San Diego Padres Writers Roundtable Vol. 1: July 30, 2009

M.T. RobinsonCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 22:  Kyle Blanks #76 of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait during spring training on February 22, 2008 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Seizing upon the brilliant concept used by B/R Indians columnist Slammin Samantha Bunten (Thank's Sammi, You rock!!"), I am starting with what I hope will become a regular item here on Bleacher Report,

The San Diego Padres Writers Roundtable.

At the Roundtable, we will discuss Padre news, and post our opinions of where the Padres are headed, and what can be done to get the team rolling in the right direction again. Or, at least get some Pizza...

Joining the Roundtable today for our first Padres discussion of 2009, are B/R Padre Senior Writer Todd Kaufman, NL West correspondent O Shiri, Myself, B/R Indians Featured Columnist Samantha Bunten, and B/R Padres analyst Eric Gomez.

Five questions for five writers.

So here we go...


1: Will the Padres trade Adrian Gonzalez?

ToddI think the question of WILL they trade Adrian Gonzalez is a lot different from should they. Will they trade him? No, I don't think they will, at least not before the end of the 2009 season. During the GM and Winter Meetings, though, is a whole different story. There's a good chance that a deal will be struck that will land the Padres four or five good prospects.

Eric- Unfortunately, yes. But it probably won't be in the next two days.

O- It not a good thing for the Padres to trade Gonzalez. First the thought of trading away a young bat like Gonzalez would be enough to send most Padre fans to their nearest psych ward. He’s their only slugger in a weak offense and he’s locked up until 2012.

Why would San Diego deal a young productive player like Gonzo when they’re trying to rebuild in the midst of an ownership change?

Samantha- I doubt it, but it is certainly a possibility. The Red Sox, far more than any other team, would love to get their hands on Gonzalez. A deal seems unlikely though, given that the Red Sox will likely continue to balk at the demands made by the Padres.

The Padres are surely asking for Clay Buchholz, and probably the inclusion of Manny Delcarmen, Casey Kelly, or Justin Masterson, plus one or two lesser prospects.

If they could get Buchholz and at least one other top tier prospect, this could be a very good trade for the Padres in the long run, but they need to be very careful how the move will look politically.

Because of that, I don’t see Gonzalez being moved. The Padres cannot afford to alienate their fan base any more than they have already, and the return on Gonzalez would have to be huge and immediately impactful to avoid that. Thus I believe it would be far too risky a move, and predict Gonzalez stays put.

MT- Given the Padres history in such things, if they deal him, Adrian will come back and haunt us for years to come. Leave him right where he is, and build around him. Given some motivation, Gonzalez is fully capable of swatting 40 dingers per season for the next 10 years.

The last thing I want to see is Gonzalez eventually ending up right back in the division, as a Dodger or Giant.

Looking at dealing AG From a team standpoint, sending away yet another clubhouse regular wont help team morale. After the deals that have already come out of the blue from the front office, the players have to be looking over their shoulders constantly.

Keeping AG would send a message that the office does believe that this team can win again sooner, rather than later. 


2: Should Padres GM Kevin Towers stay or move on?

Todd- I think Kevin Towers is going to stay put. I think he takes way too much heat for the performance of the team the last few years. Let's look at the fact that Jake Peavy and Chris Young have both been on the disabled list each of the past two seasons and each for a significant amount of time.

Not to mention they have been without Cha Seung Baek, Walter Silva, and Shawn Hill since May, they've been without catcher Nick Hundley for the last two months, David Eckstein has seen time on the disabled list, Brian Giles is currently on the disabled list, and then you bring up the fact that they apparently wasted money on Cliff Floyd as he only saw a few weeks of action before suffering another injury and is back on the disabled list where he started the season.

Towers can't help all of that, and he can only do as much as he's allowed from ownership.

Eric- KT has done some great work for the franchise over the past 15 seasons, keeping penny-pinching teams afloat in respectability when he's had to and assembling strong teams that challenge for a division championship or a pennant when the clamp has been loosened somewhat on the ownership's wallet.

However, it's hard to say whether it's been him, or recently ousted CEO Sandy Alderson who have run the team into the ground the last two seasons with a mix of injuries (not in their control, of course) and bad personnel decisions (keeping Brian Giles, signing Cliff Floyd, trading Greg Maddux for peanuts).

