Analyzing Padres Left-Handed Bat Search
It seems as if the mystery of what the Padres are most likely going to target this offseason has been solved. Our friend and yours, Corey Brock of MLB.com, wrote that the Padres were reasonably happy with their starting pitching options and unless a top-of-the-rotation type arm becomes available via trade, the Friars are probably going to stand pat in the starter department. What Brock and many others feel the Padres will look for is a quality LH bat given the Friars finished the 2013 season with one of the lowest team OPS’s against RH pitching in baseball. That’s the easy part; the hard part is finding a LH hitter that can legitimately help the Padres while also fitting into their tight budget.
Given the Padres predilection of trying to turn other team’s garbage into gold, we can exclude all of the top free agent bats on the market. We also know that the Padres are unlikely to sacrifice their first-round pick for any free agent so that would remove any player given a qualifying offer from their current clubs from further consideration. That means there won’t be a Robinson Cano, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, or Shin-Soo Choo signing announcement in San Diego this winter.
So as for free agents, what’s left?
How about David Murphy; does that get any Padres fans excited? I don’t know about you but adding a guy that slashed .220/.282/.374 and plays a corner OF spot doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies. His career slash line is a much better .275/.337/.441 and he does own an OPS of .789 against RH pitchers over the last three seasons. He could fill in for Quentin when the oft-injured OF’s knees inevitably give him trouble next season. There’s at least 300 PA’s available in that scenario. And by all accounts he is a good glove man.
There’s always Kelly Johnson, who offers more versatility than Murphy does. Johnson can play some 2B and either corner OF spot. That could prove to be somewhat valuable if Chase Headley gets hurt, as has happened in two of the last three years since Johnson can play 2B with Gyorko filling in at 3B. Johnson owns a three-year OPS of .727 with 44 HR in 1,041 AB’s against righties.
Based on the top-50 list assembled by Keith Law of ESPN, that is about it. There are no more LH hitters available without draft pick compensation attached or that should fall into what the Padres would be willing to spend.
Is that good enough for you Friar fans? Signing either David Murphy or Kelly Johnson at a bargain price and crossing your fingers that they hit enough to warrant a spot on the roster, is that what you want to see? That sure as hell isn’t what I want. I’m tired of the Padres constantly dredging the murky free agent waters looking for bargains.
I’m not advocating the Padres should go break the bank on Cano or anything but why is it when a roster problem is so clearly identified that the team has to look to fill that need as cheaply as possible? That strategy puts you in a position of hoping to catch lightning in a bottle whereas signing an established player to a fair contract is more likely to satisfactorily solve the problem while also generating some interest from a fan base tired of the salvage operation that every offseason seems to be.
Just out of curiosity, why not sign a guy like Curtis Granderson while trading Carlos Quentin to an AL team that can use him at DH?
Early predictions peg Granderson’s next contract to be about three years and anywhere from $36MM (Ken Davidoff of the New York Post) to about $45MM (Law and Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors). Assuming the highest AAV, we’ll say it would take a three year, $45MM offer from San Diego to get Granderson.
$15MM a year might sound too rich for the Padres but if they can trade Quentin, say to Baltimore for LHP Brian Matusz, which would free up $20.5MM in payroll over the next two seasons. In essence, the Padres would be paying an extra $9.5MM over the next two seasons and would get a LH bat who is more likely to give you a full season and who is a much better defensive player than Quentin.
Quentin could go to Baltimore, where they need a RH stick and someone who can contribute from the DH spot. Orioles manager Buck Showalter appreciates versatility so the chance to use Quentin in LF at least some of the time should appeal to Baltimore. Including Matusz, the Orioles have three LH relievers on their 40-man roster (Troy Patton and T.J. MacFarland being the others). They could afford to part with one to add an impact bat.
Meanwhile, in addition to shedding Quentin’s salary to make it easier to fit in Granderson, the Friars need a LH pitcher in their bullpen after dealing Joe Thatcher last season. Matusz went to the University of San Diego so has local ties. He also has held LH hitters to a .626 OPS in 270 AB’s over the last three seasons. He would work.
It might not be fair value but saving on Quentin’s salary has value too. I for one am tired of the team’s highest paid player being unavailable for half of his team’s games.
Can Granderson hit at Petco? Steamer projects him to post a wRC+ (Runs Created adjusted for league and ball park) of 108, which is above average. Quentin is projected to record a wRC+ of 123 over 507 PA, a figure he hasn’t reached since 2010 making it all the more unlikely he’ll suddenly do it next season.
Quentin is the superior hitter, no question. However he can’t be counted on to give you more than half a season worth of production if he has to play the field. If allowed to DH a majority of the time he could approach or even exceed 500 PA’s.
Granderson missed much of last season due to injury but that was a result of bad luck and not an indicator of future health issues. Twice Granderson was hit by pitches, once fracturing a finger and the other injuring his wrist. That’s not as likely to occur next year as Quentin’s knees forcing him out of the lineup.
Defense is another area that Granderson excels. He might not be any better than average in CF but should be terrific in LF. He runs pretty well, unlike Quentin, so should provide some extra value on the base paths.
For a team that desires to build around speed and defense, it would follow that Granderson would be a better fit than Quentin.
Now about that draft pick compensation stuff; the Friars own the 13th selection in the 2014 draft. From 1996 – 2010, a period covering 15 drafts, the players selected 13th overall have averaged 4 WAR for their careers to date with just two, Chris Sale and Aaron Hill, accruing double figures in that category.
In case the 13th selection was just an unlucky spot to be choosing during that period, players taken 14th overall between 1996 and 2010 tallied a combined 45.4 WAR; good for an average of just more than 3 career WAR per player.
I love draft picks too but with the fail rate so high I’d be okay sacrificing that pick for the right player. Curtis Granderson might be that player.
This is just one way the Padres could attack their need for a quality LH bat. There are likely many other alternatives. But what is most likely going to happen is the Friars will play Power Ball and hope to hit big on a cheap $1 ticket. That’s the route they’ve gone down over and over again and it’s the one that quite frankly, is getting tiresome. It hasn’t exactly yielded the best results so why bother continuing? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. Isn’t that what the Padres have done?