On July 31, 2000, the Padres and Cardinals swung a trade deadline deal that sent Heathcliff Slocumb and prospect Ben Johnson to San Diego in exchange for catcher Carlos Hernandez and minor league utilityman Nate Tebbs. The swap is little more than a footnote in team history, though it could’ve been a far more legendary trade had Johnson been replaced with another prospect who was on the Padres’ radar — Albert Pujols. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details the intriguing history of that would-be deal, and how the Cardinals front office had to make a decision between including Pujols (a famously unheralded 13th-round pick in the 1999 draft) or Johnson, a much more highly-touted fourth-rounder from that same draft. Pujols showed so much promise in his early pro career, however, that the team ultimately decided to move Johnson and spend more time evaluating a potential hidden gem. “I really didn’t want to give up Ben, either, but that’s why you always have your top guys scout your own system,” said Walt Jocketty, then the Cardinals’ general manager. “You have to know your own, like Pujols. There was no way we could trade him. No way, just based on what our guys had seen in a short period of time. They said, ‘I think he’s going to be something special – or has a chance to be.’ When I saw it myself, it was obvious.”
- Padres righty Dinelson Lamet could return next week, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. The 26-year-old Lamet hasn’t pitched in the majors since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2018. Lamet was then coming off his own lone season in the majors, in which he registered a 4.57 ERA/4.35 FIP with 10.94 K/9 against 4.25 BB/9 across 114 1/3 innings and 21 starts.
It was an eyebrow-raising decision when the Padres demoted Paddack a week ago, though the move quickly became understandable when it was revealed they did it to give him a breather. The 23-year-old right-hander has already pitched 65 2/3 innings this season, which comes close to the professional-high 90 frames the former Tommy John surgery recipient amassed in the minors in 2018.
One of the game’s elite prospects entering the season, Paddack has lived up to the billing thus far. He owns a 3.15 ERA/3.73 FIP with tremendous strikeout and walk rates (9.87 K/9 and 1.78 BB/9) through the first 12 starts and 65 2/3 innings of his major league career. But Paddack has stumbled somewhat since the outset of May, when his ERA sat at just 1.55, which likely played into the Padres’ decision to send him to the Single-A level on a short-term basis.
Upon Paddack’s return, he’ll rejoin a team which continues to hang around the National League’s playoff race. Winners of four in a row, the Padres are only 2 1/2 games back of the NL’s second wild-card spot at the moment.
The Padres have signed third-round pick Hudson Head, the 84th selection in this year’s draft, to a $3MM bonus, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports. That’s a colossal payday relative to Head’s slot, which came with a value of $721,900, and represents a record bonus for a third-rounder.
Head’s a high school outfielder from Texas who fell short of where the Padres picked him, according to prominent draft pundits. FanGraphs (No. 90), MLB.com (No. 122) and Baseball America (No. 128) all placed the ex-Oklahoma commit below 85th. But Head, 18, has an “advanced feel for hitting” and “could wind up with solid or better tools across the board,” Callis and Jonathan Mayo write.
The Padres entered this year’s draft with the league’s eighth-highest bonus pool, $10,758,900, which gave them room to splurge on Head. The club previously used a large portion of that money on sixth overall pick C.J. Abrams, whom it inked to a below-slot deal worth $5.2MM.
The Padres announced that they’ve designated right-handed reliever Kazuhisa Makita for assignment. His roster spot will go to lefty Logan Allen, whom the Padres have officially selected from Triple-A El Paso.
Makita lasted just one day on the Padres’ roster, as they selected him from Double-A Amarillo on Monday. Makita didn’t appear in San Diego’s win over Milwaukee then, but he did log a solid amount of action out of the Padres’ bullpen last year.
After emigrating from Japan on a two-year, $3.8MM contract heading into the 2018 season, the submarining Makita stumbled to a 5.40 ERA/4.85 FIP with a 20.2 percent groundball rate in 35 major league innings last year. Makita did record 9.51 K/9 against 3.09 BB/9 in that span, but the Padres still booted him from their 40-man roster last offseason. The 34-year-old hasn’t been lights-out this season at the Double-A level, where he has posted a 3.82 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 in 37 2/3 frames.
As part of a series of roster moves, the Padres have selected the contract of right-handed reliever Kazuhisa Makita from Double-A Amarillo. The club recalled catcher Francisco Mejia from Triple-A El Paso, optioned backstop Austin Allen and left-hander Nick Margevicius to El Paso, and transferred outfielder Franchy Cordero to the 60-day injured list in other transactions.
Additionally, Padres third baseman Manny Machado has been issued a one-game suspension “for aggressively arguing and making contact with umpire Bill Welke” in Saturday’s game in Colorado, but he will appeal, Bob Nightengale of USA Today was among those to report.
