The Padres find themselves at 39-40 after a heartbreaking 13th inning loss to the Phillies. The list of games that the Padres should have won but didn’t in 2013 is getting lengthy. Let’s just say, should the Padres miss the playoffs by one game, we’ll have a tough time pinpointing the one (or two) games that would have made the difference. There are a lot of candidates.

But nevertheless, the Padres are 39-40. Which is good enough to be within 3.5 games of division leading Arizona. This puts the team in an interesting situation. They are likely good enough to compete and potentially win the division. Are they good enough to make any noise in said playoffs? Strangers things have happened but on paper, no, probably not. But could they be?

The Padres are beginning to pop-up in various trade rumors. We won’t spend to much time on whether they are buyers or sellers. It seems clear the team needs to improve, whether that be by addition, subtraction, or both.

But what of 2014? The Padres have put a plan in place that appeared to be aimed at 2014. Theoretically, young pitching arms like Luebke and Wieland will be healthy by then. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal would have another season under their belt. Casey Kelly would return. That was before the Padres, based both on better than expected play and a weaker than expected NL West became competitors for the division. I’m of the opinion that when the opportunity presents itself, you take a shot at the playoffs. There are no guarantees in baseball. There is no guarantee that because you are good this year that you will be next year. It’s why I had no problem with the Padres hanging onto Adrian Gonzalez to make a run in 2010 despite it costing the Padres some of his value in trade. It’s why I thought the Nationals should have let Strasburg pitch through the playoffs and take a shot at the World Series.

So how much, if any, of the 2014 and beyond plan should the Padres be willing to part with for that shot? I’d say not much. Moves that are limited risk to the Padres, that cost few prospects and return controllable players should be what they are looking at. But that’s a post for another time. Today I thought we should look at who the Padres absolutely, under no circumstances, should part with. Ladies and gentlemen, The Untouchables.

A quick word on untouchables. If you want to extend the metaphor to it’s absurd zenith there is no such thing as an “untouchable.” Every team has a price for every player. But let’s assume for this that there is no Mike Trout and Jered Weaver for Austin Hedges deal on the horizon.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES 

These are the guys that the Padres should not part with no matter what (unless the aforementioned Trout/Weaver deal presents itself).

Austin Hedges (Single A – Lake Elsinore Storm)

The jewel of the Padres farm system, non-pitching version, Hedges has been everything as advertised for the Padres so far. It took $3 million to lure him away from his UCLA commitment (where he would currently be enjoying a national championship) and it looks like that’s been money well spent. His defense has been as advertised (by now you have no doubt seen the 5 second clip heard across Padre land showing Hedges arm and quickness) but his bat has come to life in Lake Elsinore. Showing a slash line of .275/.352/.435 to go along with his defense. Hedges is now the #13th ranked prospect in baseball per Baseball Prospectus Mid-Season rankings. 

Max Fried (Single A – Ft. Wayne Tin Caps) 

Another of the UCLA commits that the Padres were able to lure away, Max Fried was the 1st high schooler taken in the 2012 draft. The Padres made him a 1st round pick and he quickly became one of the most highly touted prospects in the Padres system. In fact, per MLB.com, Max Fried was the number 1 pre-season prospect in the system.  He’s striking out hitters at nearly a 1 per inning pace (55 in 59.1 IP). The Padres long-term plans directly include Max Fried at or near the top of their rotation.

Joe Ross (Single A – Ft. Wayne Tin Caps) 

Joe Ross, yet another might-have-been-Bruin and younger brother of current Padre Tyson Ross his ceiling seems to be as high as any of the Padres pitching prospects. Which, considering the group, is a pretty high ceiling.

Robbie Erlin (MLB – San Diego Padres) 

When one of the two biggest problems you have is starting pitching at the Major League level, it would make zero sense to trade away someone who could help immediately. Erlin has been sharp in his two starts at the MLB level and with Clayton Richard on the shelf for an undetermined amount of time, Erlin may finally be in a position to cement he’s position in the rotation.

Jedd Gyorko (MLB – San Diego Padres) 

His name never comes up in trade rumors. But it always comes up in talks about extending him to keep him in San Diego longterm. Let’s keep it that way.

Kevin Quackenbush (Triple A – Tucson Padres) 

The closer of the future is one step away from tending to Luke Yoder’s garden in San Diego. And he may be needed sooner rather than later if the Padres remain in the race but keep giving up late inning leads.

Cory Luebke (MLB – San Diego Padres – DL) 

The potential for a rotation that includes Luebke, Erlin, Wieland and eventually Fried and Ross is exactly the plan the Padres put in place between trades and a renewed draft strategy. Not that anyone is trading for a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John, but just as well. He shouldn’t be shopped.

That’s the list.  Other teams? Move along when you see these names. Now, to end, a quick list of names (rapid fire style) that, while not untouchable, would take some kind of remarkable package to make trading them seem tolerable.

Under (Almost) No Circumstances

Yasmani Grandal

Burch Smith

Kyle Blanks

Yonder Alonso

Cory Spangenberg

Cameron Maybin

Chase Headley

Everth Cabrera

Casey Kelly

 

 

Agree? Disagree? Ready to just blow the whole thing up? Or simply stand pat and wait for 2014? Let me know in the comments. You’ll find more ramblings every Friday right here and ramblings of the 140 character variety on Twitter @LeftCoastBias

 

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  • Christopher D. Long

    Any good GM would part with any player or the right price.

