Forty-Two Bucks and Free Towing

Good to see the boys take the first two in San Francisco. The wins haven’t come easy (big thanks to Andres Torres for getting thrown out trying to score on a pitch in the dirt with Pablo Sandoval up representing the tying run to end the seventh in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory), but at least they’ve come.

Heath Bell (2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K this series) is scaring the heck out of me. Oh, you’re in the market for an All-Star closer? Never mind; in that case, he’s awesome and worth whatever you can afford.

I’m not much for rumors, but Bell has to go, right? For as much fun as it is to think that the Padres are only 8 games back in a lousy division, last I checked, that’s good enough for a 0.3 percent chance at the playoffs.

Bell is eligible for free agency. The Padres aren’t going anywhere and have a deep bullpen. Writing… Wall…

If what Washington received for Matt Capps at last year’s deadline is any indication (it’s a big if; every market is different), the Padres should be able to land a B-level prospect for 2-3 months of Bell’s services.

Who? What? Where? Strength up the middle is always nice (especially with the playing portion of former first-round pick Drew Cumberland’s career apparently drawing to a close), although presumably you have to take the best available talent and worry about the rest later.

I haven’t studied the current market or historical trends in closer valuation. Anecdotally, it seems that more often than not, someone is willing to pay a decent amount for a pitcher of Bell’s caliber and pedigree.

Other trade candidates? Ryan Ludwick and Chad Qualls, maybe Mike Adams (although Adams should have considerable value to his current employer and is best kept unless someone gets stupid with an offer). The Padres gave up a couple C-level prospects to get Ludwick and can expect to get roughly the same in return: warm bodies in exchange for a little salary relief.

I sold the first car I ever owned — a mid-’70s Datsun 710 — to a mechanic for $42. He only wanted the tires but offered to tow the car off the lot at no charge. I got to eat a burger and play some video games, he got tires. It worked out well for everyone.

Like Ludwick, Qualls doesn’t figure to fetch much either. I don’t know what the going rate for generic middle relievers is these days… $42 and free towing?

* * *

Third basemen are advancing. James Darnell has been promoted from Double-A San Antonio (where he was hitting .333/.434/.604 in 346 PA) to Triple-A Tucson, with Jedd Gyorko moving up from High-A Lake Elsinore (where he was hitting .365/.429/.638 in 382 PA) into Darnell’s old spot.

Batting cleanup for the T-Padres, Darnell went 3-for-5 with a double in his July 4 debut. Gyorko is 3-for-9 with a double in his first two games with the Missions.

One of Darnell’s new teammates, Kyle Blanks, continues to obliterate PCL pitching. Blanks is hitting .411/.477/.884 in 107 PA since being promoted, which makes him the hottest thing to come through Tucson since… Anthony Rizzo.

Speaking of Rizzo, his struggles (.178/.318/.342 in 88 PA, 29.5 K%) have led to speculation that a return trip to Triple-A might be in order.

No. This was the deal. We expected Rizzo to face an adjustment period and we were willing to live with it. Well, now we’re living with it. Granted, that’s not as much fun when it actually happens as when you say “we’ll live with it,” but there you go.

Meanwhile, Blanks would seem to be a logical candidate to see action in left field if Ludwick is moved. Aaron Cunningham makes sense, too, although the organization appears to view him as more of a spare part.

* * *

The Dodgers are in full free fall. They’re 11 games out of first place and three games back of the Padres. I want to beat them (and everyone else, for that matter) every time, but to watch that franchise self-destruct… it’s painful and embarrassing to baseball, in a Jeffrey Loria kind of way.

* * *

Quick programming note: I’ll be at SABR 41 up in Long Beach the rest of this week. Dave Cameron (FanGraphs), Sean Forman (Baseball-Reference), John Dewan (BIS), and Rob Neyer (SB Nation) are among those scheduled to speak. Padres GM Jed Hoyer will be there, as will Al Ferrara, who played on the original 1969 Padres squad.

If you’re around, say hey… I’ll be the guy who looks like me but with longer hair. I plan to do the Twitter thing while I’m there. If you do the Twitter thing, we’ll do it together. Such fun…

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37 Responses »

  1. If we trade Ludwick and Bell, we will be $14 million better off next year. Where do we spend it?

  2. Is a B level prospect for Bell, better than a first round pick and a compensation round pick? Unless they can get a ready for prime time player, I am leaning towards playing out the string.

