Monday, December 15, 2014

The Price Of Acquiring Justin Upton

Last week, the Padres pulled off one of the biggest deals of the off-season in acquiring Matt Kemp. Despite the star-studded addition of Kemp, the Padres clearly need to do more. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has reported that the Padres are interested in acquiring outfielder Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves.

The deal would surely be a pricey one for San Diego, in both money and potentially with players and prospects. Atlanta has already dealt Jason Heyward this off-season and Upton might be next. The Braves got young, controllable pitching from St. Louis in Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Rosenthal pointed out that the cost of Upton will likely be far greater than the return that Atlanta received for Heyward.

San Diego has the trade chips to make a deal, but must also take on Upton’s salary. Upton is due $14.2 million in the final year of his contract. The Padres would likely have to push their payroll past $100 million in order to acquire Upton, which doesn’t seem too far-fetched after the Kemp deal.
Do the Padres and Braves match up in a deal? Here are a few trade scenarios that could play out between the two clubs:

Padres send SP Andrew Cashner and minor league SP Justin Hancock to Atlanta for Upton: In this scenario, the Padres essentially offer two years of Cashner for a year of Upton, plus a promising prospect.

The Padres have intimated that they want to keep Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy and Cashner together, in hopes of chasing a playoff berth. However, adding Upton, while not depleting the farm system. Cashner, 28, had a sparkling 2.55 ERA in 19 starts, but has not seemed open to a contract extension with to stay with the Padres. Cashner would give the Braves a talented arm to put at the front of their rotation.

Hancock, 24, was the Padres ninth round pick in 2011. He suffered through an injury-marred campaign in 2014, and also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Hancock produced a 4.12 ERA in Double-A last year, and could be a contributor by 2016. He has a sinker that can reach 94 MPH, but he has also had injury issues in 2014.

Padres trade SP Matt Wisler, 2B Taylor Lindsey, RP Tayron Guerrero to Atlanta for OF Justin Upton: In this scenario, the Padres give up their top prospect, pitcher Matt Wisler. Including Wisler, who is the #44 prospect in the game, according to MLB.com, would be a steep price to pay indeed.
After a rough start in Triple-A, Wisler recovered nicely, and pitched well down the stretch. Wisler features a fastball that sits between 93-95MPH, with remarkable command. Wisler has only walked 2.4 batters per nine innings in his professional career and could easily win a spot in Atlanta’s rotation.

San Diego acquired second baseman Taylor Lindsey in the Huston Street deal last July. Prior to the 2014 season, Lindsey was rated a top-100 prospect by Baseball America, but he suffered through a lackluster campaign. Lindsey produced a meager .238/306/.372 slash-line as a 22-year-old in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Lindsey is still very young, and could give the Braves some middle infield depth.
Guerrero, 23, has never pitched above High-A, but the Padres added him to the 40-man roster this off-season. Guerrero has pitched primarily out of the pen in the Padres system, and is armed with a fastball that touches 100MPH. Guerrero would be another intriguing prospect that Atlanta can add to the system.

In lieu of trading a top prospect like Wisler, the Padres could offer lesser prospects, and take on a bloated contract like Chris Johnson or B.J. Upton. That scenario seems unlikely, however.

Quite frankly, the Padres interest seems strange. Even with Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, the Padres are still short of becoming a contender. The everyday lineup still features Yonder Alonso, who was a non-tender candidate and Jedd Gyorko, who had a .280 on-base percentage. Upton would not likely be a long-term solution, as he has just one year of control.


An Upton trade would excite fans in San Diego, and perhaps the Padres have another hitter in the lineup breakout. The Padres could also recover a draft pick, which would ease the blow of trading precious prospects. Either way, the Padres have become a team to watch in the off-season, which is something one could not say before. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Padres Season In Review

Coming into the 2014 season, there were hopes that the San Diego Padres could contend for a Wild-Card berth as one of the surprise teams in the National League. Instead, the franchise endured one of the most tragic and difficult years in the history of the franchise. 

Marred by the death of two icons, the firing of their general manager, a horrid offense, and countless injuries, the Padres struggled to a 77-85 record in 2014. The 77 wins were actually an improvement from 2013, when the team limped to a 76-86 record. 
The 2014 season got off to a depressing start when beloved broadcaster Jerry Coleman died on January 5th. Coleman, who was 89 at the time of his death, was the Padres play-by-play voice for over 40 years, and also managed the team during the 1980 season.

