For those that missed it or need a refresher, here are the exact players (and pick) involved in the blockbuster trade that went down the day before the Padres' first game of 2015: The Padres sent OF Cameron Maybin, OF Carlos Quentin, P Matt Wisler, OF Jordan Paroubeck and their 2015 #41 overall draft pick to the Braves in exchange for P Craig Kimbrel and OF Melvin Upton (also being referred to as B.J. because tweets have a character limit and he used to go by that moniker). Most Padres fans should be familiar with Maybin and Quentin, Wisler and Paroubeck are prospects, Craig Kimbrel is an all star closer and Melvin Upton is Justin Upton's brother. I will go into more detail on each throughout this post.
Carlos Quentin came to the Padres via trade before the 2012 season back when the Padres were desperately in need of a middle of the order power threat. He was on the last year of his deal and was known to be injury prone, but the Padres only gave up a couple minor league pitchers in exchange for him and he was a better option in LF than what they had. He came as advertised. He slugged over .500 and was a middle of the order threat to complement Chase Headley in the 3B's career year. He also missed half the season with injury. Still, the Padres liked his bat and figured they could live with a few DL stints and signed the then 29 year old to a 3 year extension that included a no trade clause. Over the next 2 years his hitting got worse and worse and his time spent on the DL got more and more. Personally, I thought he was done as a baseball player. His knees just wouldn't hold up anymore. However, he came into Spring Training this year trying to show he could still play some and he probably can, but a what level and for how long? The Padres had already moved on, but just needed to find him a new home. They found one with Atlanta.
Cameron Maybin has been with the Padres a year longer than Quentin. He was acquired as a young promising CF before the 2011 season when then-GM Jed Hoyer was trying to build his first club of the post-Adrian Gonzalez era. After one season, the Padres gave him a 5 year extension based on his excellent defense, promising bat and ability to steal bases in bulk (he swiped 40 in 2011). In his first year after signing that deal he still played great defense, but the bat regressed and his stolen base total went down. It was also the start of a long string of injuries. While he didn't miss much time in 2012, a wrist problem lingered into 2013, then he tore a knee ligament upon return, then he tore a bicep muscle in 2014 during spring training. He played in just 109 games over the last two years and so, like Quentin, the Padres found a better play to take his position. Still just 28 years old, finding a trade partner would seem easy, but he's owed $15.2M combined over the next two seasons. That's a lot of money for a player in his late twenties who is 4 years removed from his last promising season. The rebuilding Braves seem ready to take that on and we'll talk about why later.
Melvin Upton, who was going by B.J. up until this season, has an anchor of a contract. The Braves signed him to a 5 year, $75.25M deal before the 2013 season. The Padres will be on the hook for 3 years and $46.35M of it. $14.45M of that will be due in 2015, which is close to the $15.1M the Padres owed Maybin and Quentin. That contract is an anchor because Melvin has lost the form he had before 2013 when he earned that contract. With the Tampa Bay Rays he was playing good defense, hitting 20+ HRs and stealing 30+ bases a season, albeit while hit for a low (~.240) batting average. With the Braves his best season was 2014 when he batted .208, slugged only 12 HRs and swiped only 20 bases. Now with the Padres he'll be a 4th or 5th OF that can provide some speed of the bench while being paid quite handsomely to do so. He'll also be reunited with his brother.
The most interesting part of this deal is Craig Kimbrel. When it comes money, Kimbrel signed a 4 year/$42M contract extension before last season. The Padres now owe him 3 years/$34M of that total. His $9M salary in 2015 will increase the payroll by almost exactly that amount since all the other 2015 salaries in this deal effectively cancel each other out. When it comes to his performances over the last 4 seasons he has been the best closer in baseball. He's a 4 time all star and has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting in each of those 4 years. He is as lights out as they come. The 9th inning is officially locked down. Incumbant closer Joaquin Benoit will move back to the 8th inning role he had when Huston Street was the Friars' closer.
On to the prospects in the deal. Matt Wisler is the most well known of the two. The 22 year old pitched all of 2014 at AAA and was knocking at the major league door. Many prospect lists have him as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball and some of those have him as one of the top 50. He is the prize the rebuilding Braves are getting in this deal, in addition to freeing up money. They will likely call him up to pitch for the big league club this season, whereas the Padres would have needed a series of injuries to crop up to do the same. I wouldn't call him expendable, but with the Padres' rotation he could be had in the right deal. Preller determined this was the right one .
Jordan Paroubeck was the Padres' 2nd round pick in 2013. He's only 20 years old and has yet to play in a full season league. But his bat has promise with the potential to someday be a major league slugger. But that would be at least 3-4 years from now and require a fair amount of development along the way. He's a nice prospect, but not one that shouldn't be dealt when the return is the top closer in the game.
When you look at the deal as a whole there is one obvious conclusion: the 2015 Padres are better now because of this deal. They give up two backup OFs and what amounts to 3 prospects for an elite relief pitcher and some contract baggage. There's no downside if you only look at the 2015 season with blinders on. When you take the blinders off, you start to see the risks. All deals have risks. The risks in this one are fine to take on, but worth noting. Matt Wisler was the Padres insurance in 2016 for potentially losing Ian Kennedy to free agency. However, they still could into that season with a rotation of Shields, Ross, Cashner, Despaigne and Erlin. That'll do. The other risk has to do with the money involved. The 2015 payroll takes a jump over $100M, which is nothing but a good thing. However, going forward the Melvin Upton and Craig Kimbrel commitments put new pressure on future payrolls, which already had the added pressure of ballooning contracts of James Shields and Matt Kemp. That's something to deal with another day though. Today, we can celebrate a strong team that just got stronger.