A’s Continue to Go for it, Padres Continue to Go Somewhere

When the A’s acquired Craig Gentry from the Rangers earlier today, it seemed somewhat clear that another outfielder would have to be moved. With Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Seth Smith already taking roster spots, there was maybe not a lot of room for Gentry, even with a DH spot to utilize. Something had to give. For the time being, that something is Seth Smith. In a straight-up deal, the A’s sent Smith down the coast to San Diego in exchange for — you guessed it — a reliever.

In trading away Luke Gregerson, the Padres cast off one of their top two relievers — or top three if you count Dale Thayer‘s mustache. Gregerson had a good strikeout rate in 2013, kept his walks down, and had a groundball rate just a little under 50%. He wasn’t a lights-out reliever, but he was serviceable — more than serviceable, in fact. But Gregerson doesn’t need to be a super-valuable pick up, because he’s simply a piece in a bullpen that just keeps getting better.

The A’s are going to lose Grant Balfour, who is a good reliever. But they’ve since picked up Jim Johnson, who is also a good reliever. Now, by adding Gregerson, they’ve bolstered an already-stacked bullpen. These are the A’s top six relievers as it stands right now.

Sean Doolittle
Luke Gregerson
Jim Johnson
Ryan Cook
Dan Otero
Jerry Blevins

That combo combined for 6.2 wins above replacement in 2013. That number would have been third best for a bullpen, and 1.1 wins better than the 2013 relief corps Oakland used. Of course filling out the back end of the bullpen, along with possible injuries and some regression here and there will cause that number to vacillate a little in 2014, but overall it’s going to be a formidable staff.

There’s an ever-circulating idea in baseball — and many major sports — of “going for it.” At certain points, owners and GMs decide that if their team is going to make a run at a championship, than that particular time is the right time to do so. It’s the YOLO principle grafted onto a baseball team. This realization is usually accompanied by some sort of eyebrow-raising transaction. A big trade may be made to bring on top-level talent. Perhaps a big-name free agent can be signed to a large deal, with the idea that the value he can bring at the present will give the team the boost it needs, and they can worry about all those declining years at a later time. I’d give examples, but you probably already thought of a bunch while you read this paragraph.

The A’s have strung together two very good seasons, and are primed to make a push for the World Series. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have the luxury of going for it in the traditional way. They don’t have the luxury of doing a lot of things the traditional way. They usually trade their stars for prospects, not the other way around. The Matt Holliday deal of 2009 is an exception, but he was still making less that $10 million at the time. For the most part, Oakland has had to do what it could to try and stay competitive with a payroll that can’t even cover the Yankees infield. This we already knew.

So when the A’s do go for it, they have to do so in a manner that fits their limited budget and their long-term goals. So, actually, the exact opposite of how its usually done. One way they can do it is with relievers. Relievers are fairly cheap, readily available, and easily flip-able. And, lets be honest, a strong bullpen is almost a must-have these days if a team is looking to make a playoff run. The A’s bullpen made up a little under a third of the pitching staff’s RA9-WAR in 2013. They are building where they can, and they are building well. The A’s are living within their means, but still trying to live life to the fullest.

Which leaves us with the Padres. As we so often like to pick a winner and a loser of a trade, it might be easy to pick the Padres as the losers. In adding Smith, they bring on another outfielder to try and find at-bats for. Since San Diego doesn’t have the luxury of a DH — and Yonder Alonso can really only play first base — they have five outfielders in Smith, Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, and Cameron Maybin. This is what we in the analyst circles call a logjam. Smith is really only useful against right-handed pitching, and should be relegated to platoon duties, but keeping five somewhat-valuable outfielders seems odd. It appears reasonable to expect some sort of trade. Denorfia seems the most likely candidate — due to his low cost and career year in 2013 — but perhaps a team is willing to take on the $20 million owed to Cameron Maybin (or try and get the Padres to cover some of it) and give him a change of scenery and a second chance. It just seems like something has to be done. Gregerson and Smith make pretty much the same amount of money, so this wasn’t some sort of salary dump, and it’s hard to believe the Padres are trying to buy low on an average-fielding 31-year-old with a fairly extreme platoon split who becomes a free agent in 2015. This seems like the part of a larger plan. Until the rest of it materializes, this side of the deal is hard to judge.