This is the first big league promotion of the season for the 34-year-old Makita, whom the Padres signed out of Japan to a two-year, $3.8MM guarantee in January 2018. The submarining Makita struggled to a 5.40 ERA/4.85 FIP last season in San Diego, in part because of a microscopic 20.2 percent groundball rate. While Makita did manage 9.51 K/9 against 3.09 BB/9, that wasn’t enough to prevent the Padres from designating him for assignment last November. Makita has since pitched to an unsightly 5.40 ERA with 9.5 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in 35 innings divided between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
The recall of Mejia may be the most interesting move here, as he’s not far removed from a run as one of the majors’ best hitting prospects. Now 24, the Padres acquired Mejia from the Indians last June for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. Mejia hasn’t done much in the majors, though, which led the Padres to demote him to El Paso on June 1. But the Padres want more offense from behind the plate – something the light-hitting Allen and Austin Hedges haven’t provided – which explains their decision to bring the gifted Mejia back to the majors.
Machado, the Padres’ highest-profile player, may sit a game stemming from an ejection Saturday. He slammed his helmet to the ground and fired his bat against the backstop amid a heated argument with Welke.
Acquired as part of the 2015 Craig Kimbrel deal, Allen has steadily climbed the prospect charts over the past several seasons. The former eighth-round pick, now 22 years of age, cracked most top-100 charts entering the current campaign.
Allen hasn’t exactly been at his most impressive in 2019, though the offensively robust PCL surely hasn’t helped his stat sheet. Through 57 2/3 innings, he carries a 5.15 ERA with 63 strikeout sand 22 walks.
This continues the Padres’ season-long strategy of rotating up young arms to the MLB roster. That approach hasn’t led to much in the way of stable starting pitching, though it has allowed the team preserve its talent base while trying to compete. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results have been uneven.
The Padres may be readying to listen on most of their position players, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be anxious to move their most appealing pitching assets. Indeed, the San Diego organization would require “an overwhelming offer” in order to part with emergent relief ace Kirby Yates, per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell.
It’s hardly surprising to hear this stance emerge at this stage of the proceedings. The Friars are still hanging in the Wild Card picture, for one thing. Even if it has mostly resolved to deal, there’s little reason for the organization to enter a period of negotiation by hanging an OBO on one of its best trade pieces.
The Padres’ leverage here is aided by the fact that Yates isn’t an asset that must be cashed in just yet. He’s earning only $3,062,000 this year and has another season of arb control remaining. Even if the Padres decide to move him, it doesn’t have to happen in the next six weeks.
San Diego GM A.J. Preller has dealt with a situation like this in the past, with interesting results. The Friars held onto Brad Hand at the 2017 deadline, when he was among the top trade candidates, then locked him into a high-value extension. The club ultimately spun Hand off via trade in the ensuing summer. The situation isn’t quite on all fours with this one. Hand was a season further from free agency than Yates will be this winter; the Pads are also closer to dedicated contention than they were at that time. Regardless, the takeaway is that there are options here beyond a summer trade.
Yates has been every bit as impressive as Hand from an on-field perspective. Much like his former teammate, Yates took some time to find his way. But he has not stopped improving since landing in San Diego. The 32-year-old currently owns an absurd 0.96 ERA with 15.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 28 innings. Yates has yet to allow a home run this season.
At some point, someone will put the ball over the fence against Yates. Perhaps there’s a bit of regression coming. On the other hand, Statcast actually feels he has been a bit unfortunate to post a .216 wOBA, crediting him with a ridiculous .210 xwOBA based upon the quality (or lack thereof) of contact against him.
With a cheap salary and remaining arb control, Yates would be a monster trade chip for the Padres. It’s hard to imagine that Preller won’t at least see what he can get. And he’ll surely be realistic about the team’s chances of even making a spirited Wild Card run. At the same time, the organization has already proven it’ll push some chips toward the present with major free agent signings and the Opening Day promotion of Fernando Tatis. It’s possible to imagine a number of different plausible outcomes when it comes to Yates and the Padres.
Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe has come up in trade rumors this week, and the club is indeed willing to deal the 27-year-old slugger, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. However, Renfroe’s not the only Padre who could end up on the move before the July 31 trade deadline. The team’s willing to give up “virtually” any of its position players except for shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., third baseman Manny Machado and first baseman Eric Hosmer, according to Acee.
The Padres’ goal in dealing from its current position player cast would be to upgrade offensively at two spots – catcher and center field – and add “young arms,” per Acee. Their desire to pick up controllable pitching has long been known, though it’s interesting they want a better offensive backstop.
