Padres make another baffling trade

MLB: JUN 02 Phillies at Padres

In last week’s Lost in Transactions (since retired; transaction recaps will happen on a more timely basis at THT Live), I took the Padres to task for their trade of Scott Hairston for three very questionable arms. The esteemed Geoff Young at Ducksnorts objected to my complaints, saying that:

‘Why give up a player like Scott Hairston for a No. 4 starter and two questionable bullpen pieces?’

Because the Padres have a stronger core of young hitters than young pitchers. …

As much as I hate to see Hairston leave, this was about dealing a strength to address a weakness. The Padres desperately need arms. The guys they acquired might not be great, but at least they’re something, which is more than can be said about much of the current pitching staff.

And now the Padres have traded a 26-year old groundball machine for a 31-year old career minor leaguer (okay, so he has 150 major league at-bats, spread between 2002, 2008 and 2009).

This really doesn’t make sense. If the Padres need arms, why are they trading Meredith?

Meredith burst on the scene for the Padres in 2006 after being part of the desperation move by Theo Epstein to bring Doug Mirabelli back to Fenway (remember ‘Belli’s police escort to the park?). He posted an excellent 1.07 ERA to go along with a 6.17 K/BB and 94.7 percentage of batters left on base. Of course, he accomplished that ridiculous percentage by inducing 68.8 percent groundballs that year. In 2007, Meredith made 80 appearances to check in with a 3.50 ERA. His ERA (and FIP, by the way) kept skidding: in 2008, he posted a 4.09 ERA (3.91 FIP) and seemed to lose his place in the Padres’ long-term plans: he served as a mopup man for the Padres this year, posting a 4.17 ERA in 36.2 innings (but reversed his rising FIP trend, posting a 3.54 FIP).

A 26 year old middle reliever who induces groundballs shouldn’t be untouchable, but he certainly shouldn’t be rail-roaded out of town… especially a team that’s so hard up for pitching. The two minor league pitchers the Padres acquired for Hairston are highly unlikely to have a career, while the third player (Sean Gallagher) will at best, be a league-average starter for several years.

And yet, the Padres found their replacement bat for the 29-year old Scott Hairston by getting a… first/third baseman in Salazar. I’m sure Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kyle Blanks and Chase Headley are shaking in their boots.

Granted, Salazar is no slouch with the bat; over the last 112 at-bats spanning 2008-9, he has a .321/.394/.536 line. Small sample size alert, of course.

It just makes it all the more baffling why the Padres felt that dealing a cost-controllable centerfielder who has proven he can send the ball out of Petco Park for three highly questionable arms made sense, only to turn around and convert a valuable commodity in Meredith into, essentially, someone who will register as a blip on the radar in the Padres’ history. Sure, Salazar could play an iffy second base until David Eckstein gets back to the team, but is that really what the Padres need?

No. They need young hittng and young pitching. I may not have been a fan of the Hairston trade, but at least they stuck to the model. They certainly didn’t stick to it this time.

On Baltimore’s side, they get a 26-year old groundball machine who can be their new Chad Bradford. He’ll find the going a bit more tough back in the AL East, but there’s no question the Orioles made out in the trade. Yes, Meredith is more valuable to them given their ballpark, but wouldn’t that mean the Padres could have gotten more in return?

I’m beginning to think the great Kevin Towers has lost his touch. That’s not necessarily an indictment on him; sometimes if you stay in one place too long, you lose your touch.

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Comments

  1. Geoff Young said...

    Two thoughts:

    1) Meredith had become persona non grata in the Padres bullpen and apparently didn’t fit into their plans for 2010.

    2) I haven’t heard anything concrete, but is it possible that the acquisition of Salazar might be the precursor to a trade involving Kouzmanoff?

    It really is difficult to evaluate these individual moves until we see what the final picture looks like.

  2. Evan Brunell said...

    If Kouz is traded, then Salazar might fit at third for the rest of the year, but a long-term solution at third should be Headley; that way they can play Blanks in left or acquire a “true” left-fielder: Headley’s bat plays at third well but in left, the Padres are below average offensively.

