Life is Motion (la la la la la la-la), Move on

When the Padres traded Mat Latos I felt very disappointed. Actually I was pissed. I remember playing FIFA when I received the ESPN text alert that he’d been traded to Cincinnati. I was up 2-1 late against Manchester City, a perennial powerhouse, playing with poor little underdog Stoke City. Do you have any idea how hard it is to beat a 5 star team with 2 star team? DO YOU?! Well, distracted by the news, I forgot to pause the game, and of course City equalized late. I eventually lost the game in penalties. Fucking Byrnes.

You already know the final trade, but in case you didn’t, here’s the deal in its entirety: Mat Latos for Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger. Basically a whole lot of meh. Now, I don’t want this to come off as second guessing but I hated the deal when it happened. I know there’s a whole other angle involving the local media, his behavior/attitude and other bullshit. I hated it from a baseball perspective. That’s it.

Of all the meh the Padres got in exchange for their best pitcher, Yonder Alonso is definitely the meh-iest. Sure, Volquez was awful and Boxberger hasn’t done anything but neither were expected to be building blocks for the next 5-7 years. Yonder was, and through two full seasons, he’s been only slightly better than replacement level (1.4WAR in 2012 and 1.2 in 2013, via Baseball Reference). Despite his home slugging percentage increasing (.398 to .421), his overall slugging decreased (.393 to .368). Relatively old as a rookie, Yonder Alonso now approaches his age 27 season and what should be his prime – unfortunately he’s got a bad body and plays first base like he’s been attacked by a pack of raccoons.

What makes this all worse is that Josh Byrnes refuses to move on. He can’t. He’s invested way too much to give up after just two years. And sure, Yonder could still improve as a player. But when? His defense didn’t improve in year 2 (age 26) and he’s never going to be valuable on the bases. All of his value is in his bat, which means he’s gonna have to fucking rake just to be an everyday regular. I just don’t see it happening. I understand Byrnes wanting to see more. If he dumps Yonder then all he has to show for the Latos trade is a catcher coming off a serious knee injury, with perhaps the top catching prospect in baseball breathing down his neck. It doesn’t matter how good Yonder looks with a fedora or a suit that’s clearly two sizes too small. The best GMs are the ones who recognize their mistakes and move on. I suggest Byrnes do just that.

***

I contribute when I contribute. Other thoughts on things that I think about can be found here. That’s a terrible “outro”. I’ll try to work on it.

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  • Sean Dreusike

    The “when” for Yonder Alonso to improve as a player is decidedly now. It is not time to move on. He is about to enter his peak years. There was improvement in his power before he hurt his wrist. It was modest, but it was an improvement especially in the first month of the season. Wrist injuries have been been shown time and time again to sap power even after a hitter has been cleared from his injury. Players that have their power return in season following a wrist injury are the rarest of the rare. So, while you “just don’t see it happening”, any sort of critical analysis would suggest otherwise. Giving up on him now would be asking to dig a bigger hole in the trade as he spends his best years elsewhere instead of having the patience and foresight to reap the rewards.

    Save this thought though. If Alonso still is giving you the same feelings next year, then I can almost guarantee there will be enough evidence to say that it is indeed time to move on.

    • Sac Bunt Melvin

      Yeah, I give Alonso one more year. If he’s hurt again, well then he’s just hurt too much to be a starter. If he doesn’t hit the ball harder, he’s definitely not cut out to be a starter.

      If I expected the Padres to win, say 88 games next year, then it might be time to cut losses on him. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, so you don’t really gain enough to dump a player who still has potential in hopes of improving from 76 wins.

      edit: I’ll also add I think it could be time to move on if the Padres had another in house candidate. Sadly, they don’t. Unleeessssss, maybe Quentin to first would help save his legs and create space in a crowded outfield? Just thinking out loud here.

      • Geoff Hancock

        That’s some outside the box thinking! In a small sample Medica produced at 1st. Maybe him?

      • Sean Dreusike

        The risk profile on that seems similar to betting on Alonso. Seems the optimum strategy would to keep Alonso on a short leash and have Medica in your back pocket.

