Yesterday was one of the busiest days in Padres history with regards to roster moves. The team added seven players to the 40-man roster, moved seven players off that same roster, and picked up three new lottery-ticket prospects along the way. Let’s move through the day, one transaction at a time.
Colten Brewer is a promising right-handed reliever who the Padres picked up prior to the 2018 season, but the farm system is loaded with pitching. As an up-and-down player last season he was moderately successful in a tough role. When the dust settled, he felt like a AAAA pitcher who might dominate at a minor league level but didn’t show the stuff to project as a dominant MLB reliever.
In exchange, the Padres received a late-blooming undersized middle infielder who hits from the left side. Quiroz has a knack for getting on base and can hit the ball with authority to all fields. He’s primarily a second baseman but during his Mexican League career he split his time between second base, shortstop, and third base. At a glance, he looks like an older Carlos Asuaje with a little more power and versatility. Today Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen called him the “most interesting” prospect traded at the deadline.
Walker Lockett shot up through the minor leagues in 2016 to look like a serious contender for the 2017 rotation. Injuries plagued the tall righty and he hasn’t looked quite the same since. He made his major league debut in 2018 and held his own, but like Brewer there are too many prospects knocking on the door for the Padres to hold a spot for him.
In return the team received a right-handed starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic who just turned 19 and hasn’t pitched above the Arizona (Rookie) League. Eric Longenhagen had a look at Feliz last summer and was impressed by his athleticism, a quality curveball, and a fastball with some natural cut. Today he called Feliz the “best” prospect traded at the deadline.
Rowan Wick is another promising right-handed reliever who the Padres picked up off waivers prior to the 2018 season. A converted catcher, Wick has a high-90’s fastball and a nasty slider that proved to be effective at the MLB level in his brief September call-up. Once again, Wick is the victim of a roster squeeze and the Padres did well to bring any return for him rather than simply DFA’ing him and exposing him to waivers.
For Wick the team received third baseman Jason Vosler. The left-handed hitting Vosler has posted some impressive power numbers in recent years, belting 20+ homers each of the last two years at the AA level or higher. Word on the streets is that he’s a beneficiary of the “launch angle revolution” which has made him a power threat but at the same time his strikeout rate has ballooned and he struggles with same-handed pitching. His profile reminds me of someone familiar. It’s worth noting that Vosler is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Padres sell rights to Christian Villanueva to Yomiuri Giants (link)
This one was a bit of a stunner. Villanueva had his struggles in 2018, but he showed enough promise to remain a serious contender for part or all of the Padres third base job in 2019. Apparently the NPBO team approached Villanueva with the prospects of a significant pay raise and the Padres were amenable to letting him go for the right price. The specifics of the deal have yet to be hashed out, so Villanueva has been officially designated for assignment, but the deal is pending. This move cleared a roster spot but it also states loud and clear that the team is looking for an upgrade at the position.
Padres designate Colin Rea, Cory Spangenberg, and Allen Cordoba for assignment
Colin Rea was one of 2015’s best stories as he rose from AA to make a series of impressive starts for a Padres team with a depleted rotation. A solid first half found him in trade talks, and he was dealt to the Miami Marlins as part of a six-man deal. He left his first start in a Marlins uniform with elbow issues that eventually led to Tommy John surgery, but the conditions of the trade got the Padres in a bit of hot water that resulted in a partial un-doing of the trade. Since then he’s worked his way back from injury and in 2018 he made 18 successful but unimpressive starts for the Padres’ AA and AAA teams.
Allen Cordoba came to the Padres in the 2016 Rule 5 draft from the Cardinals. With the MLB team in 2017, Cordoba showed flashes of his young promise as he played all over the field, but it was clear that he was over-matched and under-prepared for the level. A car accident in the offseason left lingering concussion issues that plagued Cordoba throughout the 2018 season and there were concerns that he would never be the same player. A final line of .206/.233/.310 at advanced single-A Lake Elsinore shows just how tough the year was. The kid still has skills and athleticism, but concussion symptoms can limit a player for years.
Cory Spangenberg is the biggest surprise of the three players who were DFA’d. The former first round draft pick made his MLB debut in 2014 and since then only Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte have made more plate appearances for the Padres. His 2015 rookie year stands as his high water mark, when he hit .271/.333/.399 and played five positions in the field. The speed that was his calling card as a minor leaguer disappeared with a quad injury that limited him to only 14 games in 2016, but he’s been a reliable utility player with improving defense at second and third base while also being capable in the outfield. The signing of Greg Garcia off waivers from the Cardinals earlier last month suggested that Spangenberg might no longer have a role, as he is also a lefty-hitting utility player but he can also capably play shortstop. Spangenberg leaves the team as a player that was widely liked but never quite lived up to the promise that many hoped he’d find. He was projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to draw a $2.3M salary in his second year of arbitration.
