So … we’re back. Still mostly confused.

Last year when A.J. Preller took over as GM, he inherited a roster with a slight logjam at catcher. There was Rene Rivera and Yasmani Grandal at the major-league level, and Austin Hedges waiting on the farm. Then, like 17 trades later, the Padres had a more manageable logjam: Derek Norris as the main guy with Tim Federowicz as the (soon-to-be-injured) backup, and Hedges still on the farm. Rocky Gale‘s always around.

You wanna talk about logjams? Check out the current catcher situation. After a solid season, Norris is still the main guy. Hedges, who was called up last year, is also there and so is new guy Josmil Pinto. That’s a lot of catchers; certainly don’t need anymore, no no.

Oh, okay. Another catcher. That’s interesting.

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To answer that question right away: in the big scheme of things, nah, we probably shouldn’t be. We’d probably be better off worrying about more important things, like trying to find a cure for cancer, or finding a good book to read, or giving the dog that bath we’ve been putting off for weeks.

But in the context of the 2015 San Diego Padres — a team that’s surprisingly allowed the third-most runs per game in the National League, despite calling Petco home — it makes at least a little sense to pay some attention to Derek Norris‘ framing numbers.

First, a quick refresher. The Padres had one of the best pitch framing tandems in baseball last season, as Rene Rivera and Yasmani Grandal helped save a combined 42.3 runs from framing alone. A.J. Preller used both Rivera and Grandal as trade chips in the offseason, sending them to Tampa Bay and Los Angeles respectively, picking up Norris from the A’s along the way to be the new starting catcher.

It was a clear shift away from pitch framing-focused catching, but it wasn’t a crazy set of moves from Preller. Norris, just 26, is a fine offensive catcher who, coming into this season, looked like a league average framer and so-so all-around defensive backstop (save for some issues handling the running game). Rivera, one could argue, was at the height of his value — he’s still a good framer, but don’t look at his 2015 batting line — and Grandal apparently had some issues getting along with the pitching staff.

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After the 2014 season, Austin Hedges had amassed a .225/.272/.314 slash line in 532 Double-A plate appearances. There was still plenty to dream on after back-to-back disappointing years with the bat, like Hedges’ all-world defensive skill-set behind the dish and the fact that he entered the 2015 season at just 22 years of age. But, still, that bat. It needed a lot of work, so much so that Baseball America, which rated Hedges as the 27th-best prospect in the game prior to 2014, dropped him off its top-100 list entirely this year. (Baseball Prospectus remained more bullish.)

Luckily for the Padres, they were set with one of the best catcher duos in baseball after the 2014 season, with Rene Rivera and Yasmani Grandal providing an unexpected combination of offensive and defensive value. Set at the big league level, the Padres had plenty of time to wait on Hedges, allowing him to develop with the bat and further refine his defensive skills in the minors.

Then came the Offseason of Preller, where the new Padres’ general manager overturned the roster, dealing away both Rivera and Grandal while also acquiring, amidst the cloud of dust, a 26-year-old backstop named Derek Norris. After Tim Federowicz (also acquired via trade), the likely backup catcher, went down in spring training with a knee injury, the Padres turned to journeymen Wil Nieves for backup duties. Nieves, even ignoring his current super-small-sample (.077/.143/.308) slash line, isn’t cut out for regular work. His career OPS+ is a meager 61, and what’s left of any positive defensive value has probably evaporated. He’s 37 years old, just hanging on to a major league gig by a thread.

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There are at least two things you can do when a pitcher’s first start of the season doesn’t go as planned:

1. You can chalk it up to Small Sample Size Theater, and promptly ignore it. This is probably the prudent thing to do.

2. You can search for various storylines that may or may not have any significance going forward. This is probably not advisable.

I chose No. 2.

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Alternate title: Why I Wouldn’t Trade Yasmani Grandal, Unless Some Team Blew Me Out of the Water

Yesterday, Buster Olney via Twitter:

Trading Grandal might make sense if you view him as an offensive disappointment, a defensive liability, and a player who resides at a position where the Padres have a surplus of talent. However, if you view Grandal in another light, as a young, controllable player who, in a perceived down year, posted the 11th-highest wRC+ among catchers (with 300-plus PAs) last year, as an expert pitch framer with potential to improve other aspects of his defensive game, and as a player with trade value that likely significantly undershoots his actual on-field value, then trading Grandal doesn’t make much sense at all.

