The San Diego Padres made their fourth major trade of the 2016 season on Tuesday, sending outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. to the Toronto Blue Jays with about 75 percent of his remaining salary in exchange for pitcher Hansel Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 19, joins Anderson Espinoza and Chris Paddack as young starters the Padres have acquired straight-up for big league assets in the last four weeks, though unlike the others, he will make his Padres system debut with short-season Tri-City.
“The deal for us, is kind of three-pronged,” said Padres General Manager A.J. Preller.
“We get the prospect we like in Hansel Rodriguez. We get some money flexibility that, my guess, is we’re going to be able to reallocate elsewhere, whether it’s to major league payroll, whether it’s to player acquisitions down the road. And then we get an opportunity to really let Jankowski and Dickerson go play.”
While other recent trades have led to more opportunities for players who are more stop-gaps at the big league level, Preller sees the current move as a chance to begin to evaluate the upper-minors position player depth in the system.
While much of the attention on potential promotions has focused on El Paso outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot, the club is going to remain a bit cautious with promoting both at the moment unless other things change before the trade deadline. But that’s not to say that Padres fans won’t be seeing more of a young player who could well be part of the future building process.
“When we brought up Alex the last time, we talked about how he’s been on that yo-yo back and forth and never really gotten the opportunity,” said Preller.
“And I think the biggest thing is, no matter who we end up calling up to be the next outfielder for us, I think it’s going to afford us the opportunity for the next two months to see what Jankowski and Dickerson can do, and we’ll have a little better feel what we’ve got with them.”
With Dickerson playing at the big league level, Rodriguez will join a growing pool of pitching talent at the bottom end of the organization. While MadFriars doesn’t compile a mid-season prospect list, it’s quite likely that more than a dozen pitchers currently working at Lake Elsinore or lower will appear in our top 20 post-season list.
Preller takes the same outlook.
“From High-A down to rookie ball, I think we’re starting to develop a nice group of pitching prospects – and just prospects in general,” he said. “I think the system has obviously gotten a lot better here in the last month or two.
“You need numbers, depth and quality obviously, and we’re trying to see both.”
Rodriguez received a six-figure bonus from Toronto in the 2013-14 international signing period. He bypassed the DSL and made his professional debut with the Blue Jay’s Gulf Coast League squad in 2014, struggling with command and control in a brief, 19-inning campaign.
The Dominican righty returned to the complex league for his age-18 season, settling in a bit and using his low- to mid-90s fastball effectively even as he worked to refine secondary offerings. After working in the Blue Jay’s instructional league program last fall, he has spent this season at short-season Bluefield, where he’s put together a 3.06 ERA across six starts, with 26 strikeouts against 11 walks in 32.1 innings.
“We’ve had three looks at him in the last month,” said Preller.
“We’ve had anywhere from fringe-average slider to a guy that we feel like is going to be throwing a plus slider. You see velocity on the pitch – we’ve had him in 81-85 – which is in the range that winds up being a workable slider.”