So, the A’s get better and the Padres get Seth Smith. That’s where we stand. Oakland is setting up for another playoff run and San Diego is perhaps setting up for a trade that will help their team in the future. Or they just hate their announcers and want to make them say Seth Smith a thousand times. Either way, a good time for the fans, no doubt.



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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.


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Reds Fan
Guest
Reds Fan
2 years 9 months ago

Chris Young isn’t taking a roster spot on the A’s …

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel
2 years 9 months ago

Right. And without him (and with Smith) the A’s would have had 5 outfielders. I have to disagree with the author: 5 is not a logjam in the outfield. By the time injuries come into play, interleague games are added on, pinch-hitting situations come up, and so on, I’d say that 5 is the minimum number of outfielders who should be on a team’s active roster. Having those 5 be decent is a good thing, not a bad thing.

That said, is Seth Smith good enough to be worth a good reliever? I guess my gut says they are somewhat equivalent and that the evaluation of the trade should be based on each club’s needs and options. Now I’m interested who the A’s fifth outfielder will be (Moss?) since they already traded Michael Choice and let Chris Young go.

MustBunique
Member
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Karl Hungus starred in Logjammin. The beaver picture.

Wobatus
Guest
Wobatus
2 years 9 months ago

Ja, I’m here to fix deine cah-bul.

Shankbone
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

He fixes the plumbing?

Shankbone
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Ah, Cable, I can’t believe I messed up a quote like that. Vote it down!

GMH
Guest
GMH
2 years 9 months ago

I don’t disagree with having five roster spots for outfielders, but with an outfield of Cespedes, Reddick and Crisp, there aren’t enough plate appearances to go around for Smith and Gentry, unless Smith is used solely as a DH. Smith is about a 2 WAR player per 550 plate appearances, too valuable to relegate to pinch hitting and one start every two weeks.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

Moss’s true position is corner outfield. He’s better at D there than at 1st base.

Jaso is probably done catching so my guess is they have him take some reps at 1st, where they also have Barton and Freiman as fill-ins if they need to do some shuffling. And Norris got into a couple of games there as well.

The last places they can get a clear upgrade now are a LH hitting catcher and middle infield.

JP
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JP
2 years 9 months ago

Didn’t Chris Young sign with the Mets?

Darren
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Darren
2 years 9 months ago

Six outfielder when you include Amarista.

Anon
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Anon
2 years 9 months ago

Amarista doesn’t count.

Pat
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Pat
2 years 9 months ago

Amarista started the most games in center for the Padres last season. He counts.

David
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David
2 years 9 months ago

Counting Alexi Amarista as an outfielder is an abomination against the game of baseball. The fact that Bud Black was inhumane enough to roll him out there for more than 1 inning doesn’t change the fact that he is not an outfielder.

Schu
Member
Schu
2 years 9 months ago

Young is a Met

Will
Guest
Will
2 years 9 months ago

1) New Petco dimensions favor LH batters (see Venable) http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/healthiful-flavorful-venable/
2) Maybin has been a disappointment
3) Venable can play CF full-time
4) Padres sign Seth Smith, corner OF with .357/.487/.844 career slash line vs RHP

I don’t think this is a bad idea.

Bobby
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Bobby
2 years 9 months ago

That slash line should read .279/.358/.487, for an .844 OPS. Not bad, but the Padres did not just acquire the second coming of Barry Bonds.

Will
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Will
2 years 9 months ago

Ha ha, good point. My point is just that being a consistently above average hitter vs RHP over a 6
year career is nothing to sneeze at. Domonic Brown is a big deal for an .857 OPS vs. RHP in his one good season, powered by that insane month. Like Smith, Brown is a poorer defender and can’t hit lefties.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 9 months ago

Some of that time was spent in Coors. His stats against righties in the last two seasons in Oakland:

Slash line: .258/.346/.432, .778 OPS
wOBA: .337
wRC+: 115

Still decent, but less spectacular away from Coors.