It really depends on what new boss Jeff Moorad wants, as he has some experience assembling teams of his own.

O- I believe Kevin Towers needs to move...the past two years he has been ineffective. Towers inability to bring in solid players has ruined the Padres.

Samantha- Towers has had a pretty long tenure for a GM, and there is a reason for that. Despite the team’s recent struggles, he has proven he can produce winning teams. Towers caught a lot of heat in the off-season, particularly over Trevor Hoffman-gate, but his hands were tied and he was bound by the suddenly rigid constraints of the owner’s personal life.

Last winter the Padres essentially became a child of divorce, and Towers didn’t get a say in how that would affect the team’s finances. I can understand the argument that maybe Towers should move along because it’s time for a change, but you won’t find a better GM out there for digging up hidden talent at affordable prices, which is indispensable for a team with huge payroll concerns.

MT- After watching Towers best and worst seasons, all I can say is, I am ambivalent.

Towers can fleece, or be fleeced deal wise, and his failures usually hurt more than his success helps. Too many guys KT has dealt for have not panned out, and too many guys that he dealt away have become everyday players.

Jason Bay comes to mind, a player who fit every need the Padres had, as a young top prospect outfielder. We were trotting out ancient Dave Roberts and such, all the Pads had to do was plug him in and let him play.

Sure, Brian Giles had some game left, but he has predictably gotten too old to contribute, while Bay was an American League All Star this season. Pittsburgh also was not smart enough to keep Bay, and the Padres dont want to be in the same boat as the Pirates, who are looking at a record breaking 17th consecutive season under 500.

The Padres spent many years becoming a legitimate franchise, and I look for them to turn it around quickly, because there is no money in losing.

Towers will probably remain where he is, for the foreseeable future.


3: What is left down on the farm for the Padres, and will this years draft help restock it?

Todd- I think Padre fans have seen a lot of the team's prospects this season. You've had Kyle Blanks, Nick Hundley, Will Venable, Wade LeBlanc, Mat Latos, Greg Burke, and Josh Banks so far see time in San Diego.

The ones that fans can still be excited about seeing are guys that are currently playing for Double-A San Antonio. Catcher Mitch Canham, infielders Logan Forsythe and Eric Sogard and outfielders Cedric Hunter and Kellen Kulbacki.

Eric- Donovan Tate is a beast and I can't wait to see how he pans out in a few more years. It's safe to say that for the most part, San Diego has had some pretty good drafts that have yielded talent that we've just started to enjoy today (Chase Headley, Kyle Blanks, Mat Latos).

I don't discard Cesar Carrillo finally overcoming injuries and inconsistency to become a viable pitching option for the Padres in the future, and Matt Antonelli taking over second base. Craig Cooper should add to the logjam at 1B as well.

O- From a Report Minor League _Padres 5 top prospects. 1) Kyle Blanks, 1B, Grade B+: I don’t know where he fits except as trade bait, but I’m convinced that the bat is real.

Considered Grade B, but that’s what I gave him last year and he improved in ’08. 2) Jaff Decker, OF, Grade B: Need to see at higher levels, could be a cross between Brian Giles and Matt Stairs. 3) Mat Latos, RHP, Grade B: I believe in his ceiling, and while the intercostal injury is annoying, he pitched very well when on the mound. 4) Kellen Kulbacki, OF, Grade B: The Winner of the 2009 Josh Willingham Award, given to a guy who can really f**king hit, but who doesn’t get as much respect as he deserves due to lack of tools. 5) Cedric Hunter, OF, Grade B-: Improved slightly compared to ’07. Young, hits liners, Double-A will tell us a lot.

Samantha- The Padres farm system is still in need of work but has show signs of significant improvement this season. Fuson has built up some depth in a relatively short amount of time, even if Baseball America continues to criticize the organization’s farm system.

I like OF Kellen Kulbacki, who I believe has the potential to be an impact player someday, even though he’s struggled in San Antonio, and I still think Wade LeBlanc will pan out nicely, even though he got crushed when he was called up to the majors.

