In his column today on the molasses-slow free agent market, Bob Nightengale of USA Today drops a few nuggets of information. The Padres’ offer to free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer would promise him seven years, says Nightengale. Meanwhile, top open-market slugger J.D. Martinez is sitting on a five-year offer from the Red Sox. In other chatter, Nightengale suggests the Cubs could be willing to go as high as $110MM over four years to bring back Jake Arrieta. Of course, the teams and players just cited have likely known one another’s positions for some time now, and these stalemates have yet to be resolved. These details also fall in line with what has been reported previously about the respective situations, though they are surely interesting data points as we seek to divine when and how the free agent dam will finally break.
The Padres are in a fairly flexible spot this offseason, as the team entered the winter with fairly low payroll obligations for the 2018 season and a long-term balance sheet that features just one notable commitment. While nobody really expects the team to contend in the coming season, its pursuit of Eric Hosmer shows that the organization would like to begin building toward MLB competitiveness.
On the whole, there’s no real reason to think the Padres need to trade any particular player. But the organization has one fairly obvious, high-end trade candidate and it also seems reasonaby likely that at least one veteran infielder will end up hitting the road.
Click here to view the previous entries in this series.
Chase Headley, 3B ($13MM in 2018): The Friars brought back their former star in a deal that was designed mostly to acquire righty Bryan Mitchell, who’ll compete for a rotation spot. Now, it seems likely that Headley will be dangled as a means of trimming some salary. Entering his age-34 season, Headley profiles as a solid average player who could hold down the fort for a year in the right circumstances. But his overall output with the bat has been average or worse over the past four seasons, so despite the limited contractual commitment, it seems likely the Padres will have to keep some of the salary if he ends up on the move.
Two Years of Control
Brad Hand, RP (projected $3.8MM arbitration salary; arb-eligible thru 2019): This is the one player who stands out as a premium veteran trade asset. With Orioles lefty Zach Britton suffering an offseason injury, and a busy market for free agent relievers, Hand stands out as a highly valuable asset. He has retired more than 11 batters per nine via strikeout in each of the past two seasons and upped his output in 2017, when he ran a 2.16 ERA over 79 1/3 innings and stepped seamlessly into the closer’s role. It’s arguable the Pads ought to cash in on Hand in the near term, rather than risking any injury or performance decline, though we haven’t heard much chatter surrounding him so far this winter.
Carter Capps, RP (projected $1.3MM arbitration salary; arb-eligible thru 2019): It was an open question whether the Padres would tender Capps a contract at all following his tepid return from Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old managed just seven strikeouts and allowed nine earned runs in his 12 1/3 innings in 2017, while showing a whopping 5+ mph drop in his average fastball velocity and carrying only a 7.8% whiff rate. But the Padres evidently feel that Capps can still build himself back into being a quality reliever, and it’s certainly worth bearing in mind just how dominant he had become before the elbow injury. It seems unlikely he’ll be moved, but it’s certainly possible a roster need could push him out or that another organization may put a slightly higher value on his upside.
Clayton Richard, SP/RP ($6MM through 2019): The southpaw just inked an extension at the tail end of the 2017 campaign, so it’s quite unlikely the Pads would turn around and deal him before the start of the coming season. Instead, the 34-year-old is likely to hold down a rotation spot and perhaps eventually slide into a swingman role as situations dictate.
Yangervis Solarte, INF ($5.5MM through 2018, including buyout of 2019-20 club options): If the Friars don’t trade Headley, it may be because they find a better deal that involves Solarte. A solid switch-hitting option who can handle third base, second base, and even a bit of time at short, Solarte would fit on a lot of rosters around the game. The flexibility in his contract boosts his value, though surely other organizations won’t be offering up top talent for a player who is coming off of a personal-worst .255/.314/.416 season at the plate.
Wil Myers, 1B ($78.5MM through 2022, including buyout of club option for 2023): There’s no indication that the Padres have interest in shopping Myers, who had a less-than-inspiring first season under his new contract. Rather, it seems the club is weighing a move for free agent Eric Hosmer, which would bump Myers into a corner outfield spot. But Myers does carry the team’s only large, long-term contract, so he certainly merits mention.
Cory Spangenberg, UTIL (projected $2.0MM arbitration salary; arb-eligible thru 2020): In his most extensive MLB action, a 486 plate appearance run in 2017, Spangenberg turned in a .264/.322/.401 batting line with 13 home runs and 11 steals. That’s a handy batting line for a player who rated as an outstanding overall baserunner and can play just about anywhere on the field. Then again, the output was still below the league average and there are limits to Spangenberg’s defensive function; he graded poorly at third last year and isn’t really an option at short or in center. All told, though, he’s a useful asset who’d draw interest if dangled.