The Padres have what appears to be a surplus at the catching position, as Grandal is flanked by defensive specialist Rene Rivera, who last year slightly out-hit Grandal, and super prospect — though to this point offensively limited — Austin Hedges. The looming question(s): does it make sense for the Padres to deal one of their catchers to patch a hole at another position, and if so, which one should be traded?

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Crowdsourcing is the latest fad in seemingly every endeavor.  From Kickstarter to Storify, it seems gathering money or ideas from others and using it for your own benefit has become commonplace.

I’m not immune.  Occasionally I use it to figure out topics to write about that you people would like to read.  This is one of those occasions.  That I chose something to write about, not necessarily that you would like to read.

In Episode 13 of the Padres And Pints podcast, Rick revealed he was drinking not the standard beer, but rather Cran-Grape juice.  This caused a certain degree of ridicule from me some.  So, of course, when I decided to take suggestions for topics, Rick decided to get back at me us a little bit.

Here’s the thing:  I have little to no shame.  And I’m a little desperate to write about something Padres-related.  Challenge accepted.

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It’s time to play f*ck, marry, kill with the Padres pitchers and catchers. Pardon my crassness, but I couldn’t think of a better name, and anyway, how can I be creative at a time like this? Yasmany Tomas has still not signed with a team, the Padres are still being linked to him as a strong contender, and in late-breaking Sunday night I-should-be-asleep-but-I-have-to-write-this-stupid-blog-post news, John Heyman reports that the Padres have entered the Pablo Sandoval Pan-derby. It’s Panda-monium! Puns! Heavy-ish baseball players! Wooooo!

My response:

So that’s all fun and good and not happening, but there are other things to talk about that are actually possibly/probably going to happen this off-season, and I wanna talk about that stuff in a stupid way.

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On Sunday night, news broke out of the Domincan Republic that Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, along with his girlfriend Edilio Arvelo, had passed away in a car accident. I was hoping that it wasn’t true — probably like many of you — that it was one of those rumors somehow spread via social media that turns out to be a vicious hoax or some type of misunderstanding. As you certainly know by now, the story was confirmed and reported by Ken Rosenthal during the World Series, serving as a somber reminder that sometimes the escape that we call sports doesn’t always comply with our wishes. Taveras, a consensus top-three prospect over the last few years, was just 22 years old (his girlfriend 18) and had his whole career — and more so, his whole life — ahead of him. It’s a tragic, jarring loss, even though similar accidents and untimely deaths happen countless times each day. The fact that we’re part of a community — baseball fans in general and/or prospect hounds more specifically — in which Taveras played a prominent role makes his loss stand out, triggering all of those age old questions about life, and death, and things we don’t understand. Condolences to the family and friends of both Taveras and Arvelo, along with the entire Cardinals organization.   

Now, on a much lighter note, let’s discuss some news and notes in and around Padres land.

Joe Maddon speculation … commence!

Our continued focus on moves that might affect the Padres indirectly — like Andrew Friedman going to LA and the D’Backs front office shake-up — shifts to discussing Joe Maddon’s abrupt departure as Tampa Bay Rays manager. Maddon, who had amassed a .517 winning percentage and an America League pennant in nine years with the Rays, exercised an opt-out in his contract on Saturday that allowed him to walk away from his deal if Andrew Friedman left the Rays.

The immediate speculation was that Maddon, one of the game’s most respected managers, would take over as skipper for the Dodgers, reuniting with Friedman in LA and ousting Don Mattingly. Mattingly, despite two straight 90-win seasons, is firmly entrenched on the managerial wobbly chair with an early playoff exit in 2014 and an ongoing power struggle with right fielder Yasiel Puig. That narrative took a bit of a turn when Friedman issued this statement on Saturday:

As I said last week, Joe and I enjoyed a tremendous relationship working together in Tampa Bay, and I wish him nothing but the best, wherever his next stop will be. However, nothing has changed on our end. Don Mattingly will be our manager next season and hopefully for a long time to come.