        Some stats to chew on: Medica’s one month triple slash was .290/.380/.449. Alonso’s in April was .292/.355/.448. Cherrypicking Alonso’s best month in 2012 would give you .290/.368/.505.

        Small sample sizes are tricky.

      • Geoff Hancock

        Totally agree. I’m more of the opinion tostay the course with Alonso. Without looking it up, my memory is that his 2012 was pretty good. 2013 was a disappointment but that seems to be more due to injury. Or at least can be explained away by injury.

      • Sean Dreusike

        2012 would have been pretty good if not for the atrocious things that happened to him on the basepaths. But from just a hitting standpoint I agree with that assessment.

      • Sean Dreusike

        Even if the Padres were near contention like that 88 win total, I’m not sure you could get a 1B that could elevate you. A team like the Pirates are a contender (it hurt to type that) and don’t even have an Alonso at 1B so they had to settle for Justin Morneau down the stretch and now might have to give a multiyear deal to James Loney to cover the position. Let the Nationals and their deal with Adam LaRoche under similar circumstances be the cautionary tale on that one.

        There is Kendrys Morales though. I suppose that would be the move to make. Although, I don’t know if he spent 78% of his games at DH last year was just due to Justin Smoak manning the 1B bag.

        The sad fact is that despite Alonso’s inadequacies is that his 2.0 fWAR over the last two seasons ranks 20th among 1B. Considering that there is reason to believe (age, wrist, baserunning got better from 2012 to 2013) that his WAR will increase, even a contender would have a hard time justifying cutting bait.

      • Oscar Terrones

        “We believe, when healthy… we have a team that can compete for October baseball in 2014.” – Mike Dee on Nov. 20. Obviously they think they’re contenders, at least in the NL West. I kinda love the idea of moving Quentin to 1B (ideally he’d be our DH, but the DH is evil). I think Grandal ultimately ends up at first with Hedges at catcher.

    • Change the Padres

      I don’t think the problem is that he hasn’t developed yet. On the contrary, his MLE / SLG+ has steadily improved since he first came into milb:
      ’09: .361
      ’10: .383
      ’11: .411
      ’12: .436
      ’13: .429

      His problem is that he is who he is: a first baseman with little-to-no power, who has always had little-to-no power (even after improvements), and who will probably always have little-to-no power.

      I’m not saying it isn’t possible…but I am saying that it’s a poor bet and we’d be better off placing our bet on someone else.

      • Sac Bunt Melvin

        I’m not familiar with MLE / SLG+. Can you explain it a little?

      • Oscar Terrones

        Very well said.

  • Geoff Hancock

    I think we’ve seen in Maybin what a lingering injury can do to a player’s performance. Feels too early to cut bait on him after two years when one was so injury plagued.

    Even if they did, who would replace him that would give them a decided advantage over Alonso?

  • GoldenBoy

    I’m optimistic about both Yonder and Grandal for next year. Whether they produce or not, I imagine there’s a good chance we cut ties with one or both of them after next year. Sure would be nice to sell high on them, so let’s give them one more chance. I actually don’t look down on the Latos trade and still view these guys as having a lot of potential. We shall see.

  • pat

    Rush to judgment much?

  • Tom Waits

    Starting the season with Alonso is the best of a set of unattractive options. Medica, Blanks, and Guzman come with their own major questions and no free agent worth anything fits the budget. The budget may be a mendacious limit foisted upon the fans by a dishonest ownership group and a largely duplicitous local media, but to Byrnes it’s a real limit.

    Alonso’s hand should concern us.

    His gruesome baserunning should concern us. Nothing happened to him on the bases, he happened. h/t Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs, before he decided to give Hannibal Lecter a full-blown backstory.

    He might peak at a 2 to 3 fWAR player, but it’s surprisingly hard to find 1b who are consistently better than that. Over the past four seasons there are only 36 1b “campaigns” worth more than 3 wins and most of those came from a small group of elite hitters like Cabrera, Votto, Agon, and Pujols. A good number of them are flukes. Alonso might not be all that likely to give us 3 fWAR as a Padre, but dudes like Ike Davis, Mike Morse, and Adam LaRoche have done it. Alonso’s not less likely to do it than they were.