Q&A With Craig Elsten Of 619 Sports

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IAugust 20, 2009

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 17: Donovan Tate #23 of the Team One team bats against of the Baseball Factory team during the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game at Wrigley Field on August 17, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The San Diego Padres are fresh off signing their number one draft pick Donovan Tate and back-to-back wins over the Chicago Cubs, one of which came on a walk off home run from big left fielder Kyle Blanks. 

So, 619 Sports' Craig Elsten stopped by to give his thoughts on the new look Padres, the trade that sent Jake Peavy to Chicago and new owner Jeff Moorad's philosophy on signing the aforementioned Tate.

Todd Kaufmann: Take me back to the Jake Peavy trade.  How surprised were you and, at this point, are the Padres better off financially and as a team having traded him?

Craig Elsten: The Peavy trade was only surprising to me in that he was on the disabled list and I didn't think a contending team would trade for damaged goods, especially given the future commitment they would be making by taking on Jake's salary. 

The White Sox were hell-bent to acquire Peavy, though, and that took a massive weight off of Kevin Towers' shoulders.  Unquestionably the Padres are better off financially. 

They are also quite probably better off on the baseball side of the equation as well.  The trend in baseball these days has been trades where the selling party either gets salary relief OR top-shelf players.  The Padres got both from Chicago, pitchers who have potential short-and-long term impact, while relieving themselves of every dollar of future commitment to Peavy. It was a banner day, maybe a lucky day, for Towers and the organization.

Todd Kaufmann: Kyle Blanks has really opened a lot of eyes since the All Star break as well as the last two nights.  People know how big he is, but tell fans just how good of an athlete he is?

Craig Elsten:I think everyone can see his athleticism every night at Petco Park, even the nights when he isn't circling the bases on an inside-the-park HR.  Playing outfield in the major leagues is not easy, and there have been plenty of corner outfielders who have suffered the position only thanks to their bat. 

Blanks is actually looking like an outfielder out there, not a converted first baseman (which he is).  He has cut off balls heading for the gap with good regularity, has a decent arm, and hasn't looked hesitant.  His offense is starting to surface, but it's on defense and on the base paths that you realize that Blanks isn't your average big lug.

Todd Kaufmann:Jeff Moorad has made it clear, through getting their draft picks signed, that he is far from John Moores.  When he first came on the scene, do you think fans gave him the benefit of the doubt or do you still think they're pessimistic about him as an owner?

Craig Elsten: Moorad inherited a very difficult situation.  A front office that was overstuffed, an owner who allowed his divorce to affect his commitment to the team on the field, and a 40-man roster that was one of the weakest in all of baseball.  Moorad also came in with vague financing which led you to wonder who was actually writing the checks. 

I'd say he has passed all of his early major tests: he got rid of Alderson right away, which immediately improved the atmosphere of the front office, re-signed Bud Black, didn't force Towers to move Gonzalez or Bell, and now he's cut the checks for a bumper crop of prospects.  If fans are pessimistic about Moorad as an owner, they're not paying attention.  He'll never be Arte Moreno but it does look like Moorad is doing things the right way downtown.

Todd Kaufmann:Speaking of draft picks, it seemed like people were a lot more impressed with Donavan Tate than they were Matt Bush.  How impressed were you with Tate and how quickly do you expect him to work his way through the Padres' system?

Craig Elsten:There's every reason to be more impressed with Donavan Tate than Matt Bush.  Bush was a pick forced on the scouting department in 2004 when they were told just days before the draft that their signing budget would be a fraction of what they thought it would be. 

In 2009, Moorad OK'd the Padres coming in over budget on their signing pool.  The Padres made that #3 pick by taking the top player off their board, not the most signable.  I will trust Fuson and Gayton's judgement in that regard. 

Tate is clearly a toolsy player, he's only 18, but he has the seal of approval of being a Boras client.  I would expect to see him in San Diego by 2012, maybe late 2011 if he explodes onto the scene.

Todd Kaufmann:There was a lot of talk, before the trade deadline, about Kevin Kouzmanoff possibly being traded.  Do you expect a trade involving Kouz during the off season or do you fully expect him to be a Padre when spring training opens next year?

Craig Elsten:What I think they should do and what I think they will do may be two separate things.  Kevin Kouzmanoff is a nice player but I don't think you can be a very good offense with him in the middle of the lineup.  His OBP is just too low, and he doesn't have the .500 slugging percentage that can make up for it. 

Kouz makes a lot of outs and struggles out of the chute every year.  Combine this with the fact that Chase Headley still looks like a player out of position in LF (unlike Blanks), and the development of Blanks and Venable...it seems clear the Padres should try and move Kouz, install Headley at third, and let Blanks and Venable man the corners.  Whether they do this or not remains to be seen.  I do think Towers will actively pursue moving Kouzmanoff at the winter meetings.

Todd Kaufmann:With young players like Mat Latos, Will Venable, Kyle Blanks, Cesar Carrillo and Tony Gwynn, are the expectations a lot higher than they were before the 2009 season opened or is there a cautious optimism among the Padre front office?

Craig Elsten:I asked Kevin Towers about this on Tuesday at the Donavan Tate press conference.  In spring training of this year Towers was plucking every live arm he could find off the waiver wire.  Now, the Padres have an identity: they are a young team building through their farm system. 

Grady Fuson and the player development side of the front office was always cautiously optimistic, because they knew what was coming up through the pipeline, but on the big league side things were pretty dreadful before the Peavy trade and the draft.  I think it's realistic now for Padres fans to believe that this team will be competitive (i.e. at or around .500) in 2010 and could be contending by 2011. 

Todd Kaufmann: Last question and thanks for your time Craig.  Did the Padres wait too long to make the decision for Chris Young to undergo surgery on his shoulder?  Was there a reason behind the long delay and do you think Young will be ready for spring training?

Craig Elsten: No pitcher ever wants to have his shoulder cut on, or his elbow.  I can't blame CY and the training staff for being cautious.  There was no point in trying to bring him back this year, and Bud Black said on Tuesday that he thought CY tried to come back too soon in 2007 which could have contributed to his arm problems since. 

I'm sure Young will work to be ready by spring of 2010, but Padres fans should be worried about his health and performance moving forward.  Chris Young has never had more than 31 starts or thrown more than 179 innings in a season, so durability is a big question mark.

Big thanks to Craig Elsten of 619 Sports.  You can catch him on their website at www.619sports.net or on Twitter at twitter.com/619sports


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