Blanks, Latos, Hunter, and Inman all have the ability to contribute at a big league level as well, perhaps sooner rather than later. It looks like 2009’s draft class will be a good one for San Diego.

Donavan Tate was a bit of an unusual choice for an organization that normally favors more polished players, often with several years of college ball under their belts. The fact that the Padres were willing to take a chance on Tate by deviating from their usual strategy should tell you just how good this guy may be.

MT- I think P Cesar Carillo has to make a contribution soon. Carillo has had surgery during his time in the Padres farm system, and is 25 now. P Wil Inman shuld also be able to reach the Majors in the next year or two.

Portland's roster looks pretty thin after that, Former Padre Brian Lawrence is back, and that is indicative of how little talent remains in the system overall. Lawrence is done, surely we have some 22 year old kid that could use the experience.

2009 number one pick, OF Donovan Tate remains unsigned, and continues a long history of the Padres not taking care of business. If you know you are going to take a player, don't you get a feeler of what it will take to sign him, before you burn a pick? 

Here is a list of the first 10 2009 picks for the Padres and their signing status                                                                                                         signed

Donavan R TateCFR / R6'02"1841990-09-2713
Everett E WilliamsCFL / R5'10"2001990-10-01252
Gerald M SullivanRHPR / R6'04"2201988-01-183836/24/09
Keyvius N SampsonRHPR / R6'00"1851991-01-064114
Jason T HagertyCS / R6'03"2201987-09-1351446/24/09
James P NeedyRHPR / R6'06"2051991-03-306174
Miles T MikolasRHPR / R6'05"2201988-08-2372046/24/09
Nathan S Freiman1BR / R6'08"2201986-12-3182346/14/09
Christopher W FetterRHPR / R6'07"
Ryan M HinsonLHPL / L6'03"2251987-05-12102946/24/09

Not exactly a group that inspires fear in the hearts of Padre opponents... although there are some big dudes on this list.

I like CF Cedric Hunter's chances of eventually ending up in the Padre outfield, As i have stated, you have to have speedsters in the outfield at Petco. Hunter is the fastest prospect in the Padre system. 2b Matt Antonelli seems eternally stuck at triple A, unable to hit at that level.


4: Are the Padres a better team now, than they were to begin the 2009 season?

Todd- It's hard to say they're a better team now than they were when they started the season. I think you can better answer that question once Jake Peavy and Chris Young come off the disabled list and they show what they have with the guys they have behind them.

If I had to absolutely answer that question right now, I'd say they're probably slightly better now than they were at the start of the season.

Eric- Better? Oh, God no. But they're certainly more exciting with all the aforementioned young talent being pushed through the ranks. Latos' stuff is for real and Kyle Blanks' power is even better than advertised. Tony Gywnn, Jr. has been a steal and Everth Cabrera is a clear example of why the Rule V draft was instilled.

O-Any given team can change with proper management and willingness and guidance that begins with the owner down to the players chemistry to work toward a goal.

Samantha- They’re certainly a better team than I thought they would be going into the season, given the offseason soap opera. As for whether they’re a better team than they were on opening day, that’s much harder to determine.

Regardless of the fact that he has been perpetually on the trading block, losing Jake Peavy to injury hurt the Padres badly.

The team’s continued efforts to move him hurt the club as well, draining morale from a team that was already pretty short on it going in. Heath Bell has been a very, very pleasant surprise.

He had some very, very big shoes to fill and while Padres fans won’t be forgetting the tune of Hells Bells any time soon, Bell’s surprisingly good work in succeeding Hoffman has made the Padres a better and better team as the season has progressed.

MT- Good question. For me, I think so. If the plan was to get the kids from triple A up here into major roles, mission accomplished. The Padres are fielding one of the youngest teams in the Majors, and that's not all bad.

Mat Latos, Kyle Blanks, Everth Cabrera and Kevin Correia have all come into their own, and given ample playing time here in 2009. should get better. Blanks is a bonified power hitter, something the Pads have not had in years, although he has not hit for average yet. Blanks just belted a 451 foot, three-RBI home run in Cincinnati as I write this. 

