Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Trade Rumors: Kouzmanoff and Bell

On the ride home, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton spent a lot of breath discussing potential Padre moves at this week's winter meetings. What started this hot-air-a-blowin'? Trade rumors having Kouzmanoff headed to San Francisco, and Heath Bell headed just about anywhere.

The SD U-T online edition has a story detailing the Giants offer:

The Giants are said to be interested in Kouzmanoff, although the Padres are not interested in the Giants reported first offer – left-handed hitting outfielder Fred Lewis and middle infielder Kevin Frandsen.
I don't want to get into the specifics of this trade offer. The larger question is, is trading Kouzmanoff and/or Bell the right thing to do?

There is some sentiment out there to leave the current Padre roster as is. After all, they went 45-27 down the stretch, which means they played .625 ball. Although the Padres finish was something to be proud of, and cause for hope, even that Padre team isn't good enough to compete for a division title or a wild card. They have to get better. Currently, by my estimation, they need a catcher, second baseman, and since they intend to non-tender Correia, another starting pitcher.

How do they acquire those guys? Buy trading players they can afford to give up, players whose loss may sting in the short-term, but won't in the long view.

And that means trading Kouzmanoff and Bell.

Heath Bell had a spectacular first year as a closer, complete with selection to the NL All-Star team. His value may never be higher than it is right now. Who would replace Bell? Consider:

Heath Bell: 2.42 FIP, 10.21 K/9, .303 BABIP
Mike Adams: 1.66 FIP, 10.95 K/9, .166 BABIP
Luke Gregerson: 2.50 FIP, 11.16 K/9, .332 BABIP
Luis Perdomo: 5.35 FIP, 8.29 K/9, .287 BABIP

Ok, so including Perdomo might be a mistake. And Adams' BABIP is probably unstainable over a career - actually it most definitely isn't sustainable. But the point is either Adams or Gregerson has the stuff to close. Losing Heath Bell won't hamstring the Padres at the end of games. Kevin Towers did a fine job reconstructing the bullpen during the first half of 2009. And they have other power arms to fill out their 2010 bullpen should Bell leave.

Not to mention there are plenty of GM's out there willing to overpay for a closer. Remember JJ Putz? The Mets over-paid for his services, and that trade helped resurrect the Mariners. Hoyer should pull the trigger if he gets the pieces he's looking for and ship Bell somewhere.

Kouzmanoff is a tougher call, but they should move him too. Kevin is coming off a season where his UZR was the second best in baseball for third basemen, and he set a ML record for fielding percentage. Why should the Padres trade him? The Padres have three players for two positions - third and left. Kouz, Chase Headley, and Kyle Blanks. Headley and Kouz can play third, Headley and Blanks can play left. Well, they try to play left.

Blanks has ridiculous power. Dave Kingman/Willy Mo Pena kind of power. Looking for a guy to support Gonzo in the lineup as a consistent power threat? Blanks is your man. They have to find a way to get his bat in the lineup every day. And, albeit with a small sample size, Blanks was the better left fielder. Headley's UZR/150 was -11.1 in 2009. Blanks' was 21.9. Start Blanks in left.

So that means either Headley or Kouz at third. Kouz is the better fielder, but Headley wasn't a slouch. At third his UZR/150 was 4.4 (granted, that's a small sample size of 28 games). But here's the kicker for me: in 17 straight games at third (from 9-27 Sept), Headley hit .303 and had an .816 OPS. For his career he's pnly hitting .263 with a .740 OPS. I would say that's a pretty significant jump in production when he quit having to worry about playing the OF and returned to his natural position. Kouz? career .308/.743. Headley has more power upside (potentially) at third, and hits for average at about the same rate.

Headley can replace Kouz rather effortlessly. Kouz is another tradeable Padre. I think they should trade Kouz.

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