February 2011

Offseason In Review: San Diego Padres

The Padres are next in our Offseason In Review series.

Major League/International Signings

Notable Minor League Signings


Trades and Claims

Notable Losses


Despite nearly making the playoffs in 2010, the Padres cashed in their best player by sending Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox as the first baseman entered his contract year.  Like the Marlins with Dan Uggla and the Rays with Matt Garza, Padres GM Jed Hoyer built a team to win in 2011 despite a major subtraction.

I didn't expect Gonzalez to be traded this offseason, as he is coming off shoulder surgery and the Padres had some goodwill from their surprising 90 win season.  With Gonzalez set to earn just $6.3MM in 2011, the trade was not financially motivated.  Instead, Hoyer must have been bowled over by the haul of prospects offered by Boston.  The Gonzalez trade seems a tough sell to the fan base, as Hoyer could have waited to assess his team at the trade deadline or just resolved to taking two draft picks after the season – similar to what the Brewers chose to do with Prince Fielder.  In Hoyer's defense, Fielder did not have Gonzalez's trade value, and waiting to trade Gonzalez meant risking getting much less in return.

The dropoff in offensive production at first base could be surprisingly small if Hawpe and Cantu are used wisely in a platoon and perform at their 2008-09 levels.  The bar for offense at almost every other position is very low if the Padres just aim to improve on last year's 4.10 runs per game.


The Padres' relatively pricey new-look middle infield of Hudson and Bartlett should provide better performance on both sides of the ball for two years.  The Padres haven't gotten even a .325 OBP out of a middle infield spot since Mark Loretta in 2005.  The Padres have Chase Headley and Ryan Ludwick penciled into a couple of offensive-minded positions, and they're looking from big improvements from both.

Hoyer dealt from a position of strength to acquire Bartlett and Maybin, as MLBTR's Mike Axisa explained in December.  The Padres had one of few bullpens that could withstand some losses; they still have Heath Bell, Mike Adams, and Luke Gregerson to turn games into six-inning affairs, and there are positive vibes around bounceback pickup Qualls.

Qualls was just one example illustrating Hoyer's buy-low strategy this offseason.  Harang, Hawpe, Cantu, and Maybin are four other acquisitions who fell to the Padres because of down 2010 seasons.  Maybin, with the biggest upside, cost the most in Webb.  The Padres gave up five seasons of control of the hard-throwing righty. 

With the loss of Gonzalez, few will pick the Padres to win the NL West in 2011.  For Hoyer's revamped team to contend, pitching will again be key.  The Padres have a young, interesting rotation led by 23-year-old Mat Latos and still boast one of the league's top bullpens.  And as questionable as a Padres lineup without Gonzalez sounds, the offense could still top its 2010 output.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.

AL Central Notes: Dunn, Knapp, Nathan

A few tidbits of note from what may be one of the more competitive and intriguing divisions in baseball in 2011 …

  • White Sox slugger Adam Dunn suspects that his now-infamous war of words with then-Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi in 2008 hurt his value on the free-agent market that offseason, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. Dunn, of course, was traded from the Reds to the Diamondbacks in a post-deadline deal in 2008 and signed a modest two-year deal with the Nationals in the subsequent offseason. He reportedly was unwilling to be a full-time DH then, but when he hit free agency this offseason after two productive years in Washington, he had no such qualms, signing a nice four-year, $56MM deal with the South Siders.
  • Indians right-hander Jason Knapp could "rocket up" next year's prospects lists if he's healthy this year and continues to polish up his raw talents, writes Jim Callis of Baseball America. It feels like a lifetime ago that the Indians acquired Knapp from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal, and it looks like Knapp may be Cleveland's last hope of salvaging a player with big upside from that swap. As Callis notes, Knapp has logged only 40 innings since the Tribe acquired him in 2009 due to injuries, but he's still only 21.
  • Twins reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery that cost him all of 2010, will have to prove that he's his old self before he returns to closing duty, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t make any decisions until the end of spring training," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Passan. "If [Nathan] comes back and throws like he did two years ago, he’ll probably be our closer." Of course, the Twins have a nice insurance policy in Matt Capps should Nathan not be ready. The Twins acquired Capps in a midseason trade last year and avoided arbitration with him this offseason, settling on a 2011 salary of $7.15MM.

