Is the Bar Set Too High for the San Diego Padres—or Not High Enough?
Although the Padres are slowly ramping down their season, not to mention young pitcher Mat Latos at the end of this month, it's time to start talking about next season and what changes this team may possibly make during the off season.
Fans can look forward to guys like Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley, Tony Gwynn, Everth Cabrera, and Chase Headley to play a major role for the Padres in 2010.
So, with that in mind, I brought in Geoff Young of Ducksnorts.com to give me his thoughts on what's to come for the San Diego Padres.
Todd Kaufmann: Of all the trades that the Padres have made in the past few months (Meredith, Peavy, Gerut, etc), which one has given the Padres more return at this point and do you think the Padres came out on top in each one of them?
Geoff Young: The trades have to be viewed in terms of what they attempted to accomplish, which in most cases was to cut costs while obtaining parts that might be useful in the future.
I've been critical of the Gerut deal, and I'm still not crazy about it from a talent standpoint (although Gerut has done nothing in Milwaukee), but bringing Tony Gwynn Jr. to San Diego is a nice gesture for fans who needed a nice gesture. Meredith for Salazar was pretty much a swap of spare parts.
As for the two big deals (Peavy and Hairston), it's way too early to tell, but I like the fact that the organization acknowledged the lack of power arms at higher levels and brought in some kids who have a chance to contribute going forward. I also like the fact that the White Sox took on all of Peavy's salary.
My guess is that the Hairston trade will end up being the "best" one long term because, beyond what the Padres received in return, his departure essentially freed up playing time for Kyle Blanks and Will Venable, who should provide comparable production for less money and more years.
Todd Kaufmann: The four players that you have talked about (Headley, Blanks, Venable, Cabrera) have made a huge impact on this team and they're showing signs of where this team is headed in the future. Of those four, who will the Padres rely on more or do all four bring that one "something" that the Padres like?
Geoff Young: Each brings something different to the table, and each has value. Blanks can hit the ball out of any park, which is handy when you play half your games at Petco.
Cabrera is an electrifying player on offense and defense; he's fun to watch now and he's still learning. His speed adds a dimension that the Padres haven't seen in a while. He puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses when he's on base, and he's pretty good at getting on base.
Headley and Venable are more role type players. Headley has found a comfort zone at the plate since the All-Star break, although I still get nervous watching him run around in left field; I'd like to see him return to third base.
As for Venable, I doubted him for a long time and he keeps proving me wrong. He's got a chance to have Gerut's career—starting outfielder for a second-division club, potentially great fourth outfielder for a contender.
Out of all of them, Blanks is the only one who might be someone around whom you build, but they all should be solid contributors, and the Padres haven't always been able to say that about guys they developed (or stole, in the case of Cabrera).
Todd Kaufmann: In your blog, you make no qualms about how big a fan you are of Everth Cabrera. Do you think he's surprised even the Padres' by how he's performed especially going from A Ball up to the big leagues?
Geoff Young: I would imagine so. There's supposed to be a learning curve, and he hasn't really shown it. I'm assuming Cabrera will struggle at some point because that is the nature of the beast, but he doesn't look over matched at all. He understands the strike zone, makes decent contact, has surprising gaps power, flies around the bases, and has a great arm.
He just needs more reps to gain consistency. Cabrera may not develop into a star, but he could be a spark at the top of the order—in the vein of, say, Quilvio Veras—for years to come. I've got no problem with that, and I expect the Padres don't either.
Todd Kaufmann: I'm going to be blunt with this question. Can the Padres win a World Series with Bud Black as the manager?
Geoff Young: Sure, assuming he has the talent. The question then becomes, Can the Padres assemble the talent? That remains to be seen, but they appear to be headed in the right direction.
As for Black, I'm not crazy about every tactical move he makes and he carries more pitchers on his roster than I'd like, but he seems to have a good rapport with his players.
It is difficult to quantify a manager's ability to communicate in terms of how it affects wins and losses, but my suspicion is that much of Black's value derives from that aspect of his character.
He also has demonstrated a willingness to play the youngsters and put them in a position to succeed, which is important when you operate in a market that forces you to develop talent from within the organization. That didn't always happen before he arrived.
Todd Kaufmann: It seems every year there's a question as to whether Kevin Towers is going to be around as the team's general manager. Do you think he's there long term or do you think there will come a point where new owner Jeff Moorad will bring in his own guy?
Geoff Young: I honestly have no clue. I've long been a fan of Towers, and he is known for having good working relationships with other general managers, which is huge. If you're asking whether I think there will be a push to transition him out, I would guess and hope not.
Todd Kaufmann: Last question for me. Going into this off season, you know there are going to be rumors of Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell being traded somewhere. Do you expect one or both of these players to get dealt or do you think it would benefit the Padres more to hang on to them long term?
Geoff Young: It's so difficult to say without knowing what concrete offers might be on the table. Adrian is a franchise player who also happens to be from San Diego. He's young and his contract is attractive. I don't have any names in mind, but the Padres would need to get impact guys in return.
Bell's case is a little different because he's older, he's less tied to the community, and he isn't an everyday player. He still has plenty of value to the Padres (and he's a lot of fun to watch), but whether it's more or less than what he might fetch in trade is impossible to know until something happens.
It wouldn't shock me to see one or both get moved this winter. Then again, it wouldn't shock me to see them stay put. I realize that is very noncommittal on my part, but as we saw with the Peavy situation, these things are fluid.
Situations change rapidly and with a guy like Towers, who other general managers like to work with, anything is possible.
Whatever happens, it won't be boring.
Big thanks to Geoff Young of Ducksnorts.com. Geoff has been covering the San Diego Padres since 1997 and published the first Ducksnorts Baseball Annual in 2007 and just recently published the 2009 addition, all three can be ordered from his website.
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