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The Scott Hairston Deal

When I heard that the Padres had traded Scott Hairston for Craig Italiano, Ryan Webb, and a PTBNL, my first reaction was to wonder if they were trying to tank as quickly as possible to give themselves a shot at drafting Bryce Harper. There weren’t too many other explanations that made much sense, given that Hairston was one of only two guys on the Padres roster hitting his weight and that he made a total of $1.25 million this year while not being eligible for free agency until after 2011.

After a night to think it over and do some more research on the deal, I don’t have many more answers than I did last night. I still don’t get it.

Kevin Towers justified the trade thusly: “That’s the one thing we lack in our system is pitching depth,” Towers said, noting the lack of higher-level arms in the system. “We really didn’t want to give up Scotty. But for us, this is a move looking beyond this year.”

Not sure if you’ve noticed, Mr. Towers, but you play in the most pitcher friendly ballpark in baseball. You’ve picked up Chad Gaudin and Kevin Correia off the scrap heap and watched them turn into pretty useful arms in the expanse of Petco Park, after doing the same thing with Cha Seung Baek last year. Your ballpark is a veritable pitching factory, allowing you to take arms with some flaws and make them look all shiny and new.

What you don’t have is a major league offense. Sure, Hairston was over his head this year, so maybe you can convince yourself that you’re selling high. But even with an expected regression, he’s a league average hitter who had turned himself into a decent enough outfielder to handle center field or be above average in a corner spot. Hairston is a +2 to +3 win player, under team control for 2 1/2 years, and making a fraction of what he’s worth. That’s a really valuable asset.

In return for one of their best trade chips, the Padres get a couple of bullpen arms with upside in Webb and Italiano and a PTBNL that Towers called “the key to the deal”. Because Towers indicated that the PTBNL is going to be one of two pitchers, one of whom has major league service time, speculation has centered around Sean Gallagher or Dana Eveland. Gallagher is better than Eveland, but I’m not sure this deal makes sense for San Diego regardless of which pitcher it ends up being.

Call me crazy, but I think low cost, above average major league players should command more than a potential back-end starter and a pair of bullpen arms. It’s hard for me to fathom how the Padres could back away from really good deals for Jake Peavy over the winter, but then begin to sell off useful pieces like Hairston for spare parts.

From the A’s perspective, this is a no-brainer deal. Hairston will replace the soon-to-be-traded Matt Holliday in the line-up, giving them a right-handed outfield bat that they lacked going forward, and they gave up no real parts of their future to acquire a guy who can fit into their near-term core.

Easy win for Oakland here. Can’t say I’m a fan of whatever plan San Diego is putting in place.