In June, the Padres lost Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn, as he passed away from cancer at the age of 53. Nicknamed Mr. Padre, Gwynn's tragic passing sent shock waves throughout San Diego, as 30,000 fans packed Petco Park for a public memorial. 
Despite the miserable season in San Diego, some really positive things happened on the field. Here are a few things that went right in 2014: 

1. The emergence of Rene Rivera: Rivera was the best story of 2014 in San Diego. Just last year, Rivera was playing in Triple-A with the Tucson Padres, with little chance of cracking the big league roster. Then catcher Yasmani Grandal suffered a torn ACL, and the Padres needed a backup catcher. Thus, Rivera's contract was purchased from Triple-A and the rest is history. 
Rivera initially served as a backup to Nick Hundley, but received regular at-bats in 2014. Rivera rewarded the Padres with a solid .252/.319/.432 slash-line, with 11 home runs and 44 RBI's. Rivera was also praised for his ability to handle the pitching staff. Rivera has developed himself into a solid, and perhaps more importantly, an affordable option at catcher in 2015. 

2. Tyson Ross and the starting pitching: Ross was this writer's choice for breakout pitcher for 2014. The 27-year-old did not disappoint, as he established himself as the Padres ace. Ross started 31 games for San Diego, and won 12 games. He fell just shy of 200 innings and had an ERA of 2.81. Ross is under team-control for three more seasons, and it would not be surprise to see the team talk about an extension. 
Ian Kennedy quietly had a tremendous year as well. Kennedy surpassed 200 innings, and was among National League leaders with 207 strikeouts. Kennedy, who was acquired at the trade deadline last season, has one more year of team control. 

3. The Bullpen: The Padres 'pen led the National League with a 2.73 ERA, even after dealing away All-Star closer Huston Street. Joaquin Benoit filled in nicely after the deal, and Kevin Quackenbush picked up some saves in September when Benoit dealt with a sore shoulder. The Padres have only one free agent in the pen (Tim Stauffer), and the unit will have young arms like R.J. Alvarez, Leonel Campos, and perhaps Burch Smith in the mix for a job in 2015. 
While there were a few bright spots in 2014, the reality is that the Padres finished with a 77-85 record and only finished ahead of two of the worst teams in baseball. San Diego suffered through injuries, and the worst offense in baseball. Here is a list of what went wrong for the Padres:

1. Yonder Alonso: The downfall of former general manager Josh Byrnes was the trust he instilled in a few of his acquisitions. Yonder Alonso was the centerpiece of the unpopular Mat Latos deal, as Alonso's gap stroke was considered a better fit for spacious Petco Park. After a promising rookie campaign, Alonso has been prone to injuries, in addition to inconsistency at the plate. Alonso played in just 84 games (down from 155 in 2012) and produced a career-low OPS of .682. Alonso will be 28 in April, but he might have played himself out of a starting gig. 

2. Jedd Gyorko: Gyorko showed promise as a rookie, swatting 23 homers and provided the Padres with the best offensive season from a second baseman since Mark Loretta manned the keystone position. The franchise also invested heavily in the West Virginia-born slugger, as they signed him to a 5-year, $35 million extension. Gyorko hit just 10 homers and was beneath the Mendoza line for most of the year. The Padres need Gyorko to produce in 2015. 
3. Everth Cabrera: Cabrera was an All-Star in 2013, and seemingly cemented himself as a core producer for the club. Then, Cabrera's season ended abruptly after a 50-game suspension in the Biogenesis scandal. Cabrera was apologetic, made amends, and was welcomed back with open arms by the organization. Cabrera responded with a .272 OBP and a DUI arrest. Cabrera is under team-control through 2017, but the team could seek an upgrade outside the organization. 

2014 will go down as one of the most challenging years in San Diego Padres history. Tragedy, injuries, and dismal performances all around were the main story lines. The team should have some financial flexibility in the off-season, and the Padres are interested in upgrading their offense. The team will need to improve offensively if they expect to contend in 2015. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Moosethumbs: Moustakas' Late Inning Homer Gives Kansas City Game One Win Over Los Angeles

Mike Moustakas had a rough year in Kansas City. A slow start led to a demotion to Triple-A. He also hadn't homered since the end of August. However, he is a star in October.