Kirby Yates, RP (projected $1.1MM arbitration salary; arb-eligible thru 2020): Though he’ll turn 31 before the start of the 2018 season and has not really thrived in prior attempts at the majors, Yates is an interesting player after a strong 2017 season. Home runs marred his balance sheet in the end, but it’s hard to ignore his 14.0 K/9 strikeout rate and robust 17.3% swinging-strike rate. Odds are the Padres will keep Yates and hope he can produce the results to match those promising peripherals, but his name could also come up in trade talks.
Matt Szczur, OF (projected $800K arbitration salary; arb-eligible thru 2021): It’s hard to imagine teams lining up for a player who seemingly profiles at best as a solid, right-handed-hitting fourth outfielder. But Szczur did produce at a roughly league-average rate over 237 plate appearances in 2017, most of which came after he moved to the Friars from the Cubs in the middle of the season. Most impressively, Szczur maintained a 14.3% walk rate over the season. He’s also still affordable as a Super Two.
Austin Hedges, C (pre-arb): In all likelihood, the 25-year-old Hedges is going to continue to take the bulk of the time behind the dish for the Padres in 2018 and beyond. But there’s some uncertainty in his outlook after a marginal .214/.262/.398 output with the bat in 2017, even if he did swat 18 long balls. It’s important to bear in mind that Hedges is considered a high-quality defender; indeed, he was one of the game’s highest-rated pitch framers in his first full season as a big leaguer. There may not be a ton of offensive upside, but the Padres have good reason to continue to allow Hedges to develop as a hitter while he gives a boost to the organization’s pitching staff.
Of course, the Padres have a variety of other younger players around who could conceivably also be traded. To take a few examples, it isn’t impossible to imagine deals involving outfielder Hunter Renfroe, starter Luis Perdomo, or reliever Phil Maton. But those and others don’t seem particularly likely to be targeted by contending organizations weighing win-now moves, so we needn’t consider them in detail. We’re also going to go ahead and assume that the team intends to utilize the just-acquired Freddy Galvis at shortstop, so there’s no real cause to weigh his trade candidacy.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Some minor moves from around baseball…
- The Padres released right-hander Jake Smith earlier this month, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. Originally a 48th-round pick for the Giants in the 2011 draft, Smith has a 3.23 ERA, 11.9 K/9 and 2.86 K/BB rate over 253 2/3 minor league innings, working as a reliever in all but five of his 186 career appearances. He managed just 26 2/3 IP in 2017, however, with injuries limiting his time on the field. Smith’s only MLB experience consists of four innings for San Diego in 2016.
SATURDAY: Young’s incentives begin at five games started and 30 innings pitched, and they can max out at approximately 30 starts and 120 innings, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation (Twitter link).
FRIDAY, 8:58pm: Young can earn a $1MM base salary if he makes the team, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. The deal also includes as much as $6MM in potential incentives, with games started and innings pitched providing the standard.
6:50pm: The Padres are adding another former starter on a minors deal after striking agreement with Chris Young, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Twitter). The 38-year-old will join a Spring Training rotation battle that now also includes Tyson Ross.
Young, 38, opened the 2017 campaign with the Royals but was released in late June. He has rested up since, with reports indicating that he intended to ramp back up for another attempt at what would be his 14th MLB campaign.
At this point, it’s difficult to expect much out of Young, who stumbled to a 6.52 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in 118 2/3 frames in the majors since the start of 2016. Interestingly, that slippage has occurred even with Young sporting a swinging-strike rate of over 11% — levels he had maintained over a full season only once in his career — by drastically increasing his slider usage. Then again, he has also been touched for 2.7 home runs per nine over the past two seasons.
Perhaps, though, Young can still find a way to be effective, particularly after a lengthy layoff. Before boosting his whiff rate, he had actually managed two consecutive seasons with excellent results. In 288 1/3 frames between 2014 and 2015, he worked to a 3.40 ERA. And he has continued to post above-average infield fly rates even as the other tinkering has left him prone to the long ball.
- Padres GM A.J. Preller tells Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune and Baseball America that he’d had his eye on right-hander Bryan Mitchell for quite some time before finally acquiring him from the Yankees earlier this month. “He’s a guy who our scouting group had talked about a lot the last three years,” says Preller. “He has big fastball velocity, and he’s got a really good breaking pitch in there, too.” Preller goes on to state that the upside with Mitchell was more intriguing to the Friars than most of the free-agent market. Manager Andy Green, meanwhile, notes that the Padres feel they’ll be able to give him a more consistent role (presumably in the rotation), which could help the 26-year-old tap into his potential.
