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Orlando Hudson Takes His Talents to San Diego

With today’s signing of Orlando Hudson by the Padres, we can say that the Adrian Gonzalez trade is finally complete. While Boston didn’t ship Hudson to San Diego directly, it is hard to miss the symmetry between the salary that the Padres shed when Gonzalez was traded and the amount of money that they gave Hudson to take over at second base. For all intents and purposes, Hudson is what the Padres were able to buy with the money they saved by moving their star first baseman.

While that swap doesn’t make the Padres a better team overall, adding Hudson does offset the loss of Gonzalez to a degree. A chronically underrated player, Hudson has been worth an average of +2.5 WAR per 600 PA over his career, and has rarely strayed far from that number, never going lower than +1.2 or higher than +3.7. While he’s showing signs of aging as a hitter, Hudson is still a quality starting second baseman, and at $11 million over two years, he’s a rare bargain in this inflationary market.

With a going rate of something in the neighborhood of $5 million per win this winter, Hudson would only have to generate +1.1 WAR in 2011 to justify his salary from a market-rate perspective. For comparison, Aaron Hill‘s .291 wOBA and slightly above-average defense last year was worth +1.1 WAR as a full time second baseman. There is a lot of room for Hudson to regress from his 2010 performance and still be a relative bargain, given the prices free agents have been signing for to date.

Headed into his age-33 season, with most of his offensive numbers headed the wrong way over the last four years, we should expect a good amount of regression from Hudson. It’s pretty unlikely that he’ll be a +3 win player again next year. However, this contract builds that expectation right into his salary, and unless he gets hurt, there’s very little downside to this deal. In a market where middle relievers cost more than what Hudson just got, adding a full-time second baseman with across-the-board skills for this price is a good use of resources by the Padres.

The package that the Padres got for Gonzalez was generally considered to be a bit on the lighter side of what was expected. Adding Hudson to the mix makes that deal look a bit better from San Diego’s perspective.

To project how Orlando Hudson will do in 2011, click here.