  3. @Field39

    The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the World Series this year. There’s no guarantee that draft pick compensation will be a part of the next one.

  4. @Tom

    That certainly changes things.

  5. have fun up there in Long Beach, GY.

    Poz with a good read on QS and voila, some Padres of yore in it.

  6. I would say that trading Adams might get us a better package because of his youth, his dominance and his extra year of being under team control. If the Padres could sign Bell under a San Diego discount (which he wants), then you show that the team will re sign and keep stars. He also remains entrenched as the veteran leader and can mentor younger guys like Brach, Spence and Frieri who will become more and more critical in the near future.

    Maybe stupidly I kinda hold out hope for a Brown for Adams trade with the Phillies

  7. Bell has GOT to have more value than Capps had last year, right… right? I’d like to order a can’t-miss shortstop ready to take over in about a year, please. Very sad about Cumberland. Does this kind of first-round draft luck happen to other teams? Or is it just that I pay more attention to this team than the others?

  8. Here’s a report from a friend of mine at last night’s game in SF …

    Down 5-3 in the 7th, Torres had a 16 pitch at bat against Qualls, took over 8 minutes. Then he stole second without a throw despite being down two runs, moving to third on a ground ball out to second. Then he tried to score on a pitch that got away from the catcher, but not enough. Qualls blocked him off the plate, and tagged him out (hitting him in the face on the replay) and spiking the ball NFL-style. Too bad it’s unlikely Qualls will get any at bats against the Giants.

    … were you watching the game? What’d you see?

    Earlier, 4th inning, scored tied at 2. Tejada on first, Cain batting. one out. Tejada breaks for second, presumably on some sort of sacrifice / hit and run, but Cain takes the pitch. The Padre’s catcher throws to second, Tejada is going to be out by about 10 feet so he stops about 15 feet from the bag, the shortstop whiffs on the catcher’s throw, Tejada goes to third on the play and scores on a hit by Cain.

    … SS whiffs on the throw? What’d you see?

  9. I think GY did an excellent job of pointing out why it may be dangerous to retain Bell, but I’ll add to it. His K9/ rate this year is 6.57, 33% lower than his career mark and worse than that compared to 2009-2010. That’s not destiny, but it should worry the heck out of people.

  10. GY said: “I don’t know what the going rate for generic middle relievers is these days… $42 and free towing?”

    Didn’t we get Cameron Maybin for a couple of generic middle relievers? Maybe(?) Hoyer can pull off another steal like that.

  11. @LynchMob: Accurate reports on both plays. Qualls did a really nice job of blocking the plate. On the Tejada throw-down, Bartlett got caught looking at Tejada stopping mid steal, I think, and wasn’t positioned properly to receive the slightly off throw and it went into the outfield. Costly mental error.

  12. @Elliott – As of now the Bartett and Hudson are due 1.5m raises each next year. Adams and Headley are both due raises, could be $2-$4 raises each. Hawpe is owed a 1m buyout for 2012. Stauffer and Denorfia are also owed Arb raises and could be $1-$3 million in raises each. Clayton Richard, Gregerson, Venable, Hundley, and Thatcher are all owed their 1st Arb raises and should be 500k-$1.5m each. Moseley, Neshek, and A Gonzalez are all owed raises if the Padres decide to retain them. Harang has a $5m mutual option which represents a 1.5m raise or a 500k buyout. Qualls has a $6m team option and a $1m buyout.
    Even if the Padres trade Qualls, trade or don’t retain Harang, and let 2 of Mosely/Neshek/Gonz leave… this still represents $13-$18 million in raises. If they increase payroll moderatley by about $3-$5 million then I expect the Padres will only have about $4-8m to spend next offseason.

  13. Rizzo’s adjustment period is still good for a 98 wRC+, which is just about average. He’s also sporting the highest ISO on the team (of anyone with more than 35 PAs). If this is his rookie struggles, I can’t wait to see how he does when he figures it out.

  14. Padres need to keep either Bell or Adams. At this point Adams makes more sense, but if Bell goes I’d like to see a decent return. Decent as in.. a player of Cameron Maybin’s caliber. Someone with potential, but young. Someone the Padres can build around along with Maybin, Rizzo, etc. Is that asking too much? Seems the Padres biggest need may be at short stop though. Whenever I start liking Bartlett, he starts doing things to make me dislike him. Still better than everth cabrera, but that isn’t saying much.

