OverviewDuring the off-season, San Diego Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller went out and acquired a brand-new outfield in Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton. The problem was that he still had two incumbent outfielders in Carlos Quentin, 32, and Cameron Maybin, 28, both of whom had a history of injuries and significant contracts (Quentin, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, was owed $8 million for this season and San Diego was on the hook for $7 million for this season for Maybin with an additional $18 million for the next two years).
But as he did in late December - A.J. does enjoy the holiday times - he struck on Easter Sunday sending both Quentin and Maybin to the Atlanta Braves along with two promising prospects: RHP Matt Wisler, OF Jordan Paroubeck and the 2015 Competitive Balance Pick (#41) for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and CF Melvin Upton Jr. (the artist formerly know as “B.J.”).
Essentially, from a Padres’ perspective, this trade boils down to two concepts: sunk costs and getting better for 2015. If you stick to that metric, San Diego did get better in that the $14.45 million that will be spent on Upton and $9 million on Kimbrel will help the team far more than $15 million that was sunk into Maybin, who -- if he was on the roster -- was a fifth outfielder, and Quentin, who didn’t really have a position or a roster spot.
If I were Joaquin Benoit, who is owed $8 million for 2015 and $8 million for 2016 if he finishes 55 games (if not a $1.5 million buyout), I wouldn’t be purchasing real estate any time soon in San Diego. If Preller can move Benoit, who had a good year in San Diego in a market with not a lot of closers, for minor league prospects, he can make the transaction revenue neutral for this season.
The negatives in the trade are that Upton, 30, the second overall pick in the draft in 2002, has always been a player whose tools have greatly surpassed his performance and in the past two years he has posted batting averages of .184 and .208 – and, oh yeah, and San Diego owes him $32 million dollars over the next two years.
Kimbrel, 26, who may be the best closer in baseball, is owed $25 million over the next two years and if the team is contending as expected, that is not a bad contract.
The Padres also gave up two very good prospects, both of whom were in this year’s MadFriar’s Top 20 Padres’ prospects. Matt Wisler, 22, was the Padres’ top prospect for 2015, a position he also held in 2014 and was slated to open the year with Triple-A El Paso. On a team less loaded in its major league starting pitching staff, he may have opened the year in the big leagues. He will probably get more of an opportunity in Atlanta.
Paroubeck, 20, was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft by former Padres’ Scouting Director Chad MacDonald, who in now a Special Assistant to Braves General Manager John Hart. Injuries have limited the switch-hitter to only 34 minor league games but he did look healthy in the spring and seemed ticketed for Low-A Fort Wayne. He was ranked as the Padres #15 prospect.
As stated above, this trade does make San Diego better for 2015. No question. If he is able to move Benoit without adding salary, A.J. will continue to be seen as a “Rock Star GM” and it’s a win at least for this year.
However, giving up either your top prospect, or one of your best, in Wisler to take on Melvin Upton’s contract may have been a little steep. On the positive side, Upton is coming to San Diego with a lot less pressure on him and maybe they can straighten out a truly complex and perplexing swing. At a minimum, he is at least the equal of Maybin defensively and can play all three outfield positions. It’s better to have one sunk cost than two occupying roster slots.
Once we get the money issues out of the way, and look at it from a baseball perspective, Preller traded a pitcher with the potential to be a number three or four starting pitcher in Wisler for the best closer in the game in Kimbrel. In five years, Kimbrel has thrown 289 innings and struck out 476 batters for a 1.43 ERA. Whatever someone may or may not think of the save statistic, Kimbrel has 186 with only 19 blown saves.
I’ve always liked Matt Wisler, but I will take that deal any day of the week.