With Maddon now essentially a free agent manager and the big spending Dodgers apparently out of the mix (at least for this year), you’ve got to ask yourself: why couldn’t Maddon’s next destination be San Diego?

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Since we last discussed the San Diego Padres catcher situation, a lot has happened:

  • Yasmani Grandal turned in an up-and-down campaign in 2014 after rushing a return from ACL surgery, showing signs of offensive brilliance while also failing to build on his sensational 2012 debut. On the defensive side of the ball, he had some trouble with blocking pitches and only threw out 13 percent of would-be base thieves, but he remained one of the game’s best pitch framers.
  • Rene Rivera somehow emerged as an offensive force, hitting .252/.319/.432 in 329 plate appearances, finishing third on the team in home runs (11) despite the limited playing time. Rivera also excelled behind the dish, seemingly becoming everyone’s favorite guy to throw to along with posting gaudy defensive stats.
  • Rivera’s emergence as Defense-First Catcher, Now With Capable Bat left Nick Hundley as the odd-man out. Despite much improved framing numbers after apparently devoting more time to the craft, another slow start with the bat made it easy for the Padres to deal Hundley to Baltimore in May for Troy Patton.
  • And Austin Hedges, rated as high as the 18th best prospect in the game by Baseball Prospectus last offseason, completely flopped offensively in his first full-season attempt at Double-A. Hedges hit .225/.268/.321 in 457 PAs in San Antonio, with 23 walks compared to 89 strikeouts. The defense — even though some say it took a slight step back in 2014 — is still all-world, but the bat becomes more of a pressing question heading forward. The 22-year-old Hedges has plenty of time to turn it around in the minor leagues, but another trip through Double-A is likely. With Grandal and Rivera in the majors, there’s no rush.

With Hundley out of the picture and Hedges on hold, we’re left with Grandal and Rivera as the current catching combo on the big league roster. When you have an embarrassment of riches at one position and glaring holes at others, there tends to be some discussion about moving players around. First base is one of those holes, as Yonder Alonso has failed to live up to the line-drive, high on-base percentage hype that accompanied him when the Padres acquired him back in late-2011 and Tommy Medica, despite occasional flashes, has yet to show that he possesses enough consistency for an everyday role. Alonso’s batting average hasn’t approached .300 in San Diego and his OBP dipped to .285 last year which is, even before you consider his powerless approach, unacceptable at first base. Medica blasted nine home runs in just 259 major league PAs last year, but he also walked just 14 times while striking out 75.

So, maybe the simple solution is to move Grandal to first base full-time and then let Rivera take over as the everyday catcher. It’s a move that makes so much sense that the Padres tried it plenty of times last year, giving Grandal 33 starts at first base throughout the season, with 18 of them coming in September. There are a few reasons why, in this humble author’s opinion anyway, Grandal shouldn’t trade in the catcher’s mitt for a first basemen’s glove just yet:

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Sometimes things get a little fuzzy after spending an evening in the pub. So here’s a friendly reminder of what you might have missed while you were drinking.

The Padres (77-83) defeated the San Francisco Giants (86-74) 4-1 last night at AT&T Park.  The Giants’ loss means they will not host a Wild Card Play-In game against either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the St Louis Cardinals, depending on how the NL Central race shakes out.

Ian Kennedy (13-13, 3.63) pitched seven innings last night, giving up the one Giants’ run on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts.  In so doing, Kennedy was the first Padres’ pitcher to log 200 innings pitched with 200 strikeouts in a season since Jake Peavy did it in 2007.

Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00) gave up all four Padres’ runs in five and a third innings on six hits and two walk with five strikeouts.  Yasmani Grandal, Seth Smith, and Rene Rivera all had RBI hits.

This afternoon at 1:05 pm PDT the Padres will send Eric Stults (8-17, 4.42) to the mound against the aforementioned Peavy (6-4, 2.20) in the penultimate game of the 2014 season.

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