Major leaguers Austin Hedges and Austin Allen haven’t hit, but Triple-A catcher Francisco Mejia rode his potential at the plate into high rankings on prospect lists not long ago. As recently as last summer, when the Padres acquired Mejia from the Indians for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, Keith Law of ESPN regarded Mejia as one of the game’s top five farmhands. While Mejia has struggled mightily in the majors since then, he’s still just 23 and has tallied a mere 134 plate appearances in the bigs. It’s unclear from Acee’s report whether the Padres would be open to parting with Mejia, who has raked since they optioned him to the minors last month, or if they just don’t think he’s ready to make an offensive impact at the game’s highest level yet.
The 26-year-old Hedges has made an MLB impact, meanwhile, but almost solely behind the plate. Hedges rates as an elite defender, and though he was a respectable offensive player just last season, he otherwise hasn’t hit much since his 2015 debut.
Likewise, center fielder Manuel Margot has seldom hit since the Padres first promoted him in 2015. There has been talk of San Diego demoting him to the minors to help alleviate its outfield logjam. But as a 24-year-old speedster who has excelled in the field and won’t reach arbitration until the offseason, he’d likely draw interest on the trade market.
Perhaps aside from Renfroe, right fielder Franmil Reyes stands out as the Padres’ most valuable trade chip among position players. They offer similar offensive skill sets, and Renfroe’s a much better defender, though Reyes is three-plus years younger. Set to turn 24 in July, Reyes has slashed .263/.320/.520 (123 wRC+) with 35 home runs in 516 PA since he first came up last season. Further increasing Reyes’ appeal, he’s earning a minimal salary and isn’t scheduled to reach arbitration until after the 2021 season.
If the Padres keep Renfroe and Reyes, perhaps they’d consider trading fellow corner outfielder Josh Naylor. The 21-year-old Naylor hasn’t gotten off to a strong start since the Padres promoted him May 24, but he’s a top 100 prospect or close to it. Franchy Cordero, yet another of their young corner outfielders, seems likely to stay put when considering his recent injury issues. Cordero, 24, has missed most of the past season-plus with right elbow issues, and he suffered a mild quad injury while rehabbing this week.
As for the rest of San Diego’s roster, outfielder Wil Myers and second baseman Ian Kinsler jump to the fore as players the team would probably like to move. The trade value is minimal in both cases, though.
Myers, 28, hasn’t lived up to the six-year, $83MM contract the Padres gave him in January 2017. They backloaded the deal, meaning he’s owed almost $63MM through 2022 (including a $1MM buyout in ’23). Although Myers was a 30-home run hitter as recently as 2017, he’s still just a .242/.324/.450 batter (106 wRC+) dating back to then.
Kinsler, 36, joined the Padres on a two-year, $8MM contract in the offseason. While Kinsler has long been a quality major leaguer, the Padres haven’t gotten much return on their investment so far. Kinsler has hit .204/.264/.387 (72 wRC+) with minus-0.3 fWAR in 201 PA., though he has fared much better following an ice-cold April (.262/.309/.505 since May 1). Regardless of whether the Padres find a taker for Kinsler, it seems like only a matter of time before he loses his starting spot to standout prospect Luis Urias.
After a surprisingly competitive start to the season, San Diego has begun fading from the National League playoff race. Losers of five straight, the Padres sit 33-36 and 5 1/2 games out of wild-card position. However, with the talent already on hand and the high-potential players baking in the minors, the club may not be far away from contending on an annual basis. It seems general manager A.J. Preller will operate aggressively over the next month-plus in an effort to better position his roster to accomplish that. With that in mind, the Padres should be a compelling team to watch leading up to the deadline.
In a move that’ll come as a surprise to many, the Padres announced that they have optioned right-hander Chris Paddack to Class-A Lake Elsinore. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported the move (via Twitter), noting that the Friars are looking for ways to manage Paddack’s workload after he threw just 90 innings in 2018 — his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
Dennis Lin of The Athletic tweets that Paddack isn’t expected to be in the minors long. Assuming he’s back up in fewer than 20 days, the move won’t impact Paddack’s timeline to free agency, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune points out (Twitter links). Acee adds that Paddack is going down merely to rest and is expected to return in 10 days or so (the minimum required length of an optional assignment, barring recall in the event of an injury).
While workload surely was surely the driving force in the decision, Paddack has also fallen into somewhat of a slump after his brilliant start to his rookie campaign. In the past month, the 23-year-old has pitched to a 5.76 ERA with 30 hits and eight home runs allowed in 25 innings. He’s still sporting a stellar 26-to-3 K/BB ratio in that time, but the long ball has been problematic of late.
Paddack’s 65 2/3 innings are already within striking distance of last year’s total, so the brief trip to the minors will give him some downtime without forcing the Padres to carry a pitcher they’re trying to deploy minimally for a week or two. Right-hander Robert Stock is up from Triple-A to take his spot on the active roster and will give the Padres a fresh arm in the bullpen. He’s pitched to a 2.79 ERA in 19 1/3 Triple-A innings and collected 27 strikeouts in that time — albeit against 15 walks and three hit batters.