Revisiting the Gerut Deal

When the Jody Gerut trade was announced last week, I noted my confusion over the Padres essentially giving away one of their better players. One of the great things about transactions involving San Diego, however, is that Asst. GM Paul DePodesta is willing to write about the organization’s thoughts on various moves on his blog. Yesterday, he laid out the case for the Gerut trade. Let’s respond, shall we?

Age – Tony Jr is just 26 years while Jody is playing this year at 31. Jody certainly isn’t old, but we are committed to getting younger where we can. We’ve had 32 players currently in our organization who have competed for us at the ML level this season, and 25 of them are in their 20’s (Chris Young just turned 30 on Monday, so we just missed out on 26). Only four of those in their 30’s are full-time starters: Brian Giles, Chris Young, Heath Bell, and David Eckstein. Furthermore, 13 of the players are 26 years old or younger, and Tony Jr fits into that group.

There’s nothing inherently right or wrong with getting younger. Age only matters in so much as it affects our view of expected production going forward. In this case, the expectation for future performance leans significantly in favor of Gerut, even with the age difference.

Service Time – Building on the age element, Tony Jr has just over one year of Major League service (players become free agents after six full years), whereas Jody will be over the five year mark at the end of this season, thereby making him eligible for free agency at the end of 2010. As we try to rebuild the foundation for long-term success, we have to take this into account.

This is definitely a point in the Padres favor, though maybe not as much as you might expect. The Padres do control Gwynn for five more seasons, but three of those are going to be arbitration eligible seasons. When you have a marginal major leaguer like Gwynn, his value disappears very quickly once he reaches the point where his salaries escalate. While San Diego will have the right to retain Gwynn for years 4/5/6 of his service time, there’s a pretty good chance they won’t want to go to arbitration with him. In terms of valuable years of service, there gap is smaller than the service time would indicate.

Money – Nobody likes to talk about it, but the fact is that dollars must factor in our decision making. It doesn’t mean that we’re just looking to move payroll, but every team has to evaluate the cost of each of player on their roster. In this case, Jody was making $1,775,000 this year compared with Tony Jr’s $405,000. That spread will likely increase next year as Jody will once again will eligible for arbitration.

Cost is definitely an important factor in transactions. The Padres will save about $1 million over the course of 2009, and then probably $2 million next year. For a team with a payroll the size of San Diego’s, that’s more than chump change. But, again, cost has to be weighed against the benefit. Would the Padres have gotten more than $3 million additional value from Gerut as opposed to Gwynn over the next year and a half? The projections certainly suggest they would. So, saving money doesn’t help that much if you then have to reinvest that cash to reclaim some of the lost value you gave up in the first place.

Other – It would be silly to ignore the fact that Tony Gwynn Jr’s father is Tony Gwynn. Such an affiliation, however, is never the impetus for a move. When weighing options that are similar, it can probably tip the scales but no more.

I think a lot of people questioned the motives of this deal based on Gwynn’s last name, but I’ll defend the Padres here – if they really wanted Gwynn for nepotism purposes, they could have just claimed him on waivers at the beginning of the year. Gwynn was a minor part of the motivation for this trade.

Other Players – I saved this for last, because it may be the most important piece of this transaction. Most deals are not just simply about the player you’re trading away for the player you’re acquiring. In addition to the standalone deal, there is often a ripple effect on the roster, and in this case that ripple effect may have precipitated the move. Ok, in English… Jody Gerut is a productive offensive outfielder who can play all three outfield positions and is cost effective in relative terms. Well, that also describes Scott Hairston and possibly Drew Macias (who are both younger and have less service time than Jody). This move was about creating at-bats for others like Hairston, Macias, and even Headley as much as it was about the straight-up deal.

Now, here’s the part where DePo essentially lays out the real reasons for the trade – Gerut was in the way of some other players they wanted to get a look at. We talked about that at the time, and moving pieces around to maximize the efficiency of your roster is a legitimate impetus to make a deal.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that they essentially dumped a guy who was a +3 win player last year. Even factoring in expected regression, Gerut is something like a league average player making less than $2 million this season and under control for 2010. Maybe he didn’t fit into San Diego’s long term plan, but he’s worth more than a backup center fielder with little to no upside. The Padres would have been better off hanging onto Gerut and letting him hit his way out of his slump to re-establish some value before moving him in June or July rather than just giving him away in May.

Certainly, DePo is a smart guy who knows far more about baseball than I do. On this one, though, I think the Padres made a bad deal, and for an organization that could use all the talent they can find, giving Gerut away wasn’t in their best interests.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

14 Responses to “Revisiting the Gerut Deal”

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  1. lookatthosetwins says:

    Good article. Nice to get a well rounded look at the trade.

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  2. TomG says:

    I would imagine that the ultimate motivation behind this move was to cut payroll more than it was getting somthing of value for an older, slightly more expensive player. Gerut was probably the best option of actually getting something back, no matter how little the return, without sacrificing much in terms of organizational depth.

    Still doesn’t justify the deal entirely but I have a feeling they had very little recourse from up above.

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  3. logan says:

    Works out pretty well for the Brewers end as well. They get a player who can play CF for at least part of the time next year after Cameron leaves. Much better than trading Cameron to the Yankees for Cabrera.

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  4. Sam says:

    Hey Dave, I wrote something at Gas Lamp Ball that tried to rationalize why they didn’t want him for nothing at the beginning of the season, but were willing to trade for him now:
    I agree with most of what you said, but I think the possibility of a Gwynn breakout is a seriously overlooked component of this deal.