  15. Ken Davidoff of Newsday writes today that ” the top commodity – both desired and shopped – is relievers.”

    “The top relievers available are San Diego’s Heath Bell and the Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez, and the the Padres also have Luke Gregerson (who has very low service time) and Chad Qualls.

    The teams most in the mix to acquire guys like these are Arizona, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Texas. Most need setup men more than closers”;JSESSIONID=21791E6A2BDDD62A8D66.3126?site=newsday&view=sports_blogs_item&feed:a=newsday_5min&feed:c=sports_blogs&feed:i=1.3007350&nopaging=1

  16. @Zach – Completely agree on Rizzo, set aside his BA and everything else suggests he will be fine.

  17. It looks like Heath is going through his annual “drama” phase. it seems to happen when all his pitches are working, the FB is up to 96 and he’s got decent control. When he’s most efficient, his FB misses the strike zone more and he throws more curves. It is a puzzlement.

    Two guys not mentioned as trade bait are Bartlett and Hudson. As stated, they’re going to be expensive next year, so they’ve got to go, either now or in the off-season, along with Qualls, Ludwick and Hawpe (remember him?). It’s fortunate that most of the high priced (for SD) talent is either a FA or have club options that can be bought out. The question becomes, who will replace (some of) them?

  18. If I had my way Bell, Qualls, Ludwick, and Harang would get moved as soon as an acceptable deal can be reached. Hawpe should be traded for nothing or released. Bartlett and Hudson should only be traded if we are more than 5 games out at the trade deadline… I would like to see both traded if we are still 8 games out by then. Presumably, the Padres would get a SS prospect back in one of the deals and could play Cabrera until that prospect is ready. Why not give Forsythe a 2 month look if they can move Hudson. Adams and Gregerson need to stay put unless a deal too good to pass up is offered, e.g. Adams and change for Matt Moore. In the end, I doubt the Padres come anywhere close to moving 8 guys let alone 5… for fear of Hacksaw inciting a riot amongst fans that believe this team can contend this year or next.

  19. Adams for Matt Moore? That would definitely be too good to pass up – and the Rays GM would probably be fired.

    I’m actually pretty confident that this team can contend next year (not will contend, but can contend). There are plenty of ifs, but the NL West shouldn’t be leaps and bounds better, and we will have far fewer “bounce-back” players taking the field on opening day. The rotation should be solid although we probably need another top end pitcher to really be competitive. Here is my guess at the opening day lineup:

    Venable? Denorfia? Leadoff spot / RF still a huge ????

    Plenty of question marks – does Rizzo improve? Does Blanks return to 2009 form or 2010? Who leads off? – but far more upside than what we had on opening day this year.

    We may be a year away, but I wouldn’t count out contention next year.

    Plus, the ace in the hole is Hoyer. He pulled off some steals this offseason.

  20. @BigWorm,
    I haven’t really begun to think about a 2012 opening day lineup.yet.

    But my guess is that at least 3 of these players are not on the opening day lineup or roster next season:
    Venable, Hudson, Bartlett, Blanks, Hundley

  21. Venable is hitting .320 since he returned from AAA. He may prove himself worth holding onto in the coming weeks/months.

    I also have high hopes for Blanks, particularly because of how well he played in The Wolff, a serious pitcher’s park.

    If Blanks and Venable hold their own, a Blanks-Maybin-Venable outfield could be one to build with over the next several years. That’s a big “IF” though.

  22. @ BigWorm:

    I’m hoping your 2012 opening day lineup includes Belnome instead of Hudson, and Bartlett replaced by a stud SS acquired in the Bell/Ludwick/Qualls trade that “may” take place this month.

  23. @USMC – I don’t think Belnome will be ready by next year for the full time job.

  24. PF: Is that because of his offense, defense, or both?


  25. @USMC – They played him at 3B for the entire season in 2010. He has split this season at 2b/1b/3b and now he is injured. I think they will want to see more of him at 2B alone if they view him as a future full time starter at 2B. The fact that they have been splitting his time between 2B/3B/1B tells me they are grooming him for a utility role. That said, his fielding stats at 2B in the minors have been good from an errors perspective. He is stuck behind Hudson for now and Forsythe is considered further along. I think Belnome goes to spring training next year and ends up in AAA… he could get a Sep call up this year. I see him more in the mix in 2013 for a full time job if he continues to improve, whether it be full time utility or full time 2B.