Moustakas homered in the bottom of the 11th inning off of Angels reliever Fernando Salas, and the Kansas City won Game 1 of the Division Series, as they defeated the Los Angeles Angels, 3-2.

The game started as the Lorenzo Cain show, as the Royals centerfielder made a leaping catch at the wall in the first inning, and a diving catch in the outfield to end the second inning.

Kansas City got on the board in the third inning when Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled deep to left, driving in the aforementioned Moustakas.

The Angels bounced back in the bottom of the third, when Chris Iannetta tagged Royals starter Jason Vargas with a long homer to left to tie the game.

The Royals were able to manufacture a run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly off of the bat of Omar Infante. The RBI gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead.

The runs came off of Angels starter Jered Weaver, who pitched brilliantly, allowing just two runs, on three hits in his seven innings of work.

Once again, the Angels had an answer for Kansas City, as 2012 World Series MVP socked his eighth career postseason bomb off of Vargas to tie the score. Vargas pitched well for Kansas City, allowing just the two runs in the sixth inning.

The game turned into a game of bullpens, as neither team could manufacture a run. The Angels tried to play small-ball and bunt runners over, but they could not push across a run.

In the 11th inning, Moustakas crushed what appeared to be a changeup from Salas into the right field seats to give the Royals the lead.

Greg Holland pitched a spotless ninth, as Josh Hamilton flied out harmlessly to left field to give Kansas City a Game One win.

The Royals lead the best-of-five series, 1-0.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Royal Victory: Kansas City Outlasts Oakland In Wild Card Classic

Most experts expected a pitcher's duel between Royals ace James Shields and A's ace Jon Lester. Instead, fans were treated to a wild, dramatic finish.

Royals catcher Salvador Perez delivered with a game-winning RBI single in the 12th inning, and the Kansas City Royals outlasted the Oakland Athletics, 9-8, in the American League Wild Card game.

The Oakland A's jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first when A's designated hitter Brandon Moss slammed a James Shields changeup into the right field seats. It was the beginning of a special night for Moss, who would play a prominent role in the game.

Kansas City scored in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single off of Lester. The Royals had runners on the corners with two outs, but Billy Butler was caught too far off of first. While Butler was in a rundown, Eric Hosmer broke for home and was thrown out easily.

The Royals took the lead in the third inning on an RBI double from Lorenzo Cain and an RBI single from Eric Hosmer.

While the good vibes were flowing in Kansas City, the Oakland A's had different thoughts. The A's led off the sixth inning with a single from pesky Sam Fuld and a walk to Josh Donaldson. The Royals went to the bullpen and plucked Yordano Ventura.

Ventura served up a meatball and Brandon Moss slammed a three-run shot to center to give the A's the 5-3 advantage. Derek Norris and Coco Crisp followed with RBI singles, and the A's took a commanding 7-3 lead with their ace still on the bump. Moss finished the evening with two homers and five RBI's.

With the score 7-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Kansas City began their comeback. Alcides Escobar singled, and promptly stole second. Lorenzo Cain singled to center, driving in Escobar and Eric Hosmer followed with a walk.

The A's went to the bullpen and grabbed ace setup man, Luke Gregerson. The Royals used speedy Terrance Gore as a pinch-runner for Butler, and Gore stole 2nd immediately. Kansas City scored another run, when Gregerson through a wild pitch with Alex Gordon at the plate, scoring Hosmer. Gordon later drew a walk.

With runners at the corner's, Gregerson struck out Salvador Perez on three straight sliders and ended the inning by striking out Omar Infante.

Oakland entered the ninth with a one-run lead, and they turned to their closer, Sean Doolittle. The Royals used Josh Willingham as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth. Willingham dumped a single into right, and Kansas City was in business. The Royals brought in Jarrod Dyson to run for Willingham, and he advanced to 2nd on a bunt.

In one of the more pivotal moments of the game, Dyson stole third base, and scored on a Nori Aoki sacrifice fly. The flyout ended the inning, but not before the Royals tied up the score.

In extra innings, the A's were introduced to Royals rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan, who was pitching in college in May, mowed down the A's lineup in the 10th, which gave the hometown nine a chance to win in extras.

Eric Hosmer opened the bottom of the tenth with an infield single. After a sacrifice bunt, Doolittle was able to induce feeble grounders to end the inning.

