for a MR in his 30s is a no-brainer. If either one of them fills the #4 role, it’s a win; if both, a BIG win because you can trade one to fill other needs. As for why Adams and not Bell the answer is simple — Bell was a rental; Adams is around next year, too.

    2. If Ludwick was ever going to be a part of a winning Padre team, he had his shot last year and muffed it. I like the guy but he was not going to be part of the future.

    3. One problem with the Padre offense is that hitters are reluctant to come to Petco and watch their stats turn to dust, and it’s not as if the Padres can throw money at them to overcome that reluctance. The other side of that problem is that marginal pitchers LOVE it, because it knocks a run or so off their ERA. I’m told that the fastest way to win is through pitching and defense, so you want a bigger ballpark over a smaller one. Maybe so.

    But when the gap is as extreme as Petco is right now, you walk a very fine line because your pitching/defense cannot afford the slightest slipup while waiting for your offense to put together the runs you need to win. Last year our luck held and we had Jerry Hairston hitting walkoff HRs in extra innings; this year we give up 3-4 runs and don’t make it that far. And while you can get a middle-of-the-pack innings eater to sign, they aren’t the kind of pitchers that win those kinds of games, even in Petco.

    Plus which it’s hard to get fans to sit and watch pitcher’s duels EVERY night, and this hits the Padres right in the pocketbook, where they need all the help they can get.

  32. OT … that 2005 Padre team seems to be the worst playoff team since 1995 …

    … and interesting way to look at how often the best team wins it all.

  33. Heath Bell said last night that he will sign arbitration if they can’t reach a deal on an extension. WOW! Jed really screwed this up. I say put him on waivers asap and trade him for a bucket of balls. A team with a payroll of $50 mil cannot afford a $10 mil closer.

    Also, bell is costing himself 20+ mil by taking arbitration. That amazes me.

  34. @Ford

    This is how negotiations work. The odds of a 2-3 year deal structured like 7-8.5-11, with a NTC, and maybe the third year an option with easily reached vesting limits, are better than 50% now. That’s not how I’d spend the money, but if they completely lose the fans, it’ll cost them more. There are probably still some people in the office who remember when Trevor was the main draw.

    Bell is just delaying his payday by one season. He’ll make 10M or more in arbitration, and if he doesn’t get hurt or totally fail he’ll get a 2 or 3 year deal after 2012. Clearly staying home is of major importance to him.

    Nothing stops Hoyer from trading Bell after he accepts arbitration, either before or during the season. He’d be worth as much or more than he was this year if you trade him earlier, based on how much time time he’d spend with the new team.

  35. @ Tom Waits

    I hear you, but if we intended to re-sign him to a 2-3 year extension to “not lose the fans” why didn’t we trade him and sign him in the offseason.

    With or without Bell I don’t think fans are going to want to come watch a 90-95 loss team. Trevor was the main draw because he had been with us for years, was setting records, and destined for the HOF. Heath Bell is nowhere close the same draw as Trevor.

    By the way, Guzman was 2-4 with a rbi last night against Kershaw. Just sayin :)

  36. @Ford

    Maybe because the offers for Bell weren’t worth the risk of him not coming back? Or because they fear what Fire Sale 2 would do to ticket sales for the rest of this year? I just don’t see the reason to make not-trading him a sign of incompetence.

    Bell’s now been with us for 5 years. He’s not as popular as Hoffman was later in his career, but he’s still a very popular player, one of the only Padres who seems to have a connection with fans. That’s important. I don’t know if it’s important enough, but there’s no way to say Hoyer blew it unless we know what the offers were, what they think the parameters of an extension could be, and what the marketing people were telling Hoyer about Bell.

    Guzman looks like a solid hitter against lefties, with a chance to hold his own against RHP, and I hope he keeps it up. Might as well give him an extended look in left field.

    Brian Buchanan gave us a 146 OPS+ in 48 games in 2002.

  37. Interesting trade. Next years’s Pads shape up as a bunch of pitchers that can blow away AA hitters and hitters that can blast AAA pitchers, and little else.
    Too bad Hoyer saw the need to get rid of Adams for a couple of what-ifs. I figured Bell was history, and Adams would close for a year before they dumped salary on him and traded him off rather than pay him the bucks. Now, it looks like both will be gone by next training camp-even though Bell wants to stay, I doubt the Pads want him bad enough to pony up a $25+ million contract for a guy who pitches 75 innings a year on a bad team. Last I remember, they let Trevor Hoffman walk rather than pay him, and he was the face of the franchise. My guess is he will be dished for more what-ifs before the season starts.

  38. @Frank: I don’t get the “bunch of pitchers that can blow away AA hitters” part. The pitching, both starters and bullpen, combine for one of the top five staffs in the majors. The team ERA is 3.16 at home and 3.54 on the road, so it’s not Petco. The pitching is playoff caliber, and probably the reason Jed tried to improve the defense up the middle was that he thought the team would be competitive.

    A number of calculated risks didn’t pan out, there have been injuries, and the defense has been a disappointment, but the pitching staff has been doing its job as projected. The aggressive baserunning early in the season, with too many runners thrown out at the plate, is probably the reason the team is 4 games worse than their pythagorean record (it should be 51-59), but it looks worse with the Giants 7 games better than their pythag, due to a string of one run wins.

    The team not the basket case some fans make it out to be, but a solid team that can be made a division contender very quickly with a couple pieces and better luck. I’m glad Jed’s running the show, and believe he knows what he’s got.

  39. @ Larry F-Get your point, but mine is after dealing Adams, and very likely shedding Bell before next season, that team ERA takes a big hit. Figure they won’t reup Harang, so your starting rotation might be Latos, Stauffer, …… and three guys now bouncing to AAA or on the DL. And the bullpen (great the past few years) will be a project. Hey, I love Heath Bell as a fan. Great guy, talented pitcher. Unless the Pads decide to become a medium-third payroll team and give him a decent contract, he will be gone. Not a big fan of pythagorean records or most imaginary stats; as far as injuries the Giants lost the best young catcher in baseball and didn’t flinch.
    I’m also not one of the fans that says the Pads are a basket case, but they aren’t a “solid team”. And, this trade hurts them unless one of these kids is Nolan Ryan in two years, and I am one of the fans who after watching the team since the days of Ken Walters and Joe Taylor, would like to see ownership open their wallets and keep some guys that establish themselves. Like Adams.