Let’s pause here and note that these guys aren’t gone yet. They’ve been designated for assignment, which means that they’re in a sort of roster limbo. The players are placed on waivers, at which time they may be claimed by any other team but must be placed on their 40-man rosters. If they clear waivers without being claimed, the Padres can release them or assign them to a minor league team. Cory Spangenberg has enough service time that he could reject such an assignment and elect free agency.
To some fans, a bigger story is the guys who weren’t moved off the 40-man roster. The 2018 team had several players who performed below expectations and had fans calling for their replacement or dismissal.
- Jose Pirela was given a starting job for most of the season, first in leftfield and later at second base. While his defense improved, he still grades out as a below average defender wherever he’s played. The bat that spoke loudly in 2017 never showed up in 2018. The arrival of Luis Urias brings an everyday second baseman with an offensive profile expected to contend for batting titles and the defensive skills that could win Gold Gloves. Pirela is a bench player, and not a particularly useful one, yet he was given a starter’s workload. By season’s end he was fourth on the team in plate appearances but dead last in fWAR, producing below replacement-level value both on offense and defense.
- Carlos Asuaje has limitations on both sides of the ball. On defense he’s a decent second baseman but not good enough for the glove to carry him. The team tried him out at third base but he rated poorly there with limited range and an arm that isn’t strong enough for the positon, and he’s not athletic enough by any measure for a shot at shortstop. The lefty hitter showed excellent on-base skills in the minors that haven’t translated to the MLB level. With a career AAA slash line of .303/.377/.447, he’s increasingly looking like a AAAA player. To make things worse, the team acquired Esteban Quiroz as noted above, who is another diminutive lefty-hitting utility infielder. At first glance, Quiroz appears to have more defensive versatility and a bat with similar on-base ability with more power potential. The team now has a better version of Asuaje who is not on the 40-man roster, effectively making Asuaje a redundant player.
- Bryan Mitchell was the bane of many Padres fans’ existence last season. While he possesses a live fastball in the upper 90’s and a changeup that falls off the table, he struggles to control both effectively. He showed flashes of brilliance, including an appearance that fell one out short of a complete game shutout in his final game of the season. But he also gave up four or more runs in six of his 16 appearances, and right-handed hitters teed off on him at a .323/.384/.519 rate. The team’s coaches and scouts must see a path to future success with him, but the fans gave up on him long ago.
Padres select contracts of seven players
The deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft by adding them to the 40-man roster was yesterday at 5pm, and that’s what caused the flurry of moves around the league. In years past the Padres were clearing roster space to be able to acquire players like Luis Perdomo, Miguel Diaz, and Luis Torrens through the Rule 5 draft, but the team’s farm system is starting to swell at the top such that the team had to take a different tack this year. The Padres added seven players to the 40-man roster for draft protection, and this will be a topic again a year from now when another wave of talent crashes onto the scene. The players added this year are catcher Austin Allen, infielder Ty France, outfielder Edward Olivares, and right-handed pitchers Pedro Avila, Anderson Espinoza, Chris Paddack, and Gerardo Reyes. That is an exciting group of prospects that will be discussed in a separate article, but at least three of those players can be expected to make significant contributions to the 2019 Padres team.
Of the players that the Padres have now left exposed to the Rule 5 draft, here’s a list of some of the more notable players: 1B Brad Zunica, 3B Jason Vosler, OF Michael Gettys, SP’s Jerry Keel and Emmanuel Ramirez, RP’s Travis Radke, T.J. Weir, Colby Blueberg, Hansel Rodriguez, Trevor Megill, Blake Rogers, and Eliot Ashbeck. Gettys is the best-known player in that group, as he was listed on organizational Top Prospects lists ever since he was drafted in 2014 but he has failed to show consistent performance. He has a tantalizing power-speed skillset and is a stellar defender in centerfield, but his plate discipline and pitch recognition have yet to get on track. Zunica is a hulking first baseman with light-tower raw power that is starting to show in games. Radke, Rogers and Ashbeck all had excellent seasons as relievers but none have the electric skillset that typically draws attention in the Rule 5 draft. There’s a calculated risk in leaving all of these guys exposed to the draft, but there’s also a slim chance that they would have been useful to the organization in the near future if they had been protected.
The Padres roster looks much different than it did just a day ago. Of the seven players who left, none would qualify as legitimate impact players. Of the seven who were added, several have the promise to impact the team significantly. On top of that, the farm system has three new faces with promising futures as well. A.J. Preller and his team did a fantastic job in moving surplus assets and bringing back any positive value while protecting some key prospects to shore up the future of the Padres organization.