I started a website, Bullpen Banter, with a few buddies from Minorleagueball.com, an SBN affiliate. We had a round table chat about the Padres and thought we should share it with you and get your feed back. We think there is some good content here. Enjoy.
JD Sussman: New GM Jed Hoyer, former Red Sox Assistant General Manager, had an interesting path to becoming a general manager of a baseball team. After his college baseball career, he worked in the admissions office at his alma mater, Wesleyan University then heading to Kenyon College before moving to the Red Sox front office. Hoyer was sought after by many teams after he was in the "Gang of Four" who took control of the Red Sox after Theo took his leave of absence.
The Padres are easily the least talented team in the West. In 2009, the team was 98 runs below average, the second worst offense in baseball (wRC places them at 3rd worst if you are concerned with Park Factors. I'm most intrigued by two stories lines, one is obviously the Adrian Gonzalez trade saga, the other, is how Kyle Blanks fairs in his first full season.
Michael Herrick: I like quite a few of the individual pieces on this team, but they're still a few years away from being able to really compete in the tough NL West. They have one of the best hitters in baseball in Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup but it's inevitable he will be gone within a year and a half. Chase Headley and Kyle Blanks are two guys who could be in the heart of the order for the next few years, eventually they will comprise the corner infield spots with Headley moving to 3B this year and Blanks playing in the OF until 1B opens up with a AGon trade. Everth Cabrera was a pleasant surprise last year at SS, hopefully he can build on that. Will Venable and Aaron Cunningham are two outfielders I like quite a bit and I hope they get a shot at real playing time this year or next.
A healthy Chris Young will be a big help for the pitching staff. Kevin Corriea pitched well last year but I think we'll see some regression from him in 2010. Jon Garland could have a good year pitching half his games in Petco, it works well for his flyball tendencies. Mat Latos and Clayton Richard are two good young arms at the back of the rotation though Latos has front of the rotation potential. There are some other intriguing arms here in Sean Gallagher and Wade LeBlanc, I wouldn't be surprised to see Young shipped out if he's healthy giving one of these guys a shot(or if he ends up hurt again).
The bullpen is solid and is something the Padres always seem to build well. Relievers are such a fickle bunch anyway, I really like the way teams like the Padres and A's build their pens cheaply as opposed to teams overpaying for relievers. They had Heath Bell ready to step in and replace Trevor Hoffman, now Mike Adams looms as the next in line to close once Bell is eventually traded. Gallagher could be an option here too, not everyone loves him as a starter. One guy to watch for the future of this bullpen is Craig Italiano. When he was drafted there were Brad Lidge comps thrown around(for the good Brad Lidge that is). As an A's fan I wished they'd have moved him to the pen early on, instead they packaged him with Gallagher and Ryan Webb and sent them to San Diego for a couple of months of Scott Hairston.
This is a team on the rise, make no mistake, though it may a take a few years(and more trades of popular veterans) before the results really start showing up. Keep an eye on this farm system as a whole too, it's criminally underrated and has quite a bit of talent that will start showing up in the next couple of years.
Al Skorupa: This team isn't going to compete, even in the relatively weak NL West. I agree with Michael that they have some nice pieces, though. They just don't quite have the strength in pitching or depth or everything to hang around all year - though I could see them doing surprisingly well at the break. This isn't a bad team at all and should be watchable for their fans.
I also am a big Jed Hoyer fan and think he's going to be excellent. Someone should have given him a GM position before now. Very bright guy with a nice manner about him.
JD Sussman: Not trading Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez is one of, if not not the, best value at first base in the entire league. He is under contract for $4.75mm this season, and just $5.5mm in 2011. Many believe that the off season is best time to trade a player because everyone is in contention, however I think Hoyer will get the best return in July or August. Currently, many organizations' farm systems are very thin, and by mid-summer, many new prospects will emerge.
Michael Herrick: I liked the trade of Kouzmanoff that netted the Padres Aaron Cunningham. Cunningham has hit at every stop in the minors and just needs a real chance in the majors to get himself acclimated. He does a little bit of everything, but doesn't sound out in any one area. He should provide above average defense in an OF corner with 20 HR pop, a good walk rate, and a handful of steals. I don't think a line of .280/.350/.470 is out of the question in his prime years. Not a star mind you, but someone very capable of holding down and starting job and providing value until some of the younger guys are ready.
Al Skorupa: I also liked the trade of Kouzmanoff for Cunningham. Aaron Cunningham is a talented player who wasn't getting a fair shake in Oakland. He's nothing special, but he's better than letting Kouzmanoff get expensive. Kouzmanoff is a fairly limited player with a flawed approach at the plate that I wouldn't be too exited to control through his arb. years.