Bob Howry Retires

Right-hander Bob Howry, a 13-year veteran, has retired, writes Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

Howry's 769-appearance career (all in relief) was bookended by stints with the Chicago ballclubs. He broke in with the White Sox in 1998 and spent four-plus years there, then moving onto the Red Sox, Indians, Cubs, Giants and Diamondbacks before returning last year to the North Siders, with whom he made his final Major League appearance before being cut loose on July 30.

Howry was drafted out of McNeese State University by the Giants in the fifth round 1994. He was involved in two trades, one in which Keith Foulke, Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez were the moving parts, and another including Frank Francisco.

For his career, Howry finished up with a very solid 3.84 ERA and ratios of 7.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9.

Full Story | 10 Comments | Categories: Bob Howry

Quick Hits: Durbin, Dickerson, CBA

Newly signed Indians right-hander Chad Durbin was one of the last free agents to ink a deal, but he's not yet in uniform. More on that and a couple other items of note …

  • The Indians' deal with Durbin is not yet officially complete, likely because the Tribe needs to first free up a spot on the 40-man roster, blogs Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. Bastian speculates the deal will be announced on Tuesday. Durbin, of course, agreed to a Major League deal with Cleveland on Friday and could earn up to $1.8MM in 2011 if he reaches his incentives.
  • Indiana left fielder Alex Dickerson and his powerful bat may be scaling the first-round draft board, writes Stephen Goff of Examiner.com. Dickerson is a legitimate hitter, ESPN.com scout Keith Law told Goff, but his defense is shaky, limiting him to left field or first base, and comparisons to more athletic outfielders such as UConn's George Springer and South Carolina's Jackie Bradley Jr. won't  do his draft stock any favors. The Astros were among the many Major League clubs scouting Dickerson and others in Corpus Christi, Texas, this weekend, according to Goff. Houston has the 11th overall pick in this June's First-Year Player Draft.
  • MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner said MLB and the MLBPA had preliminary meetings about brokering a new collective bargaining agreement last week, writes Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun. Weiner expects there will be one or two formal meetings before Spring Training is over, but the sides won't really roll up their sleeves until the regular season begins.

NL West Notes: Maybin, Duke, Bichette Jr.

It's never too soon to begin looking ahead to the First-Year Player Draft. Here's more on a potential first-round pick and a couple other items of note out of the NL West …

  • Padres GM Jed Hoyer inquired several times last season with the Marlins on the availability of center fielder Cameron Maybin, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. Of course, the Padres eventually got their man in Maybin, whose memorable early-career homer off Rogers Clemens feels like a lifetime ago despite the fact that he's only 23. In acquiring Maybin, Hoyer and the Padres felt like they were getting a guy who is still younger than many minor league prospects and could have room to grow after he was perhaps rushed to the big leagues at just 20 years old. Plus, "His skill-set sets up very well for our style of play, our ballpark and our division," manager Bud Black told Brock.
  • Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers acquired Zach Duke from the Pirates in November because he thought the left-hander could benefit from a change of scenery, blogs Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. Towers added that he covets lefties and good athletes, and said that despite Duke's dip in production in 2010, "his stuff didn't really deteriorate over the last couple years." Duke, non-tendered by the Bucs prior to being dealt to Arizona, posted a 5.72 ERA in 29 starts for the Pirates in '10 but has a career ERA of 4.54.
  • The Rockies may have deja vu all over again: Dante Bichette Jr., the son of former Blake Street Bomber Dante Bichette, is a projected first-round draft pick, according to the Denver Post. Bichette Jr., projected as a third baseman in pro ball, has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Georgia, according to the Post, but if a team is willing to select him in the first round of a draft that is shaping up to be historically deep, there's always the chance he could be lured away by big money. You may remember Bichette Jr. from the 2005 Little League World Series, in which he starred for his team from Maitland, Fla. The Rockies, by the way, have the 20th pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Cashman On Pitching Market: “Nobody’s Available”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman told Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com that no matter what you've heard about Francisco Liriano or anyone else, the Yankees aren't pursuing trades for starting pitching (Twitter link). Starters may be in demand, but the Yankees say the best pitchers aren't on the trading block.