In the 11th, Finnegan continued his brilliance, retiring the first two hitters of the inning, before allowing a single to Josh Donaldson. Brandon Moss had a chance to be a hero once more, but instead was dispatched on a strikeout to end the frame.

Once again in the bottom of the 11th, the Royals got the leadoff man on, when Omar Infante singled. After another sacrifice bunt, Alcides Escobar grounded out, and Jayson Nix struck out looking.

Finnegan returned for the 12th, and walked Josh Reddick to end the inning. Jed Lowrie sacrificed Reddick to 2nd, and the Royals brought in veteran Jason Frasor to take over for Finnegan.

After a wild pitch, A's infielder Alberto Callaspo singled to left to give the A's the 8-7 lead in the 12th inning. Frasor was able to stop the bleeding by retiring Derek Norris on a strikeout and Nick Punto on a pop-up.

The Royals had one last change in the 12th to keep the classic game going. A's reliever Dan Otero retired Lorenzo Cain on a groundout to start the inning. With one out, Eric Hosmer hit a smash deep to left-center. Both A's left fielder Johnny Gomes and center fielder Sam Fuld attempted to make leaping catches at the wall, but both failed. When the dust settled, Hosmer was at third on a one-out triple.

Royals infielder Christian Colon tied the game on an infield RBI single, and Alex Gordon followed with a pop-up into foul territory. Christian Colon got himself into scoring position by stealing second. Salvador Perez, who was hitless in his first five at-bats, roped a single down the left field line to score Colon.

After over four hours, the Royals won the first playoff game in Kauffman Stadium since 1985. Kansas City used a barrage of timely hitting, seven stolen bases, and small ball to advance in the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals will battle the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Awful Padres Trade No One Talks About

Do you remember the last time the Padres were buyers at the trade deadline? If not, it is a completely forgivable offense, since it was in 2010. Back then, the Padres had Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup and Mat Latos in the rotation. David Eckstein was the scrappy veteran second baseman and Tony Gwynn Jr. was patrolling center field.

Those scrappy Padres had a paltry payroll of $37 million, but were the best team in the National League for most of the season. Those 2010 Padres, much like today's current squad, were desperate for offense. They pulled off a couple of deals to boost an anemic offense.

First, they traded highly regarded pitching prospect Wynn Pelzer to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for shortstop Miguel Tejada. Pelzer was the Padres #7 prospect at the time of the trade (according to Baseball America) and was projected to be the Padres closer of the future.

The next day the Padres shipped out minor league pitchers Nick Greenwood and Corey Kluber in a three-team deal. The Padres received power-hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick in return. Jake Westbrook ended up in St. Louis. Oh, and yes, that Corey Kluber ended up in Cleveland.

Ludwick did next to nothing in San Diego, as the team missed the playoffs in 2010, in part because of a 10-game losing streak towards the end of the year. Naturally, the Padres were awful in 2011, and Ludwick was moved to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

At the time of the trade, Kluber was not considered a top prospect. He was the Padres fourth round pick in 2007, taken in the same draft as Cory Luebke and the aforementioned Pelzer. Kluber was merely a guy in the Padres system.

In Kluber's first full season of pro ball, he threw 141.1 innings, pitching to a 4.90 ERA in Single-A, doing work for both the Storm and Tincaps. He did show the ability to miss bats, but not the ability to impress the scouting brass of the Padres system.

In 2010, when Kluber was traded, he was throwing very well for Double-A San Antonio. He had a 6-6 record, with a 3.45 ERA. After the trade, Kluber advanced to Triple-A with Cleveland, but didn't show the type of abilities to believe the Padres made a terrible move.

Then, as an article in Sports Illustrated chronicled, Kluber stopped throwing his four-seam fastball. Kluber had difficulty locating the pitch, and his results suffered because of his lack of command. Kluber had the ability to command his two-seamer, and it danced all over the strike zone. His ability to command his nasty sinker led to his rise to stardom.

This year, Kluber might be the best pitcher in baseball, not named Clayton Kershaw. Kluber leads the American League in strikeouts, is 2nd in innings and wins. Kluber might be the leading candidate for Cy Young Award in the American League. Perhaps it was a tweak to have Kluber throw his two-seamer more often. Maybe the Indians coaching staff was able to make adjustments to Kluber's delivery that allowed him to maximize his abilities.

