Mr. Smith Gets Extended

Seth Smith will be a Padre through the 2016 season, with a club option for 2017.  Mixed reactions to this extension are to be expected.

On the one hand, he has been an average to above average player based on his 108 wRC+ over the entirety of his career. As Dave Cameron points out, the contract isn’t onerous and actually retains his services at a discount based on his performance.

Fangraphs credits him with 2.2 WAR worth $11.8M so far in 2014.  Assuming he’ll end up a 3 to 3.5 WAR player at the end of the season, he’ll have been worth ~$18M.  He’s been between a 1.1 to 1.3 WAR player for most of his career. If he returns to that production level, he’ll still be worth the $6-7M per year he’s going to get.

On the other hand, he’s 31 and below average defensively.  It seems the Padres have once again extended a player based on ‘career year’ numbers.  This has become a modus operandi for the club since they declined to extend Chase Headley following the 2012 season. A fatalistic observer would conclude they’re now cursed to extend every hot player because they didn’t extend Headley. The cynical one sees no difference between the fired GM and those currently entrusted to steward this club.

What was the urgency to sign him now?  If the plan is to have a new GM in place by the end of August, could this decision have waited until that individual was in place?  Smith would still have been months away from free agency.

For what it’s worth, I like Seth Smith as a baseball player and have for years.  For a franchise close to contending or fighting for a playoff spot, this extension makes total sense, but San Diego is neither of these.  He’s a great guy to have on the club, but if this club intends to go in a new direction I’m not sure this is the best first move.

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  • Nathan Veale

    On the one hand, I totally agree that this didn’t need to be done right now without a GM in place, and it seems like Ron Fowler meddling into operations and rewarding a player for playing well, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not. On the other hand, it’s actually a good deal and while it appears Smith has been promised not to be traded this calendar year, it’s not in his contract, which is important.

    There is no question that the team should be looking to sell off expiring contracts, valuable players in areas of depth, and under-performing players who could still be seen as assets by other team. And what they should be looking for in return is affordable position players. But Smith doesn’t fit those categories. He’s a valuable player in an area of need. He’s an affordable position player. The question is should the Padres be looking to trade away players that fit what they are looking to add.

    With Liriano and Renfroe coming up fast and both RHB’s, having a LHB like Smith who can play both corners and take on tough RHP will be important for the Padres over the next couple years. Smith fits that role really well, and with Renfroe and Liriano at pre-arb levels, there’s money in the budget to spend $6 million on a guy like Smith. Plus, adding years of control at affordable rates might actually make his trade value greater this off-season or next year.

    If the Padres had a GM in place, I’d like this deal a lot. A month ago, I thought Smith would be looking at at least 3 years and $24-30 million in free agency, so 2/$13 with an option that increases it to 3/$20 is a bargain, even as Smith has leveled off some. I just don’t like the idea of doing the deal in the absence of a GM, and I don’t like the idea of ownership making promises not to trade players.

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  • ballybunion

    Well, the word was this extension was in the works before Byrnes got canned, so there’s no reason NOT to do it now. Given Carlos Quentin’s pattern of missing half the season and Venable’s return to mediocrity from the left side, the Smith signing looks like Mark Kotsay Plus, for more money, but getting better production.

    There’s another good reason to announce the agreement now: the Baseball Minds of the Internet, both pro and amateur, have been primed for another fire-sale, sell-off, or rebuilding effort, so having Smith extended and saying he was assured the owners want to win puts that meme into a cocked hat.

    The Padres have one of the best bullpens and a very respectable starting staff that looks like it could become exceptional, and that’s the core of a contending team. A couple strategic additions/subtractions can make this team a contender faster than another rebuild of a team that really isn’t that far away.

    • Wanting to shrug aside bad press isn’t a good enough reason to spend $13m. As you indicated above, it’s taking a career year from Seth Smith to make up for an otherwise underwhelming outfield. When he regresses to the mean, which he almost certainly will, the Padres will still be in need of substantial improvements but will have lost their largest trade chip.

      This team is in dire need of some forward motion, and signing Smith like they did with Quentin, Denorfia, and Venable before him is spending money while going nowhere.

      The key to building a contending roster is not to allocate a large deal of your resources in platoon players and relievers when you lack elite talent. This was, supposedly, the kind of move Byrnes was fired for. Instead, we’re left to wonder who was really calling the shots all along.