"I'm not talking to anyone about anything right now," Cashman said. "Nobody's available. Nobody of value, anyway."

Liriano definitely has value. He's making just $4.3MM next year and is under team control through 2012. Last year, the left-hander posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 191 2/3 innings. Liriano has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery to regain the form that he showed as a dominant 22-year-old rookie in 2006.

Though USA Today reported that the Yankees are watching Liriano, Twins assistant GM Rob Antony recently told Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town that the club isn't discussing trades involving Liriano.

AL East Links: Okajima, Crawford, Sisco

On this date last year, the Yankees signed Chan Ho Park. After surrendering seven homers in 35 1/3 innings of 5.60 ERA ball, the Yankees cut Park loose. He joined the Pirates for the rest of 2010 and will spend the 2011 season pitching for the Orix Buffaloes. Here's the latest from the AL East:

NL East Notes: Beltran, Cox, Vazquez

On this date five years ago, the Mets signed Pedro Feliciano, who had spent the previous season playing for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the NPB. He posted a 3.09 ERA from 2006-10, appearing in more than half of the Mets' games during that time. Feliciano and his durable left arm still play for a New York team, but he will now show up for work at Yankee Stadium. Here's the latest on the NL East…

  • Carlos Beltran says he'll move to right field to keep Angel Pagan in center. Beltran explained that Carlos Delgado and agent Scott Boras helped him make the decision, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Beltran, a free agent after the season, says he feels capable of playing center field, but wants to do what's best for the Mets.
  • ESPN.com's Jayson Stark details the transition from Bobby Cox to Fredi Gonzalez, explaining that the Braves were not looking for something "dramatically different from the previous administration." Gonzalez says the Braves model is "really not broke," so he isn't looking to make radical changes.
  • New acquisition Javier Vazquez was only throwing 88 mph yesterday, but the Marlins aren't concerned about his velocity, according to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post. Vazquez, who has consistently thrown 91-92 mph throughout his career, averaged 88.7 mph on his fastball last year.

Moore On Butler, Moustakas, Hosmer, Ka’aihue

Royals GM Dayton Moore told John Sickels of Minor League Ball that it takes time to develop prospects and turn them into major leaguers. Moore says he understands fans' concerns about the Royals' recent history of losing and shares their excitement about the players currently in the Royals' highly touted system. Here are the details:

  • Moore says players can take a few years to develop, pointing to Billy Butler. The Royals extended Butler earlier in the year because he has improved every year and they "think he's about to take that to another level."
  • Hitters take time to develop, since it's hard for them "to develop beyond their level of competition." In other words they need to face good pitching to learn to hit it. 
  • The Royals are "very optimistic" about Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, partly because the two top prospects have experienced failure.
  • Moustakas "can stick at third base, no question," according to Moore, who likes the infielder's arm and body control.
  • Hosmer and Moustakas could push Kila Ka'aihue into a reserve role, but the Royals say he's capable of more. "We think he can hit .240-.260, hit 20-25 homers, .370 OBP," Moore said. "It will be a nice problem fitting all these guys in the lineup."
  • Christian Colon, the team's top pick in 2010, "can be an Orlando Cabrera type at short, or a Placido Polanco if he moves to second," Moore said.
  • Moore says the Royals need more speed and athleticism. The GM says his ideal team would have a center fielder like Adam Jones or Torii Hunter – someone with speed, defense and power.

Mariners Close To Signing James Paxton

The Mariners are close to signing James Paxton, their fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, according to ESPN.com’s Keith Law (on Twitter). The left-hander, formerly a top prospect, would provide the Mariners with another high-ceiling arm.

The Blue Jays selected Paxton 37th overall in the first round of the 2009 draft, but didn't sign him. Paxton spent the 2010 season with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association after the NCAA ruled that he wasn’t eligible to resume his college career at the University of Kentucky. 

Though most draftees have to sign by the middle of August, the deadline doesn’t apply to college seniors or players drafted out of independent leagues.