The Padres have aggressively pursued free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer this offseason, but with the team not ready to contend, the organization is split on whether it would be wise to sign him, Buster Olney of ESPN reports. As of the Winter Meetings, the Padres “were prepared to invest” roughly six years and $120MM in Hosmer, according to executives who spoke with Olney. That would easily surpass Wil Myers’ six-year, $83MM pact as the largest in Padres history, though it would be a questionable investment for a team that could take at least a couple more seasons to return to the playoffs. By then, Hosmer (currently 28) may be out of his prime.
- The Orioles announced minor league pacts with lefties Jayson Aquino and Andrew Faulkner, right-hander Tim Melville and first baseman Aderlin Rodriguez. Aquino, Faulkner and Rodriguez will be returning to the organization, while Melville will be joining the team for the first time. The 25-year-old Aquino has tossed 15 2/3 innings with the O’s over the past two seasons but struggled to a 6.32 ERA in that time. He does have a 4.02 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in parts of two Triple-A seasons. Faulkner, 25, logged a 2.79 ERA in 38 1/3 Triple-A innings with 8.1 K/9 last season but also averaged 5.6 walks per nine innings. Rodriguez, meanwhile, hit .279/.341/.471 with 22 homers in Double-A this past season, albeit at the age of 25 (older than much of the competition he was facing). The 28-year-old Melville has just 14 2/3 MLB innings on his resume and has been hit hard in that time. However, he also logged a 2.95 ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 in 12 starts (13 total appearances) with the Triple-A affiliates for the Twins and Padres last year.
- Outfielder Shane Peterson has landed with the Padres on a minor league pact, as per the team’s Triple-A broadcaster, Tim Hagerty (on Twitter). A career .254/.319/.359 hitter in 322 MLB plate appearances, Peterson brings an excellent .296/.374/.474 career Triple-A slash to the Padres organization. He’ll turn 30 in February and can handle any outfield spot
- While the Blue Jays have been quiet thus far, Heyman says they could be lurking on a few interesting names. In the outfield, J.D. Martinez is a legitimate target, he says, as are Carlos Gonzalez and Lorenzo Cain. The club is also considering quality utility options such as Eduardo Nunez and Howie Kendrick. Meanwhile, Toronto has reached out to the Padres on Brad Hand, who’s a highly valuable relief asset. It remains to be seen whether the Jays will be willing to pony up a lot of cash or prospect assets to make a significant win-now move, but it’s notable that the team is at least exploring some notable possibilities.
The Padres announced today that right-hander Jose Ruiz has been claimed off waivers by the White Sox. San Diego had designated the hard-throwing Ruiz for assignment last week to clear a roster spot for trade acquisition Freddy Galvis.
Ruiz, 23, made the jump from Class-A Advanced to the Majors this season, though he only threw a single inning at the big league level. Ruiz worked as a catcher for the bulk of his pro career with the Padres but began transitioning to the mound in 2016 after batting just .203/.239/.249 in his career as a hitter. He tossed a career-high 49 2/3 innings in 2017 with the Padres’ Class-A Advanced affiliate, struggling to a 5.98 ERA in that time.
Ruiz, however, sat at 95.3 mph with his heater in his lone MLB appearance this past season and averaged 8.2 K/9 in his first full season as a pitcher in the minors. He also averaged 4.5 BB/9, though, and posted a low 32.5 percent ground-ball rate, which contributed to some trouble in keeping the ball in the park (1.27 HR/9). He’s tossed 16 innings in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason, posting a 3.94 ERA with a 12-to-6 K/BB ratio, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
Legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg, the 2015 Ford C. Frick Award winner and an icon in the broadcasting industry, has passed away at the age of 82, according to Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union Tribune. Enberg’s wife, Barbara, tells Miller that the family believes he suffered a heart attack.
Enberg’s career in broadcasting spanned well beyond the world of baseball, as he spent six decades also calling NCAA basketball, the NFL, professional tennis, the PGA and the Olympics, among other sporting events. That versatility brought Enberg’s iconic voice into the homes of millions of sports fans, from his humble beginnings calling Indiana Hoosiers football and basketball in the 1950s to the seven seasons he spent as one of the voices of MLB’s San Diego Padres from 2010-16.
Along the way, Enberg was honored not only by the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford C. Frick Award, but also by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, who named him the recipient of their respective Pete Rozelle Award (1999) and Curt Gowdy Award (1995).
“We are immensely saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg,” the Padres said in a statement issued by chairman Ron Fowler and managing partner Peter Seidler. “Dick was an institution in the industry for 60 years and we were lucky enough to have his iconic voice behind the microphone for Padres games for nearly a decade. On behalf of our entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to his wife, Barbara, and the entire Enberg family.”
Enberg’s signature “Oh, my!” call was a familiar refrain for multiple generations of sports fans across the country, and the impact that he had on the sportscasting industry is immeasurable. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Enberg, as well as the countless fans whose lives were bettered by his passion, insight and joy over the years.