The Padres aren’t going anywhere this season but that doesn’t automatically qualify the 41-56 club as deadline sellers. While Carlos Quentin, Chase Headley and Huston Street have attracted plenty of attention on the trade market, general manager Josh Byrnes has approached the deadline in a rather conservative manner. With a new ownership group set to take over, it remained unclear if the team would look to trade most of its valuable assets to help expedite the rebuilding process.
Their plan started to take shape this weekend, when the Padres signed Quentin to a three-year, $27 million contract extension that keeps him in his hometown until at least 2015. The team has also reportedly shifted its focus towards retaining Street, and rumors surrounding Headley have quieted. It may seem strange for a team like the Padres to keep these types of players around instead of acquiring prospects, but especially in Quentin’s case, this new deal has the potential to help the Padres get more competitive without really breaking the bank.
The Padres undoubtedly could have brought something back for Quentin, his .392 wOBA and 1.7 WAR, but signing him now could have more significant implications for the team’s future. This signing could signal that the Padres will increase payroll next year and look to bring in more talented players via trade or free agency. In isolation, the deal looks like it should basically break-even, without truly benefiting one party more than the other. But under the context of what it could mean for the team moving forward, it’s far more important of a move.
Quentin will get paid $9.5 million in 2013-14 and $8 million in 2015. The deal also includes a fourth-year club option worth $10 million for 2016. That option comes with a $3 million buyout that is guaranteed if Quentin plays 320 games over the next three seasons. This clause is pivotal, as health has been Quentin’s weakness.
He has never played more than 131 games in a single season and that element greatly increases the deal’s risk. Since first appearing in the majors with the Diamondbacks in 2006, Quentin has played in 57, 81, 130, 99, 131 and 118 games. He is currently on pace to play around 110 games this season, having returned from injury at the end of May. Plate production has never been an issue here, and if Quentin remains healthy he should at least match his salary in value. But paying him $9-$10 million per season isn’t the same as paying someone with a stronger track record of health.
The contract also includes a no-trade clause, which was key for Quentin, who expressed a desire to remain in his hometown. The clause, as well as the 320 games played buyout trigger, represents a break from the Jeff Moorad mold, as the former super-agent had enacted a no NTC or incentives policy in San Diego. This isn’t to say that the Padres and Josh Byrnes will throw around clauses and incentives with reckless abandon, but it’s certainly notable that Quentin’s deal is inclusive of both.
In terms of what the Padres can expect to get, Quentin’s value has been all across the board, primarily because his fielding is a major question mark. He posted solid numbers with the Diamondbacks over 2006-07, hovered near the league average with the 2008 White Sox, before posting awful numbers over 2009-10 in the -15 to -25 range. Last season, his fielding rated about average and he figures to finish slightly above average this year. His plantar fascitis in 2009 could have caused him to field with a lead foot, thereby reducing his effectiveness, but in any event it’s tough to get a handle on what he provides with the glove. It’s unlikely, however, that he is a horrendous fielder of the Adam Dunn ilk, which obviously improves his value.
With the bat, Quentin has a career .363 wOBA and appears to have regained the form that made him a serious offensive threat back in 2008. Though injuries slowed his production after that breakout season, he has improved each year from 2009-now, from .340 all the way up to .392. ZIPS sees him finishing the season with a .376 wOBA, which again would represent his highest mark in five years. With average fielding marks and 120 games played, Quentin is a solid bet to produce 2.5 WAR, which more than justifies his annual salary under the new contract.
Based strictly on what he figures to produce and what he stands to make, the deal should work out nicely for both sides, but the party that might benefit the most is the Padres fanbase, as re-signing Quentin could be a sign of a forthcoming payroll increase under the new ownership group.