In Defense of Grandal for Kemp (*Subject To Change)

Before we start, allow me to direct you to two important pieces that Sac Bunt Dustin has posted on this site in the last week or so. One, discusses the value of Yasmani Grandal somewhat in a vacuum (that is to say, before his name was so strongly tied to a team/player). The other, posted today, is directly related (and ultimately, not in favor of) trading Grandal to Los Angeles for Matt Kemp. 

I’d recommend both of those before we continue. I’ll give you a few minutes.

Ok, welcome back. Well reasoned, well researched, logic arguments, right? Couldn’t agree more.

Except, I’m going to disagree. Despite my better judgment.

This morning, I tweeted the following (while citing too myself is not really an ideal strategy, it’s useful in this case as a jumping off point):

That’s the short version. Here’s the long version.

First, a brief discussing on trading in general. There is a danger to view trades as self-contained moves and ignore any possible corresponding moves. This happens a lot with Grandal trade talks in which you will hear some version of “Grandal is better than Rivera.” And that of course is true and I can’t imagine anyone arguing differently (well, I can think of two people who might but they will just have to learn to throw baseballs to someone else). Grandal is a superior player by any metric to Rene Rivera. Taking nothing away from what Rivera provides and what he can do. Fine player. But Grandal is starter, Rivera is a fringe guy. We can all agree to that, yes?

So if you are going to trade Grandal and admittedly lose value there, what you gain has to not only make up that value but exceed it elsewhere to make any sense. Or you have to absorb the loss of Grandal in some other way. It is here where I think the trade is, if not a good trade, at least a defensible one.

In the value the Padres would be obtaining, there should be little argument. Matt Kemp isn’t a good player. He is a great one. Again, Sac Bunt Dustin:

Using the same parameters we used above with Barmes’ numbers — and limiting it to just outfielders – puts Kemp’s wRC+ of 134 at 11th-best from 2012-2014, ahead of players like Shin-Soo Choo, Bryce Harper, Nelson Cruz, and Upton. And those numbers include Kemp’s injury-plagued 2013 and don’t include his breakout, near-1.000 OPS 2011 campaign. Matt Kemp is a really good hitter, and he’d instantly improve the Padres offense next year and beyond.

That INCLUDES an injury prone 2013 and EXCLUDES his MVP-level 2011. In that time frame Kemp logged over 1300 PA. Over that same time frame the best Padre hitter with over 1000 PA was Chase Headley (wRC+ 123). The best outfielder? Denorfia at wRC+ 107. So Kemp is a clear offensive upgrade even if he doesn’t match his 2011 season. Defensively? Well, he’s aging and regressing in that field. But, assuming Maybin is not also being traded, Matt Kemp in Left Field is at worst a wash of the Seth Smith/Carlos Quentin tandem. So, defensively the Padres don’t get better but they don’t get markedly worst in the OF. Offensively, they get tremendously better.

And remember, this is a team that won 78 games with a nearly historically bad offense. So upgrading that offense into the category of “bad” vs “dumpster fire” is going to make a tremendous difference.

Now, what do the Padres lose in Grandal? Using the same projections as Sac Bunt Dustin for 2015, Grandal is projected at a wRC+ of 110. Compared to Kemp’s projected wRC+ 128. (Yes, they don’t play the same position. Yes, we will get to that). However, the drop off from Grandal (110) to Rivera (87) exceeds the increase from Grandal and Kemp. It’s worth noting however that Rivera posted a 114 wRC+ in 2014 and while most, myself included, don’t find a compelling reason to believe that can be repeated, it also shouldn’t be ignored.

The X factor in all of this is Austin Hedges. Hedges is harder to predict. Much has been made of his offensive struggles upon promotion to the Texas League.  But most would agree that it’s far too early to label him a “all glove, no bat” prospect. In fact, here are two anecdotal takes on Hedges as an offensive prospect.  First, from Fangraphs contributor Ronit Shah:

The second from rotoscouting.com, is perhaps more lukewarm on his prospects but still mostly positive. Of note is this quoted section of that article. (Keep in mind this article is viewing him as a fantasy prospect but the analysis holds I think)

Consistency is developed over time, through repetition. Game experience will also help Hedges identify pitches to drive.

His right-handed stroke flashes above average power for a catcher.

Austin Hedges remains one of the Padres most highly touted prospects and a player the Padres as an organization have spent a considerable amount of time in developing. If Preller believes that Hedges is the future, and that future is within a year or so of being here if not sooner, than the Padres have created a logjam at catcher. You can’t play both Hedges and Grandal at the same time, and while Grandal is certainly the more established, and thus, safer bet, he is also the player who would garner more on the trade market. For the same reason Padres and Padre fans want to keep Grandal is why Grandal is so sought after on the trade market. He has value.

Waiting on Hedges is a gamble because his bat may never come around. But, if the Padres can get Matt Kemp, a clear upgrade in the OF, and muddle through at catcher with Rivera and perhaps Ross or some other catcher (and hey, maybe Rivera captures lightning in a bottle twice), then you have Kemp and Hedges in 2016 and while simultaneously making the team better in 2015.

If Hedges bat doesn’t develop, the 2015/2016 class of FA catchers includes Matt Wieters, John Jaso, and Dioner Navarro and you grab one of those guys and move on. All the while with Kemp rooming the OF.

Is it a perfect solution? No. Frankly, I’d rather do this same deal but for Justin Upton. And there is risk involved no matter how you look at it. Will Grandal continue to develope? Will Hedges hit? Will Kemp stay healthy? But status quo doesn’t work either. Status quo gets you 78 wins. And if you can’t obtain upgrades via free agency you have to do so via trade. And to do that you have to trade something that people want. Grandal is something that people want. I think the Padres would absorb the loss of Grandal in the long run. And Matt Kemp’s don’t just happen.

It’s not a perfect solution. But it is a defensible one.

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  • scotts007

    77 wins.

  • schlom

    Fangraphs really hates Kemp’s defense: http://goo.gl/mCVEYY

    The only outfielders over the past three years that are worse are Shin Soo Choo and Lucas Duda. They have him ranked worse than Michael Morse and Delmon Young! Baseball Reference ranked him as the worst defensive player in the majors last season (he was also the worst defensive player in 2010, beating out Carlos Quentin!)

    If those defensive numbers are accurate he’s not really that good of a player – even with his great offense last year he was only worth 1.8 fWAR or 1.1 bWAR.

    • Geoff Hancock

      I don’t think anyone would argue for Kemp’s defensive prowess. But he’s replacing Quentin/Seth so I’m not sure the drop off is all that great. From bad to just as bad. The Padres don’t get better defensively, but they don’t get worst. They get a better bat though which might be worth the sacrifice.

      • Tom Waits

        2014 Smith: 2.6 fWAR

        2014 Kemp: 1.8 fWAR

        Kemp’s glove is like a drogue parachute on his value.

  • schlom

    Here’s Kemp vs. Grandal the last three seasons: http://goo.gl/1pEzcH

    Now maybe you can rationalize it by saying that Kemp’s second half (309/365/606) is what he’ll do going forward now that he’s finally healthy. And that Grandal is unneeded because of Hedges and that they need to throw Joe Ross in the deal to get the Dodgers to pay a significant portion of his contract (and as a Padre pitching prospect he’s useless as he’s about to undergo TJ surgery). That’s the best case scenario for the trade. But they might be trading for a guy that’s not much better than Grandal and instead of a hole in the OF they have a massive one at 1B again.