JustAGuy
Guest
JustAGuy
2 years 9 months ago

One thing this analysis is missing from the Padre’s perspective is the extreme splits that the entire Padres’ roster had last year. They had a 105 wRC+ against lefties but only an 89 against righties. Adding a platoon player with a career 120 wRC+ against righties seems like a pretty smart move regardless of his position. The fact that we will be taking ABs away from guys who were below average to awful against RHP like Jesus Guzman (88 wRC+ vs RHP), Alexi Amarista (76), Kyle Blanks (68), and Mark Kotsay (44) makes it look even better.

Jason B
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Jason B
2 years 9 months ago

Anything that sends Kotsay on into the broadcast booth or the coaching ranks is probably beneficial at this point.

Euruproktos
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Euruproktos
2 years 9 months ago

Wait. Mark Kotsay is still playing baseball? Get it together Padres.

Kris
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Kris
2 years 9 months ago

I thought for sure that season with the Brewers was his last. Still can’t believe Roenicke put him in center field in the NLCS…

August Fagerstrom
Editor
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Wouldn’t it be a third chance for Maybin? Feel like San Diego was his second chance after Florida

LaLoosh
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

isn’t he still with SD? Dealt with wrist issues parts of the past 2 seasons. Decent buy low candidate for someone.

Alex
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Alex
2 years 9 months ago

I thought the exact same thing! San Diego WAS his second chance.

James
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James
2 years 9 months ago

The fangraphs analysis over the past week or two always seems slanted and focused towards a particular team in each deal.

I’m all for calling winners and losers in deals, but as other commenters have mentioned doesn’t it warrant a bit deeper look into the Padres OF situation (platoon-wise) before we come to the conclusion they either A) Don’t know what they’re doing or B) Have another move in store?

Dave (UK)
Guest
Dave (UK)
2 years 9 months ago

I wonder what the probability of the Red Sox looking into Maybin as a back up or possible platoon for JBJ is? Seems like it could be a decent fit.

David
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David
2 years 9 months ago

There is a huge opportunity cost for an organization like the Padres when they squander so many roster spots on part-time (either because of platoon deficiencies or injuries) players. Part of that opportunity cost showed up last week when all four of the players they DFA’ed were claimed. Part of it is visible when you see guys like Jesus Guzman and Alexi Amarista get playing time. And part of it is visible when you look at the tea leaves and see a third straight 76 win season.

Andrew
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Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

Well thankfully projection systems will have them at about 82-85 wins right now. Keep your tea leaves and opinions.

B.C.
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B.C.
2 years 9 months ago

“It’s hard to believe the Padres are trying to buy low on an average-fielding 31-year-old with a fairly extreme platoon split who becomes a free agent in 2015.”

Listening to Byrnes, it sounds like that’s exactly what he thinks he’s done. He mentioned that Smith should get ~400 PA, which presumably means that Venable becomes a full-time player, probably in center, and Smith becomes Denorfia’s new platoon partner. Which then means that the Padres are moving on from Maybin, even though he’s only going to be 27 and lost the past two years to a misdiagnosed wrist injury.

But the real story here for the Padres is that they just subtracted the best pitcher from what was a dreadful bullpen. That’s what makes it an L for them.

Mark
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Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Platooning with Carlos Quentin might get Smith 400 at-bats. The Padres really don’t need to make another move. Maybin hasn’t been good, Quentin is always injured, and they need more thunder against RHP.

Andrew
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Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

Gregerson was not the Padres’ best RP. This seems to be a myth perpetuated by uninformed fans who also overrate Gregerson.

Shauntell
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Shauntell
2 years 9 months ago

Tell me about it. I had this guy over at MLBTR insisting Gregerson was an “elite” reliever which is just not true.

B.C.
Guest
B.C.
2 years 9 months ago

Then who was?