  3. Mike said...

    Geoff-

    Does it really matter what they do down the road?  Unless, of course, it involves moving Salazar for a playing better than Meredith.

    This isn’t about Meredith being particularly valuable.  This is about Salazar being even less valuable. 

    If the Padres felt they had to move Meredith, they could have done better.

    Both the O’s and Padres are in the same mode- stockpiling as much young talent as possible.  There’s a clear winner here because while the O’s may or may not have just received a piece for their next contending club, the Padres definitely did not.  Unless the Pads find a way to parlay Salazar directly into a piece more valuable than Meredith (unlikely), then this trade is baffling…

  4. Geoff Young said...

    @Evan: Headley is the third baseman if Kouz moves; there is no disputing that. Still, it’s nice to have a backup. I just don’t see the problem with trading the 11th man on the staff for a spare bat.

    @Mike: Salazar looks fairly useful to me. Maybe I underestimate Meredith’s value to other teams, but he is a pretty fringe guy at this point.

  5. Rob McQuown said...

    Cla has 2.017 years of service time, per Cot’s Contract blog.  Salazar, 0.088.  If you assume that 2009 performance is meaningless, fast-forwarding instead to the offseason, doesn’t that mean that Cla will be arbitration-eligible, while Salazar will be a $400k/yr player for another couple seasons?  Based on Geoff’s insights, I’m guessing they already decided they weren’t offering Cla arbitration. 

    As far as Salazar being worthless, that’s possibly true, but his PECOTA is .278/.331/.462, and his ZiPS RoS is .292/.333/.458.  So, there are a lot of numerical indicators suggesting that whatever has kept him in the minors so far has been overcome, ala Micah Hoffpauir in Chicago.  Like Micah, he probably won’t be anything special, especially in that park, but a serviceable 3b/of type is useful.

  6. mike said...

    My point is that they’re contributions to either team in 2009 or even 2010 are pretty meaningless and it’s pretty clear which player has the better chance of contributing in 2011 and beyond.

  7. http://PhillyGameday.com said...

    I as a Baltimore fan like this deal but it seems that 75% of the Baltimore fans. How can anyone jusify a 31 year old utility player without a true position being part of a long-term plan. Bad move for the Friars.

  8. Marc Thompson said...

    Cla Meredith has become increasingly less effective with more exposure the past two seasons. Salazar likely gets a shot to play everyday at second base, not third. The Padres have fewer middle infield prospects than any organization in baseball. Antonelli doesn’t figure into the clubs plans.

    An ideal trade partner for Kouzmanoff would be San Francisco – allowing Sandoval to move permanently to first, SF has the power bullpen arms the Padres covet. Kouzmanoff could give the Giants some thump in the bottom third of their lineup.

  9. Chris Ruffalo said...

    Personally I think this may be a win win for both teams.  The Padres are trying to make something from nothing and moving Meredith was a good move because he get a higher contract at the end of the year and he is not being used anyway.  Now receiving Salazar may not have been the best move but I do believe he is the patchwork in the COG that is Kevin Towers.  I wouldnt be surprised is have the team is trade by the 31st.  I am sure Kooz and Eck are on their way out and dont know it yet but time will tell.  If the Padres wanted to get ahead they wouldnt sign out dated talent.  Edmonds, Prior, Floyd, Giles (1 year option pickup) were all bad ideas and have costed the Padres greatly.  Not to mention the crap trades (Jason Bay for Giles) package.  Padres should keep their talent and develop vice signing old players and trading them at the deadline.

  10. Marver said...

    Even if Meredith profiles as a useful reliever when the Padres can once again compete—2011?—his value to the ballclub is minimal, at best, since Towers has an unreal ability to construct a good bullpen out of absolutely nothing.  Most players with Meredith’s type of delivery aren’t effective long in MLB (his K/BB ratio has gone down drastically in each of the past three seasons)…couple in his arbitration eligibility, Salazar being near the minimum for several seasons into the future (and being a productive AAA bat for over a year now) and this trade certainly isn’t “baffling”.

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