Will Venable was a lot like that old reclining chair in the corner of your living room, the one your wife finally put out on the curb one day while you were engulfed by a Baseball Reference wormhole. Venable was familiar, reliable, and often effective, but at 32 years old and in the last year of his contract, he was a few model years past his prime. Now he’s in Texas, joining a Rangers team that’s in the midst of a surprising playoff run, bolstering a struggling group of outfielders that includes Delino DeShields Jr., Shin-Soo Choo, Josh Hamilton, and Ryan Strausborger.
In Venable’s place sits a shiny new electrically-powered pleather monstrosity named Travis Jankowski, expected to be called up today from Triple-A El Paso. Jankowski started his professional career slowly — he hit just .286/.356/.355 as a 22-year-old in the Cal League in 2013, then lost most of 2014 to injuries. He’s having a breakout season this year, however, as he’s OPSed .838 between Double-A and Triple-A, showing improved plate discipline with his usual display of foot speed. Hey, maybe this new contraption ain’t so bad.
The Padres also received a couple pieces back from the Rangers in the trade, as world traveler PTBNL joins catcher Marcus Greene Jr. in the return package from Texas. Greene is a catcher who hit .218 in A-ball before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery in June, which might prompt an immediate eye roll. Why another catcher, you ask? Well, sure, the Padres don’t need another catcher right now. There’s Derek Norris and Austin Hedges at the major league level, a more than capable tandem. But Greene just turned 21 — today, actually — so even if everything works out, he won’t be ready for a couple of years. And, as we saw firsthand this offseason, a team’s catcher situation can change in a hurry.
Also, Greene might not even be a catcher, not for long anyway. Baseball America’s Vince Lara-Cinisomo:
Greene had elbow ligament replacement surgery in June, so his catching future—already in question despite his athleticism—is uncertain. Greene has a muscular build at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds. At bat, he has raw power potential, but has trouble staying back and rolls balls over. He recognizes breaking balls, but sometimes tries to cheat on fastballs and gets caught out front.
According to BA’s draft writeup on Greene, he possessed above-average speed while attending junior college in 2013, often playing center field when he didn’t catch. That doesn’t mean that Greene could switch to center in pro ball, or that moving off catcher wouldn’t hurt his value, but there’s some versatility here. And versatility isn’t a bad thing, especially for a catcher with questionable defensive chops coming off elbow surgery.
Getting past the organization’s depth at catcher and Greene’s chance to stick there defensively, Greene actually looks pretty intriguing. He was drafted (and unsigned) by the Marlins in the 39th round of the 2012 draft, but a year at New Mexico JC — and a .384/.463/.727 slash line — improved the draft stock dramatically, and the Rangers nabbed him in the 16th round in 2013. He held his own in his professional debut, OPSing .702 at Low-A Spokane as an 18-year-old, drawing 41 walks in 248 plate appearances. He improved in a second tour of Spokane in 2014, hitting .318/.446/.466 with 26 walks, 30 strikeouts, and seven steals in 184 plate appearances before struggling after a call-up to Single-A Hickory. Greene fared much better this year at the same locale, posting an .865 OPS in just under 100 PAs before the Tommy John surgery.
Other (possibly) interesting notes:
- His middle name is Aurelius.
- His top PECOTA comp is Derek Norris. His top 10 comp list also features Eric Hosmer … and Carlos Perez, and Jair Fernandez, and Lars Anderson.
- He once ended Spokane’s playoff chances with a game-ending grounder.
There’s other good news:
#Padres GM A.J. Preller says PTNBL is someone the organization "views as a key piece to the deal." Someone closer to big leagues.
— Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) August 19, 2015
For a month and a half of Venable, the Padres got back an interesting low-minors catcher and a PTBNL that’s apparently better, all while opening up a spot in the outfield to try out Jankowski. That’s not a bad return for an outfielder who has never posted an on-base percentage above .340 and who has hit just 14 home runs since his 22-homer outburst in 2013. Venable will retain his title as face of the pre-Preller Padres, a homegrown stalwart who occasionally teased us with glimpses of something more. Major League Baseball’s a business, though, and in a business sense, it was time to move on.
In a business sense, take a look at that couch. Maybe it’s time for a new one.