Shauntell
Guest
Shauntell
2 years 9 months ago

Ok, I’d say there are about as many elite relievers as no.1 starters, if you know what I mean. So I’d say there are maybe like 10-15 in the league. Keep in mind, these are relievers, so they are very volatile, but they’ve all been better the last 2 years than Gregerson:

Kimbrel, Holland, Chapman, Nathan, Uehara, Jansen, Rodney, Robertson, Perkins, Grilli, Melancon, Rosenthal, McGee, add or take a few.

These guys all have a K/9 higher than 10 other than Melancon, who doesn’t walk anybody. Gregerson’s ERA & FIP look nice, but then you consider he pitches in the NL & half of his games at Petco & you realize that lowers his value which is reflected in his WAR total, 1.5 for the last 2 years.

Andrew
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Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

Nick Vincent was better, not to mention someone who could actually be elite next year.

Something else I haven’t seen talked about is Gregerson’s declining velocity.

VocalMinoritySD
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

“Or they just hate their announcers and want to make them say Seth Smith a thousand times.”

Joke’s on you, as Dick Enberg will likely call him as anything other than Seth Smith. Steve Smith, John Smith, Hannibal Smith.

abreutime
Guest
abreutime
2 years 9 months ago

If you’re going to acquire a mediocre player, it’s better if they have a large platoon split!

kevinthecomic
Guest
kevinthecomic
2 years 9 months ago

I remember going to see Maybin play for the West Michigan Whitecaps (A-ball) several years ago (2006 maybe?) because he was, at the time, the number 1 prospect in all of baseball. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much — he was HBP 3 times in 4 plate appearances!!!

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 9 months ago

5 OFers isn’t a logjam unless the oppourtunity (I am bad at spelling) cost of using that money/roster spot is more than the value of the extra player. Considering interleague games throughout the year, rest days, Carlos Quentin having not played 130 games since 2010 and all, having 5 OFers seems like a good idea.

LaLoosh
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

don’t know why the Pads’d deal the productive and low-cost Denorfia when they need a platoon-mate for Smith.

They prob look to deal either Maybin or sell high on Venable or both since I doubt there is a market for Quentin.

Andrew
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Some points I haven’t seen discussed:

Gregerson is more volatile than Smith and Smith has a higher upside. While they have equal salaries, it doesn’t mean this is a lateral move economically. An OF getting 400 PAs is worth more than a RP for the same amount of money.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

There was no room for Smith to get 400 PA on the current team.

Jaso will suck up the DH slot against RHB and they had 4 outfielders plus Moss (with Barton, who can probably hit as much as Smith at this point, filling in at 1st) ahead of him.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

This is irrelevant to my post.

Generally, when fans are jumping on one side of the deal I’m wary because teams are smarter than fans. It’s similar to sports betting when the majority of the betting public think a spread is obvious, the reality is they’re likely missing some part of the analysis.

Do we ever go back and evaluate deals we thought were slam dunks for one side? I’d bet the deals end up being far more even than predicted.

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Reymond Fuentes is knocking on the door as well, although the Padres are smart not to count on him in 2014 (or ever, really, as 2013 could have been a fluke). A lot of these guys are injury prone, so I would guess that the plan is to mix and match the lot. That’s bad for fantasy value but probably a good move for the Padres.

bjoak
Member
bjoak
2 years 9 months ago

“With Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Seth Smith already taking roster spots, there was maybe not a lot of room for Gentry, even with a DH spot to utilize.”

The A’s right now have four of the six players they need for the outfield and DH. That said:

A. Why again did Smith have to go? Doesn’t he just need to be replaced now?
B. Who is the DH and why does it sound like that is an afterthought here?

Don’t get me wrong, love this trade for the A’s and Smith wasn’t the answer at DH, but the premise of the article (the A’s had to move an outfielder) is faulty; indeed, they still need two players, including one legitimate hitter.

GMH
Guest
GMH
2 years 9 months ago

I assume the A’s will do what they did last year and have DH by committee. Even Coco Crisp started 20 games as a DH last year. It’s a convenient way of providing rest for the regulars and sufficient plate appearances for the bench to stay sharp.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick, Gentry, Moss, Barton, Jaso are the 7 players that will fill the 3 OF spots + 1B + DH, with Lowrie and Donaldson also filling in at DH occasionally to get a day off from the field.