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  5. Kincaid says:

    This just makes me more confused about one other thing: why did the Padres pick up Brian Giles’ option? It didn’t seem to fit with their cost-cutting mantra at the time, and the reasons for this trade almost all apply even moreso to Giles. He’s the oldest player on the team. He’s likely gone next year. Letting him go frees up a lot of OF at bats for the younger guys. Buying out the option for $3 million and replacing him with one of the younger players in the system saves a good $5 and a half million. If they’re dumping or trying to dump some of their best players to get cheaper and younger and more future-oriented, I would have thought he would have been on the list with Peavy and Gerut.

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  6. Johnnycomelately9 says:

    Because his buy out was 3 million and if they trade him before the dead line they’ll only be on the bill for 5.5 millon.

    That’s 2.5 million for him to play RF while Venable/Macias/Blanks develop, and for the prospects they’ll recieve in return, plus the flexibility.

    If the keep winning and he starts hitting than they might even keep him and leave a guy like Blanks down until next year.

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    • Kincaid says:

      That’s still more than twice what they save this year by trading Gerut, and they can’t count on being able to trade him. The Peavy negotiations have shown how hard it can be to move a contract you don’t want.

      Even if they can work out a trade with someone who wants him, there are still more obstacles. His salary jumps $2 million if he gets traded. San Diego might have to eat some of that. Giles has full no-trade rights as a 10 and 5 player. Finding a team to take on $5.5 million for a couple months of Giles could prove difficult and probably won’t return anything of value, and Giles could still veto the deal.

      It’s not like there’s anything wrong with keeping a player like Giles, but every justification DePodesta gives for trading Gerut (except the small perk of the Gwynn name) would have made even more sense applied to Giles.

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  7. Ezra says:

    Thanks for sharing the link to DePodesta’s blog, Dave. I didn’t know any big league execs were that open with their internal analysis, I’m curious to follow his posts.

    For fun, this is what Wikipedia says about Paul DePodesta and his time in Los Angeles.

    “He was the ninth general manager in the club’s history since moving to Los Angeles and the most hated by Dodger fans.”

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  8. Randy Hill says:

    “’ll defend the Padres here – if they really wanted Gwynn for nepotism purposes, they could have just claimed him on waivers at the beginning of the year.”

    I think you are missing the major component to this deal. Jeffrey Moorad is now in control, and he loves making “fan friendly” moves like this. Even if they wanted to move Gerut, they didn’t get much for him, not even upside. You can’t expect a fringe MLB’r to break out at age 27.

    Moorad clearly was panicked about the team and it’s payroll when the deal was made, not at the beginning of the season. This is the kind of smoke screen he thinks will please fans and fill seats while they figure out how to make the team not suck. It’s exactly like the Eric Byrnes deal, where after the GM publicly said he would not re-sign Eric, Moorad panicked and brought Eric into his office to work out a deal without the GM’s involvement. At the time Moorad was worried about losing fans and not making the playoffs, of course the team did make the playoffs and the EB signing crippled Arizona going forward.

    Ironically, the Padres got on their win streak too late to stop this similarly bad deal.

    DePo and Towers are no longer in charge. They’ll get to do what they want as long as the new uber-GM agrees. And occasionally the new uber-GM will tell them what to do, and this smells completely of that.

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  9. Erin says:

    I’m glad the Brewers got Gerut, but I’d like to do a little more dealing with SD, particularly a fairly expensive arm they’re shopping. The Padres are looking to deal, and the Brewers have solid young offensive talent, some of which is getting blocked because there is so much. The Brewers pitching staff, however, is lacking. Giving up Parra and Hardy in exchange for Peavy would make a lot of sense. Parra is the young, talented pitcher the Padres might be looking for, even if he does need to work through his control problems. Hardy is young and is one of the top SS in the league. The Padres would cut salary and get some good young players, and the Brewers would get Peavy and be able to call up Alcides Escobar, who is excellent defensively as well.

    Are there any reasons the Padres and Brewers shouldn’t make a Peavy for Parra and Hardy trade?

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  10. Will says:

    One of the comments mentioned Kyle Blanks. Among Padres fans and close observers, does it sound like he’ll be getting a call up this season? Does this trade make that more likely? Hope so . . . I drafted him in the late rounds of a very deep NL-only strat-o-matic league.

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  11. wobatus says:

    In revisiting the deal, did you notice or did Podesta say anything about the kinda glaring increase in Gwynn’s BB rate in AAA this year? i know, small sample. But it kinda sticks out. he has more walks in AAA and majors this year then he had all last year in AAA in fewer at bats by far. Now 1-1.

    Not that staheads would look at something like that.

    ah, i am just bein’ snarky. don’t let the mouthbreathers get ya down.

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  12. Elias Laniado says:

    too much stats analysis…Gerut is slow and injury prone, was hitting .206…what, his BABIP was too low? His average is projected to rise?…come on, your BABIB will suck if you never hit the sweet spot and keep getting jammed with every inside fastball. Also 4steals so far and 6 total last year, Padres needed a leadoff hitter and Gwynn is better than Gerut for that purpose, not to mention much better defensively.

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  13. bjm says:

    What crappy analysis. Depo is smart enough to know not to judge a trade as player-to-player. Gerut’s ABs will mostly get shared among Hairston, Giles, and Headley, with Gwynn and Macias getting more looks. So that OF is no worse off today, and no worse off down the road.

    And for this they save a few million bucks, bring some younger guys along, and take a shot at having Gwynn mature into a producer.

    You really think other mlb teams were lining up Gerut for $1.8mm? You’re the reason people hate on Depo, while he quietly contributes to winners everywhere he goes…

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