  26. It’s halfway through the season, so the annual Padre ritual of whose salary can we dump for prospects has begun, just like every year we aren’t in first place. Been a fan since ’69 and just once, I’d like to hear about how this team, which makes plenty of money and plays in a publicly subsidized park, is going to bump payroll up to the middle third of baseball the next season, instead of pretending that it can win with pitchers but without hitters, or with a bullpen but without defense. Or, perpetually, with an unproductive farm system and bad draft picks. With the Pads, it’s always tradeoffs.
    Bell is one of the best three closers in the game, and is the best ninth inning shutdown guy. The team will unload him because he is worth big money, and they won’t pay it, but they won’t try for a decent hitting, established corner outfielder with speed coming it trade because they will have the same arbitration conundrum with that kind of player they have with Bell. They should keep Qualls, make Adams closer, and after kissing their one RBI guy (this year) Ludwig goodbye, they should trade Bell for a player that will make an immediate impact, at least partially replace that hole in the offense and be around for a few years, even if it costs money, and in an area of need. And if it costs $10-15 million a year for a couple of established offensive producers on this club, it will not send Morad to the poorhouse.

  27. @Frank – Heath Bell is worth $8-$11 million per season, depending on how you value certain aspects of his game. He will be 34 when the season ends. Why would the Padres tie up $8-$11 million per season on an aging closer who will provide only that amount of value at best? They can instead return some prospects and pay Adams $5 million next year to provide $10m worth of value. Better to trade Bell 1 season too early than 1 season too late, especially when you can replace him with a guy like Adams. Most teams with a viable option like replacing Bell with a younger(albeit 1 year), cheaper, arguably better option would do just what the Padres are thinking of doing.

    The bad farm system days may be coming to an end. We are already starting to see results from the first couple years of Aldersons drafting and international signings. The current regime seems to be continuing the focus of improving the scouting, drafting, and development. I fully expect most unbiased knowedgeable farm system raters will acknowledge by next year that the Padres have one of the best farm systems in baseball.

  28. @Padres Future: My blog says trade Bell, and move Adams into the closer role. It also says keep Qualls since he will return nothing in trade, and that dumping Ludwig for probably less than nothing means that when they trade Bell, they should do it for a quality, proven corner outfielder with proven ML offensive experience, even a guy that will command a some money in arbitration. Not “some prospects”, which seems to be the Pads pattern the last decade and a half, since they seem to depend on other teams’ farm systems instead of their own. Headley is the exception to this rule, and once he wants money, he’s gone, and Adams is as well in another year-to be stars on other teams.
    They (and a lot of other clubs that rarely field pennant contenders) get other teams’ second-tier prospects, bring them up, often before they are ready, and keep them until they are going to make decent money in arbitration; then it is See Ya. They didn’t do this with Peavy and got burned. Occasionally, the players they get coming back in dump trades work out, but not often.
    The gyst of my blog is that the Pads can financially swing a middle-third payroll, but their management seems content to field a team that plays cheap, the fans will come anyway. Moorad has said as much.

  29. @Frank

    Teams that want Bell are contending for a playoff spot. Those are also teams that have almost no interest in trading “a quality, proven corner outfielder with proven ML offensive experience,” because that double-proven corner outfielder is a reason they’re in position to want Bell to begin with. Who’s going to trade an offensive player with that profile for 25 relief innings? It’s not impossible, but it’s very unlikely.

    The only reason St. Louis traded Ludwick last year was because they had four quality outfielders and a crap farm system.

    The one area we can really be said to have some depth at it is corner outfield, and it’s the easiest position to fill. I’m not against trading Bell for a big-time OF prospect, but only if he’s the best player being offered.

    Moorad can swing a middle-third payroll, as soon as he’s done using the revenue stream to buy the team.

  30. @Tom – completely agree with you on this one. The team will inch up the payroll a couple million a year until Moorad is done buying the team… a $70m payroll won’t be out of the question in 4 years.

  31. @Frank

    I’m confused by your comment about Peavy. He wasn’t somebody else’s second-tier prospect, he was drafted and developed by the Padres, then traded after he signed the biggest contract in team history because of the Moores divorce.

    As for commanding money in arbitration, they could have let Ludwick walk. He’s making close to 20% of the payroll in his final year of arbitration. Nobody’s happy about the team’s record in 2011, but disappointment shouldn’t close our eyes to the truth.