From the Padres perspective, the team traded a decent pitching prospect for a bat they thought would protect star slugger Adrian Gonzalez in a pennant race. It didn't work out.

The trade has left Friar fans to dream of a rotation of Cashner, Kluber, Ross and Kennedy. One could argue that that pitching staff might be one of the finest in baseball. Even with the anemic offense the Padres feature, the team would likely be more competitive and fun to watch.

For what it is worth, Pelzer never pitched in the bug leagues, and played the 2014 season in the independent Atlantic League with the Camden Riversharks. Nick Greenwood, the other pitcher the Padres traded, has reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jake Westbrook has retired, Ludwick is in Cincinnati. The Indians won this deal quite handily.

That is the beauty of baseball. Sometimes you never know those prospects you give up in trades. Sometimes you trade a Wynn Pelzer. Other times its a Corey Kluber. The Indians scouting department and minor league coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for developing Kluber into the beast he is today.

Many Padres fans always remember the awful trades the team has made over the years. Moving Adrian Gonzalez, Roberto Alomar, Jake Peavy and Fred McGriff among many others. I loathe the day that a young, nasty, controllable ace like Corey Kluber was dealt away for an unproductive outfielder. It is indeed, the awful trade no one talks about.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Runday: Padres Offense Breaks Out To Sweep San Francisco

The San Diego Padres are not going to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, but that doesn't mean that they can't interfere with the postseason plans of the San Francisco Giants. The Padres offense produced timely hits and Ian Kennedy pitched brilliantly, as the San Diego Padres defeated the San Francisco Giants, 8-2 on Sunday afternoon. The win gave San Diego a three-game sweep in the weekend series.

The game started as a pitcher's deal as Padres starter Ian Kennedy set down the first nine Giant batters in order, before Buster Posey had an infield single in the fourth inning. Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong was equally as brilliant, as he didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, a Seth Smith double. The double was Smith's 30th of the season.

After the Smith double, Rene Rivera followed with a single to left, to give San Diego runners on the corners with no one out. The Padres scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by Alexi Amarista. Vogelsong was able to get out of the fifth without further damage.

The sixth inning was much different for Vogelsong, as he was done in by small ball. Yangervis Solarte led off the inning with a single, and Will Venable singled as well. Jedd Gyorko reached on a Pablo Sandoval error, to give the Padres a prime scoring opportunity. Yasmani delivered with a sacrifice fly, and the Padres took a 2-0 lead.

San Diego broke the game open when Cameron Maybin delivered a clutch two-out single to center that scored Jedd Gyorko and Seth Smith to give the Friars a 5-0 lead.

The offensive outburst was more than enough for Ian Kennedy, as he held the Giants at bay for most of the afternoon. Ian Kennedy pitched six shutout innings, before allowing a two-run home run to Chris Dominguez, the first of his Major League career. Kennedy got his 12th win on the season, as he allowed just two runs in 6.2 innings.

The San Diego Padres will open up their final home series of the year against the Colorado Rockies on Monday night.

Is Yasmani Tomas A Possibility For San Diego?-

The free agent market this season will be very light in the power hitter department. Hanley Ramirez is the most accomplished power threat, however, Cuban-born Yasmani Tomas is the biggest X-factor in the free agent market.

Tomas is prolific power hitter in his native Cuba, and has played five seasons in the Serie Nacional professional league, despite being just 23. His youth and power potential will make him the one of the most sought after free agents, despite the fact he has never played a game in the United States.

Rusney Castillo, the most recent Cuban defector signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Boston Red Sox last month. While Castillo is 27, and viewed as more of a finished product than the raw, but powerful Tomas. Some experts have predicted that Tomas' contract could surpass the massive commitment that Castillo obtained.

When a player with Tomas' ability and potential hits the market, one would expect the usual suspects to be involved in negotiations. According to Peter Gammons, that prediction is correct. The New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers are all considered to be early front-runners for the powerful Cuban. However, according to the same article, Gammons mentioned that the San Diego Padres are interested as well. Those San Diego Padres?

The Padres are typically not a team that is involved in any big-name free agent contracts. The Padres signed reclamation project Josh Johnson and reliever Joaquin Benoit to free agent deals totaling $23.5 million last season.