Insert cash, watch him mash. (Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE)
If you asked me near the beginning of the season about the Padres trying to extend newly acquire LF Carlos Quentin, I would have given a very cautionary response. One of things you don't want to do on a rebuilding team is block some of the talented younger players with an aging veteran. In the National League, pretty much all Quentin can do is play LF (how well he can even do that is debatable). Josh Byrnes mentioned in the Quentin press conference that the reason a low payroll team can spend in certain areas is because you have cheap, productive players occupying other positions. On a team with a deep farm system, LF can be a spot that might be easy to feel with cheaper player. You see, LF can be a soft landing spot for players who can't hack it in CF, don't have the accuracy for 3B, a RF who has lost some arm and range or potentially a 1B who is blocked at that spot. Of course, that makes it sound like you send your rejects there, but really you send the defensive "rejects" who can swing the bat and drive in runs. So that deep farm system should have a couple of players like that lying around . Indeed the Padres had two that in James Darnell and Kyle Blanks.
James Darnell was coming off a season where he was a representative for the Padres in the futures game. He was a 2nd round pick in 2008. He's also well liked by scouts. John Sickels of minorleageball.com ranked him #7 among Padres prospects in 2011 and #10 in 2012. His primary position is 3B, but many saw a future for him in the OF. Kyle Blanks was the Padres opening day LF in 2010 before injuring his elbow and spending much of 2011 in AAA. He excelled in his 2009 major league debut season at age 22 after mashing his way to the bigs. His natural position is 1B, but seems serviceable in LF.
Both players entered 2012 as 25 year olds. Both Darnell and Blanks got injured in 2012. Both have missed a season of development at the plate. And even more importantly for the Carlos Quentin situation, both missed out on a year of learning the tricks of trade in LF. What you end up with is essentially a giant question mark in LF for the near future prior to the Carlos Quentin extension. Both players still have a chance (to varying degrees) to produce somewhere for the Padres, but counting on either or both of them to handle LF in the short team is not a good strategy.
Quentin himself has some question marks about injuries and defense. But, you know that he's an experienced major league hitter who has shown the capability of being a run producer. He also is a natural OF, having played the position since before he was drafted. He may not be young, but he's not old either. And to sum up the point of this discussion, the years of his contract aren't blocking any young, cheap players at the position. It's a good spot to spend money in order to fill out a lineup that is only beginning to develop offensive assets.