JD Sussman: Not trading Heath Bell. David Golebiewski of the Hardball Times posted an interesting article evaluating this offseason's multi-year deals. His research shows that teams are still playing more per reliever win above replacement (WAR) then they are for other WAR. To me, now would have been the best time to move Bell who, while underrated by the Mets once upon a time, is now overrated.
Michael Herrick: I'm going to go the opposite here and say the Padres should have traded Gonzalez already. They have an in-house replacement waiting in Kyle Blanks and they had multiple teams showing interest this offseason. The more time a team could control AGon the better in terms of creating a possible bidding war for him. Smaller market teams who might be a big bat away could have been lining up for two years control over Gonzalez. The longer they wait the less the return will ultimately be and the fewer bidders they will likely have involved. I can understand not doing anything from the perspective of having just traded the other cornerstone of the franchise at the deadline last year in Peavy, but the quicker they get the talent and infuse the MLB roster with it the quicker you can put an exciting and hopefully competitive team on the field. The way it is now you may end up with the fans just starting to recover from the Peavy trade when you finally do deal Gonzalez. I'd have done it in one shot and taken the attendance hit and worked hard to get that next contending team together and gelling.
Al Skorupa: I'm going to go the opposite of JD's best move, too, and say not trading Adrian Gonzalez. I think Michael is right - the price has more than likely already started to drop. If you wanted to get a maximum return it would have been best to deal him with 2 years left on his deal. All sorts of teams could afford him with two years at reasonable money left. Now, teams will be more reluctant to part with top notch talent.
It seems unlikely teams can put together the package it would take to land Gonzalez mid season, since only contending teams will want to move for him... and contending teams aren't able to give up that many good, MLB ready pieces. Nor can contending teams give up many good, young MLB players already helping their playoff push. GMs don't blow up their teams in July, unless they stink - and a losing team isn't going to go out and trade for Gonzalez mid-season. So we're most likely looking at next winter rather than an in-season move. At that point he's basically an impending free agent and they won't get the return they could have the last few months. Small and mid market teams that would have paid a high price for two cheap years won't have as much interest since they know they can't re-sign him. He's suddenly a one year rental for over half the teams in baseball. So that leaves the big market teams next winter - especially because Gonzo has been very vocal about how much money he wants. This is how you end up backing your way into trading Johan Santana for Carlos Gomez.
Gonzalez is not a difference maker for the 2010 Padres no matter how good he is. Nor does it matter what a bargain he is if you're not using the money saved to put a competitive team around him. Start the process and move on... OR go out and buy some pieces to put around him, if you prefer that. Don't surround Gonzalez with lesser players and not try to compete while letting his trade value drop. San Diego fans talk about his effect at the box office. That's because they don't want to lose him. What consistently draws fans is winning, and the Pads would have been well served to start putting together the core of their next winning team rather than trying to see how many fans will come out to see Gonzalez hit 2 HRs in a 11-4 loss.
I think the transition in the front office may have been a large reason why Gonzalez wasn't moved, to be fair.
Prospects to Watch
JD Sussman: I love Everett Williams, however, I've made the decision that I will no longer mention anyone related to my fantasy team, so I'm going to choose Edinson Rincon who I ranked very highly. Rincon won't stick at the hot corner, nor will he probably ever be a plus fielder in right (where I project he'll end up because of a strong arm, but inconsistent arm), but he has a great bat. Born in 1990, he signed in 2007 out of the Dominican. He reached the North West League this season and was named the league's second best prospect by Baseball America. His walk rate really stands out to me as an aspect of his game that I like.
Michael Herrick: I love this system. They don't have that top name that draws big time attention to the system, but there is quite a bit of good talent here. James Darnell, Logan Forsythe, Rymer Liriano, Drew Cumberland, Everett Williams, Wynn Pelzer, Jaff Decker...and the list just keeps going. One guy that could move up the charts quickly and help get this system some much deserved attention is Keyvius Sampson. Drafted out of high school in Florida in 2009, Sampson is the kind of high ceiling arm that gets noticed. He throws hard for someone with his slight build, hitting low to mid 90's with his fastball. Like most any high school arm out there, his secondary stuff needs improvement but he could be a great complement to fellow prospect Simon Castro in the rotation in for the Padres in the near future.
Al Skorupa: I'm intrigued by RHP Adys Portillo. Didn't do all that well this year, but his stuff is impressive. Should be a very interesting year for this farm system. Experts are all over the map ranking it. Many talented players are potentially on the verge of make-or-break years.