Latos looks like the real deal, with a blazing fastball. Works for me, I am tired of watching every else's team trot out the power pitcher. Latos looked sharp in his second start, and should remain in the rotation, for years to come. Its not like there is anyone else coming up to push him. Latos is dealing as I write, shutting the Reds down on one run so far.

With Jake Peavy and Chris Young both out for an extended period this season, The Padres have been forced into season long tryouts.  Josh Geer may yet learn to keep the ball in the confines of the stadium, but I am willing to bet he goes back to Portland. Josh Banks clearly was not ready, but may be back next year for another look.

Losing is never fun, and I have bitched as loud as anyone, but i grudgingly admit I see progress.All I ever ask is for the Padres to be on the road up, and not down.


5: Can the Padres contend in 2010?

ToddI'm always the eternal optimist and I'll say they can contend, but there are certain things that have to happen to make me right. If the rumors are right and number one pick Stephen Strasburg ends up not signing with the Nationals, the Padres need to make sure they draft him number one in 2010 and get him signed.

With Strasburg on board, you have him in a rotation that boasts Jake Peavy, Chris Young and up and comer Mat Latos who has shown signs of brilliance.

You add a kid that can throw 100+ MPH behind that rotation and I think it makes the Padres among the favorites in the NL West.The front office needs to fix the bullpen and they need to make the right moves to get the right guys in the right roles to be able to hold late leads and turn them over to closer Heath Bell.

The infield needs to be decided, especially Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein and Kevin Kouzmanoff being named in trade rumors. That needs to be decided because they need to figure out what they're going to do with Chase Headley and Kyle Blanks who can both play left field.

If you trade Kouzmanoff and Gonzalez, you slide Headley to third and Blanks to first then you can have a young and talented outfield make its debut Opening Day 2010. To answer the question, I think if they make the right moves this team can absolutely contend.

Eric- That's an interesting question because potentially, a 2010 San Diego starting rotation could feature a lights-out combination of Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Kevin Correia (a wonderful surprise), Chad Gaudin and Mat Latos. More major league at-bats will stabilize Kyle Blanks' contact and create a really interesting middle of the lineup with Gonzalez, Blanks and Kevin Kouzmanoff, who would be set up by Gwynn and Cabrera.

A stable bullpen and relative protection from injuries can definitely result in San Diego winning 85-90 games, the question is, with the strides that LA, San Francisco and Colorado have made in the past couple of seasons, will it be enough for a playoff berth?

Probably not unless we sign a couple of big names, an unlikelihood at this point considering Jeff Moorad is still in the process of buying the team.

O-Nothing has changed in the NL west, the top three teams: Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies are still twice as good, if not better.

Samantha- Absolutely, but only if they put some effort and some cash into improving the offense. If I were the Padres, I’d be looking into one year, incentive heavy type deals for players like Vlad Guerrero and Magglio Ordonez, who would add some pop to an outfield that could use some bigger stick.

Aubrey Huff could help shore up the infield, and would come relatively inexpensive for the type of return on the investment he is likely to provide. A lot will depend on Peavy as well—whether can fetch a significant amount in trade or even stay with the Padres and be a productive pitcher is entirely subject to whether or not he makes a full recovery.

Here’s hoping.

MT- I always think they are going to contend, so why not. Baseball is weird that way anyhow, one year you are a bum, and the next you have a ring.

Look at 1984, no one picked the Pads, no one wanted them in the playoffs, no one wanted us to beat the Cubs, spoiling their dreams of an old school Detroit Chicago series. I have an ex who loves the Cubs, and I delight in reminding her about Leon Durham...

For the Padres to truly get back into contention, they must learn to hit with runners in scoring position. During the Padres winning seasons, bases were always cleared, and leaving them loaded is a trait the current roster has to shed in order to move forward.

Given the flux like nature of the division, If the Padres in 2010 can cash in half of the runners they have stranded so far in 2009, they will compete. It is also a matter of team self belief. The Padres have to learn all over again how to win everyday, to take the field KNOWING that they are going to win.


That wraps up the first Padres Writers Round Table- I would like to thank Todd, Eric, O, and guest analyst Samantha for their insightful comments. I feel we covered a lot of important ground here, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season, more than I was before.

Stay Tuned for Round Table Vol 2- during the last week of the 2009 regular season. Go Padres!!!!!