    • Geoff Hancock

      I do point out that, in theory, no player is untouchable. But the price for those players I listed are so unlikely that it essentially makes them untouchable.

      • Christopher D. Long

        Part of this is political. Teams love to pump up the perceived value of drafted prospects to make themselves look better.

      • Geoff Hancock

        But other teams must see though that, no? I imagine there is a fair amount of puffery that happens here but every team has scouts that can evaluate these guys.

  • Bryan

    I think Yasmani Grandal’s presence makes Austin Hedges very touchable. If he can be the key piece in a trade for a really good starting pitcher now or this winter, it’s a trade the Padres have to make.

    • Geoff Hancock

      Or the reverse of that. Hedges makes Grandal expendable.

      • I was thinking the same but that gives a catching void for approx. 2 years.

      • Bryan

        Hedges also has tremendous trade value right now. If the Padres think Grandal’s slow start this year is just that, and not indicative of diminished skills as a result of being off the juice, then it makes sense to deal Hedges soon to get some help on the mound. I think the Padres can use Hedges to get an impact pitcher, and for me, the one who comes to mind that might be available soon is David Price. Hedges fits Tampa’s emphasis on defense and Price fits our requirement to upgrade the pitching staff with an actual Major League caliber starter.

      • GoldenBoy

        Keep in mind that Cashner has been pitching like an ace lately, and we’ve got tons of promising young pitchers. We don’t need to sell the best catching prospect in the game for Price, who is struggling this year. Next year our rotation could include Luebke, Cashner, Wieland, Kelly, Erlin with Fried, Ross, Smith and more still in the system. The Pads can’t afford to trade their prospects. I don’t want to have to hear the word ‘rebuilding’ for a very very long time.

      • Geoff Hancock

        Realizing he’s only in LE, is Hedges still 2 years away assuming health?

  • GoldenBoy

    I’d rather the Padres hold onto to their minor league depth as much as possible. This will ensure that we should be contenders for many years to come. Erlin looked great on Wednesday, and I could see him being a solid addition to the rotation going forward. If we make any trades, I’d prefer a salary dump situation or a minor trade for a slightly above average bullpen arm. The f.o. should really shy away from trading any prospects. If we can get a situation where we spend some money instead of prospects, I’d be all for it. And Quackenbush could also be that needed bullpen addition. And I hope Byrnes will at least help the Dodgers/Giants overpay with prospects for an average guy like Nolasco.

  • The point of having depth is not to admire it from afar. Prospects fill out the holes in a roster and are then used in trades to fill the remaining holes.

    Trading a guy like Everth Cabrera would be extremely dangerous because there’s nobody in the system who can fill the void. But trading from depth (pitching – Casey Kelly, Burch Smith, etc) is a smart move). I think a lot of the pitching should be in play.

    First baseman are a dime a dozen so make a choice: Alonso or Blanks? Rymer Liriano will likely make an appearance in the 2014 outfield. Who makes room for his presence? At some point the Padres have to move certain parts to improve other parts. I’m just rambling now.

    • Geoff Hancock

      My concern with trading from the pitching depth is how volatile pitching prospects are. What’s the success rate on pitching prospects vs position players? I don’t know the answer but it certainly seems like pitching prospects hit less often. Could be wrong though.

      I think most people view Quentin as a guy who is not here long term. Blanks, Liriano, Maybin. They are. If I’m choosing 1st basemen, right now, I choose Alonso and move Blanks to the OF.

      Prospects are not to be admired from afar. That’s a very good point. At some point a decision will have to be made.

      • Honestly, the only guy I could see being moved that would totally mess EVERYTHING up is Everth Cabrera. There’s nobody to replace him. Everyone else has someone who can step in their place. Not Cabrera, though. Wow. I never thought I would have typed that.

      • GoldenBoy

        You can never have too much pitching depth. That’s proven every single year. The pitching depth in our system should be a major asset for years to come. The offensive depth in our system isn’t as strong though, so we shouldn’t be thinking of trading offensive prospects either.

        Hopefully we can trade someone like Quentin, Venable and/or Hundley for some pitching help and not trade any prospects at all.

        The Dodgers & Giants seem to have an ‘all in’ strategy to this trade deadline, which could likely jeopardize their future seasons. We shouldn’t fall for the same trap, and their demise will make our future look even better.

      • Christopher D. Long

        Carlos Quentin has a no-trade clause.

  • My list would begin with Austin Hedges and end with Max Fried. Even then – if the right deal comes up, everybody should be available.

    • Geoff Hancock

      I do point out that in reality the term is a misnomer but the deals that would make trading Hedges etc are so outlandish that they are not worth considering.

      • Right, and I agree with that. Personally, I don’t think there’s any superstar talent currently with the big league squad and only a couple potential superstars at the lower levels to warrant them “untouchable,” even in theory. Not that the players are useless, just that I’d like to think the team wouldn’t be opposed to trade strength for strength.

  • Geoff Hancock

    I should point out that those 7 guys are untouchable for 2013. Not forever.