Sunday, December 19, 2010

Orlando Hudson at Second

Various sources reported on Friday* Orlando Hudson had signed with the Padres to play second base in 2011.  San Diego has not confirmed the deal, waiting for the results of the physical before making the formal announcement.  According to reports in the San Diego U-T, Hudson signed for 2 years ($4M in 2011, $5.5M in 2012), with an $8M option in 2013 (and $2M buyout).  It has not yet been stated if the option is club, player, or mutual (at least as far as I have read).

*Note to Jed Hoyer - can you PLEASE make these types of moves known on Thursday morning instead of Friday morning?  Help a poor lonely Podcast host out.  Throw me a bone, man.

Most of the reporting on this trade has highlighted Hudson's defensive ability.  That, coupled with the trade for  Jason Bartlett (agreed to during the winter meetings last week but only finalized yesterday), and the acquisition of Cameron Maybin earlier this off-season, make the Padres a better defensive team up the middle than in 2010.

Or does it?  I've already looked at Maybin vs Tony Gwynn Jr.  Let's look at the new players in comparison to who they're replacing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who's On First?

With Adrian Gonzalez now in Boston, I naturally assumed the first base job would become Kyle Blanks.  He is a natural first baseman and, again assuming he's healthy, is a power bat the 2011 Padres will sorely need.  Jed Hoyer, during an interview Monday with Darren Smith, indicated the Padres would look for free agent help at that position.  Which begets two questions:

1.  Where is Blanks going to play when healthy?
2.  What are the Padres' options at first in this market?

Cot's Baseball Contracts has the current list of free agents who play first, age last season in parenthesis:

  • Garrett Atkins (30), Willy Aybar (27), Russell Branyan (34), Jason Giambi (39), Troy Glaus (33), Nick Johnson (31), Paul Konerko (34), Casey Kotchman (28), Mark Kotsay (34), Jeff Larish (27), Adam LaRoche (30), Derrek Lee (34), Lyle Overbay (33), Carlos Pena (32), Robb Quinlan (33), Jose Ruiz (25), Randy Ruiz (32), Mike Sweeney (36) , Fernando Tatis (35), Jim Thome (39).
That's a lot of guys to pick through. Let's pare it down, first by eliminating everyone over 35, which removes Giambi, Sweeney, Tatis, and Thome.  We can eliminate Konerko and Pena as unaffordable for the Padres.  We should eliminate guys with significant injury history, so that takes Glaus, Johnson, and Kotsay off.  Jose Ruiz is raw with no major league experience; he's not the answer for 2011.  That cuts the list in half.

Here are the career slugging percentages for the remaining 10 candidates:
  • Atkins - .449.  Should note he has played half his career at Coors Field, and his slugging is close to 100 points higher at home (.495/.406) 
  • Aybar - .399
  • Branyan - .490
  • Kotchman - .392
  • Larish - .380 in 276 career ML plate appearances
  • LaRoche - .488
  • Lee - .498
  • Overbay - .447
  • Quinlan - .401
  • Randy Ruiz - .488, 238 career ML plate appearances
Eliminating everyone slugging below .400 (and Rob Quinlan, who slugged .401) kicks Aybar, Kotchman, Larish, and Quinlan off the list.  Six potentials left.

How does one rank these guys?  Three righties (Atkins, LaRoche, Ruiz), three lefties (Branyan, Lee, Overbay).

Atkins was designated for assignment by Baltimore 27 June 10.  He did not play again in 2010.  Fangraphs calculated he was a below-average first baseman (UZR/150 of -13.2), and he's put up negative WAR the last 2 seasons.  From his 2006 career highs in every offensive category, he has seen a drop in OBP and SLG for 4 consecutive years.  His power has seemingly disappeared.

Branyan started last season with Cleveland and finished it in Seattle.  He probably should have been included with the significant injury history, but he probably has the biggest power bat of this group.  Branyan has always been a pretty good defensive 1B and put up a 6.0 UZR/150 in 2010.  He'll give a team between 0.6 and 3 WAR on a given year.  He's left-handed, but he has the power to reach Petco's right field.

LaRoche declined a little bit in 2010 when compared to 2009, but he was solid, hitting 25 HR for the third consecutive year.  He graded out at 4.8 UZR/150 and a solid 2.1 WAR.

Lee had a solid 2010 overall, but is on the downslope of his career.  He posted a UZR/150 of 2.3 playing for Chicago and Atlanta, and posted a 2.0 WAR.

Overbay hit 20 HR for only the second time in his career last season.  He was spectacularly average as a fielder (UZR/150 of 0.1), and posted a 1.5 WAR.  As a lefty, he'd probably see his power dry up in Petco.

Ruiz is really a career minor leaguer.  He played only 23 innings at first last season.  How he would project at Petco is unknown, but I doubt the Padres would take a chance on a 32 year old AAAA player.

Based on those summaries, I think Ruiz, Overbay, and Atkins aren't good options at first.  If Hoyer is going to fill first base from without, it seems Branyan, Lee, or LaRoche make the most sense, if they can be enticed into a relatively affordable contract.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Adrian Gonzalez to Boston - OFFICIAL

tWWL is reporting today the Gonzo trade is final, even though the Red Sox and Gonzalez's people could not agree on a long-term extension.

For those of you holding out hope he stays in SD, I imagine it will take the press conference tomorrow and Adrian holding a Red Sox jersey before you acknowledge he's gone.  That said I'm not sure there are many of those folks left.  Trading Adrian Gonzalez away has been expected for more than a year now.  San Diego could not afford the left-handed first baseman.  If they were forced to trade away Jake Peavy and his $16 million dollar a year deal, how where they going to re-sign Gonzo for $20 mil?

2010's almost-run to the post-season only delayed the inevitable.  Jed Hoyer could not trade Gonzalez away in July because his club was not only in contention, they were leading the division.  How would that look? Giving up your best hitter with two months to go and a 4 game lead?  So Gonzalez stayed.

There will probably be comparisons to the fire-sale of the early 1990s.  So far this off-season Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba, and Miguel Tejada had all left for other teams (LA, not yet signed, and SF, respectively).  With those losses this team was to have a difficult time contending.  With Gonzalez in the AL East it is pretty near impossible.  Ryan Ludwick is going to be awfully lonely in the middle of this order.

For better or worse this will be the trade by which Hoyer is judged as the GM.  It's a good thing he and key members of his staff know the Boston minor league system well, because he'd better have gotten excellent value for the fourth-best player in the NL last season (if you go by MVP voting) who is in his prime.

Whatever contract value it is Adrian finally agrees to (be it 8 years, $180M or 6/$120) congratulations to him on the deal.  Gonzalez is the best 1B in the history of the San Diego Padres, and will be for some time to come.  He's worked hard and his ship has finally come in.  I will miss seeing him hit in person and on local TV.

As I close, and in case you're not depressed enough by the trade, here's how I project the 2011 Padre team to look:

1B - Kyle Blanks
2B - Matt Antonelli (speculation only; Eckstein is a free agent and I don't know who else to put here)
3B - Chase Headley
SS - Everth Cabrera (see above, replace 'Eckstein...' with 'Tejada signed with SF')
LF - Chris Denorfia Ryan Ludwick*
CF - Cameron Maybin
RF - Ryan Ludwick Will Venable*
C - Nick Hundley

SP:  Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Chris Young (yes I think he re-signs) Aaron Harang**, Cory Luebke.

Think we struggled to score runs in 2010?  Just wait.

*This seems the more likely lineup after pondering it last night.
** Spaced the Harang signing.