  32. Tom, wouldn’t you agree that the Pads got gunshy of big contracts after signing the big Peavy contract with the no-trade clauses? And I don’t say he wasn’t from the Pads farm system. Besides Peavy, who was gone before the ink was dry on his contract, Greene, and Headley there is little to show for the team’s farm system since ’98-on their team. As an organization, I feel the team cut and ran too soon due to arbitration on some players in efforts to field teams with low payroll, since they got the ballpark and have a “small market” mentality.
    On the plus side, they have done very well with some pitchers that I thought were marginal, like Adams, Luebke, Frieri, and especially this year Dustin Moseley, who seems to have AAA stuff that gets NL guys out. Too bad the hitters on this team cannot (again tonight) score runners from third base with less than two outs. Over and over, with Ludwig; God help them without him, any day now. Unless they get a real hitter for Bell, and not rent some over the hill guy or sign some 20 year-old what-if. He is the league leader is saves, on a team with a losing record, and is worth a lot to teams that need bullpen help in pennant runs.

  33. @Frank

    I wouldn’t call it gunshy, I’d call it the Moores divorce. Before that happened they not only signed Peavy, they made a big offer to Fukudome. Big free agent contracts have enough potential to hurt a team that it doesn’t bother me if we never sign another one, especially since we’re not going to attract FA hitters to Petco without paying even more of a premium. What will bother me is if they can’t keep good players through the fifth or sixth year of arbitration, which so far hasn’t happened.

    I also don’t know who they “ran from” in arbitration who you’d want back. Khalil, sadly, was on his way out of baseball when he was traded — and he was already under contract at the time. I’m not minimizing the limits of the current payroll, but they absolutely have not been shipping lots of players out as they hit the final arbitration years. Nor am I happy with the farm production, something many of us have lamented here on Ducksnorts for close to a decade.

    Bell’s worth a lot. He’s not worth a key starting player on a contender, probably, because that doesn’t help the acquiring team win. I don’t see a team out there with a quality corner OF who they can replace if they move him to get Bell. Do you? Teams driving for a playoff spot don’t want to weaken their offense, they want to move a prospect who isn’t helping on the major league roster. It’s not impossible, just unlikely, and with Blanks and Darnell, probably a poor use of resources.

  34. I can think of one team that has a extra OFer … ie. if they trade their LFer, they might get better because the guy coming up from AAA looks pretty good … and that team is the Padres … and the guy coming up is Kyle Blanks :-) I believe he will be an above-average MLB hitter …

  35. @ Tom: Let’s agree that they aren’t going to get a starter on a contender for Bell, I don’t think anyone would expect that. Look, they can’t drive in runs and lose many of their games by shutout or one run despite good pitching, agree? They were 8 games out of first a few days ago. They are going to trade Ludwig to cut salary-makes sense, he is driving in runs but his OBP is about .310 and he’s slow, agree? The harder a bargain they drive for with Bell, the better off they will be. They might get an established OF with decent hitting numbers, and pitching prospect.
    My points were, the Pads since Werner have relied on other team’s farm systems, shied away from a middle third payroll since they got the ballpark, and will too often for my taste opt away from a proven major leaguer who is a bit closer to arbitration than a Ruben Rivera-type, unknown quantity who they can have control over for a longer period.
    Not all of their decisions go bust, don’t get me wrong. They stole AGon and Maybin. They picked the right time to jettison Khalil. This year, they got a middle infield with two FAs.
    Off topic, but is it me, or is Rizzo’s range and ability to pick up bounced throws at first as limited as it looks on TV? He doesn’t look clueless like Hawpe, but there have been some late-inning balls that get through that AGon would have got in his sleep.

  36. @Frank

    Sure, we can agree to that. That ain’t what you started off complaining about, though. You wanted a proven offensive corner outfielder. If you’re lowering your sights to an outfielder with decent hitting numbers, why bother? Why not use Cunningham or Blanks? Bell’s your biggest trading chip, you don’t use him to get somebody decent and somebody who’s probably not better than a guy who’s playing for Tucson right now.

    They absolutely did not shy away from a middle third payroll after the ballpark opened. They didn’t drop the Petco-era payroll until 2009.

    I don’t know which arbitration-players they’ve shied away from. Khalil’s the only one I can remember from our own system. Did we avoid trading for somebody? That’s hard to tell in the tight-lipped Hoyer era.