They don’t have room for anyone else, because they will also have Sogard, Punto, Norris, and one more catcher on the roster. That’s 13 guys, and that’s assuming they deal Callaspo, who could also be useful.

Nicholas Fein
Guest
Nicholas Fein
2 years 9 months ago

Brett Anderson for Billy Butler? Royals want Anderson and out of Butler’s contract. A’s have an opening at DH.

Dustin
Member
Dustin
2 years 9 months ago

The A’s are going to get a better offer than that from the Blue Jays.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

They don’t really have a DH opening. Jaso is done catching. He is set to DH against RHP and Crisp/Cespedes/Lowrie will rotate against LHP (with Gentry filling in the OF or Punto in the IF). Butler isn’t even close to an upgrade over that.

He also just isn’t that good, generally.

If Butler is all they could get for Anderson, I’d much rather they hold on to him.

bjoak
Member
bjoak
2 years 9 months ago

I guess that kind of information is above my pay grade. I haven’t heard anything to suggest that Jaso is “done catching” or, indeed, ready to play, even if only as a DH. In fact, I’m not sure he has enough value to keep around as a DH only. All his value is wrapped up in what he does on offense *as a catcher.* He’s not a must have on the roster as a DH.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

With his terrible defense and the concussion it’s hard to see Jaso entering the year as anything beyond emergency catcher. The A’s are reportedly shopping for a LH hitting catcher, so that tells you how they view him.

Jaso has a 117 career wRC+ versus 120 for Butler, and Jaso has been slightly better each of the past two years.

Butler is not an upgrade, especially when you factor in that he’d take all the DH plate appearances, messing up the rotation they’re planning to use where Gentry plays the field for Crisp or Cespedes quite often.

bjoak
Member
bjoak
2 years 9 months ago

Also, Butler is a huge upgrade over Jaso and the outfielders rotating (especially since you assume they will all be healthy all year). My impression from what you say is that you don’t understand that WAR is calculated using defense and position. Butler is an outstanding player outside of defense. Jaso is not very good outside of defense and positional adjustment.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 9 months ago

See above. You’re completely incorrect in your evaluation of Butler and Jaso’s value. Jaso is a well above average hitter, and Butler is overrated.

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
2 years 9 months ago

Typical Padres move, a nibble around the edges play, when a big move is necessary. With a 76 win team a bigger move is needed. Here are mine:
1) Trade Hundley for Dunn. Hundley bites but the WS really need catching and are bring Konerko back, thus no ABs for Dunn. SD needs more middle of the order pop and Dunn still has it, plus Chi would probably pay two-thirds of his salary.
2) Acquiring Dunn clears the way to trade Alonso. A 1Ber who hits like a SS is just not that valuable. With so many teams needing help at 1B, now the time to move this guy for prospects.
3) Trade Quentin for Brian Matusz or some other Left handed reliever. But in any case trade Q. to the AL so he can DH.

These moves add power at 1B, add a lefty in the pen, open space in the OF for Smith to play against righties, and would bring back some prospects.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 9 months ago

If acquiring Adam Dunn is their way of going for it, I think the whole of Padre fandom would prefer they continue nibbling around the edges…

Tanned Tom
Guest
Tanned Tom
2 years 9 months ago

I think you’re missing my point. This team is not close to going for it. Several major moves would have to be made first.
By acquiring Dunn, who is indeed terrible with the glove, it adds power to the lineup and allows the team to trade Alonso when his value is relatively high and the market is soft. Trading Hundley for him is another plus, addition by subtraction. Ultimately I simply don’t believe Alonso is a 1Bman on a playoff team, so moving him keeps the team from getting locked into a player who isn’t really good enough.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
2 years 9 months ago

The problem is you think this is a 76-win team when they’re obviously much improved from last year’s squad. The three worst SP from last year are gone, for example. It doesn’t take long to look at projected WAR of their roster and see an 82+ win team.

Spike
Guest
Spike
2 years 9 months ago

yeah Dunn is an awful 1Bman. I think the ChiSox would happily pay the Pads to take Dunn for nothing in return.

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