Arbitration Eligibles: San Diego Padres

The Padres are next in our 2013 Arbitration Eligibles series.  With a dozen players, they have one of the largest arbitration groups.  Matt Swartz's salary projections are below.

In Moseley, Owings, Stauffer, and Blanks, the Padres have four arbitration eligible players who barely played in 2012 due to injury.  Moseley had April shoulder surgery and is likely to be cut loose.  Owings, who wants to focus on being a position player, had elbow surgery in July and is another likely non-tender.  

Paying Stauffer $3.2MM again would be risky given his August 31st surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his elbow.  Padres manager Bud Black told MLB.com's Corey Brock Stauffer will be "ready to go by Spring Training," but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be tendered a contract next month.  The 30-year-old had a breakout 2011 season and was ticketed for the 2012 Opening Day nod, so clearly there's talent here.  The ideal scenario for the Padres would be to non-tender Stauffer and then quickly re-sign him for less guaranteed money.  Failing that, they could tender him a contract and, if things look bleak in Spring Training, cut him then and owe about $530K.

Blanks had been ticketed for the minors, in which case he would not have been arbitration eligible, but he found his way onto the Padres' 25-man roster due to Carlos Quentin's injury.  Blanks quickly went down with season-ending shoulder surgery, but the 26-year-old is still interesting and cheap enough that the Padres wouldn't be risking much by tendering him a contract and seeing how he looks in Spring Training. 

Baker seems a capable backup catcher, and he actually caught as many games for the Padres as Yasmani Grandal and Nick Hundley this year.  Grandal is the clear starter for 2013, and Hundley might have first track at the backup job given the $7MM guaranteed to him through 2014.  The Padres still seem likely to retain Baker, so maybe Hundley will become trade bait.

Richard and Volquez emerged as the leaders of the Padres' rotation this year and are locked in for 2013. Volquez, the more explosive pitcher of the pair, will be entering his walk year and would like to remain with the club beyond 2013.  He seems to prevent home runs and hits enough to survive in Petco despite an MLB-leading walk total.  Richard might be Volquez's mirror image, with a stellar walk rate and MLB-worst hits allowed total.  I wouldn't attempt to lock up either pitcher at this point.

Relievers Thatcher and Gregerson had solid campaigns, with Gregerson picking up nine saves and 24 holds.  Thatcher will soon undergo knee surgery that could have him behind in Spring Training, but I see no reason the Padres wouldn't keep him around.  Venable did a nice job as the team's primary right fielder, especially away from Petco.  Cabrera provided value on the basepaths, and while the rest of his game is lacking, he'll be tendered a contract as an expected Super Two player.

Near the trade deadline, a Headley deal was actually considered likely, but GM Josh Byrnes wisely kept his asking price high.  The 28-year-old third baseman stayed with the Padres and went off in the season's final two months, to a point where MVP votes would be justified.  Matt Swartz has Headley, a client of Hendricks Sports, snagging nearly a $5MM raise en route to an $8.3MM salary.  Headley qualified as a Super Two player in 2010, so this will be his third time through arbitration and he'll have one more after that.

Headley's agency hasn't done many arbitration year extensions in recent years, though Byrnes is no stranger to such contracts.  Though the Padres' GM might prefer to use some 2013 data to determine whether Headley is an MVP-caliber player or more of an above-average regular, the price goes up the longer he waits.  One potential comparable is Kevin Youkilis, who signed a four-year, $41.25MM deal with the Red Sox after a breakout '08 season, also with four-plus years of service.  A more recent comp might be Alex Gordon's four-year deal, worth $50MM if he exercises a player option at the end.

Assuming Moseley, Owings, and Stauffer are non-tendered and no one signs a multiyear extension, we're estimating $27.4MM in salary for nine remaining arbitration eligible players.

Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available exclusively at MLB Trade Rumors.  To read more about his projection model, check out this series of posts.


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