Quo Vadimus: The Infield

Dana, I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, “Where are we going?” And it starts to get better.” – Calvin Traeger, Sports Night

Towards the end of the second and last season of the great, short-lived Aaron Sorkin dramedy Sports Night, fictional sports network CSC is bought out by a holding company named Quo Vadimus, owned by the character quoted above. Quo Vadimus is Latin for “where are we going?”, a question Padres fans should be asking themselves as we wind down the 2013 season and start looking ahead. In a series of posts, I will ask that question and hope to provide some answers. The first installment on the outfield is available here. Today, I will focus on who should stay, go, and be added to the Padres infield, excluding catcher.

The Current State of the Padres Infield

The Padres’ infield was supposed to be the most stable part of the team this year. Unfortunately, due to injuries and suspensions, replacement-level players like Pedro Ciriaco, Cody Ransom, Ronny Cedeno, and Jesus Guzman have played significant roles throughout the infield this season, to very mixed results.

Chase Headley’s 2013 has not exactly been what he or anyone else was looking for coming off his brilliant 2012. Slowed by a broken thumb to begin and what appears to be a lingering back issue towards the end, I don’t think there was an extended time this season when Headley was 100%. That said, we’re not talking about a player without value, we’re talking about a player with decreased value. He still looks to be a 3 fWAR player this season, battling for team lead in that category, and he’s still been a very good defender.

Fans and the front office both must have been hoping we’d see some offensive progression from Yonder Alonso in his 2nd full season in the big leagues. Instead, he regressed slightly, in both his ability to get on base and in his slugging. Word is that before an injured wrist shut him down for what looks to be the remainder of the season, it zapped any power he had, but the drop from 48 extra base hits in 2012 to 17 in 2013 can’t be simply explained by missed time and a hurt wrist.

Everth Cabrera’s fantastic first half fueled the 2013 Padres into near-contention, and earned him a trip to the All-Star Game. After that, however, things were all downhill, starting with his offense going ice cold and ending with his 50 game suspension for his connection to Biogenesis, and his subsequent admission of PED use during the spring of 2012. I personally don’t think Everth was using during the 2013 season, and I think the likely cause for much of the drop off in his production was the distraction of the Biogenesis investigation. However, the question of which Everth will show up in 2014 still exists.

The only infield starter who answered more questions than he asked was rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko. First, he proved he could not only not be a disaster at the position, but play it relatively well. I, for one, am much more comfortable with him at 2nd than I would be a return to 3rd. Offensively, he’s been fine, even good considering it’s his first time through the league. I expect his low average and OBP will rise in his coming seasons, and if he can do that while maintaining his current slugging rates, he’ll be a very valuable player.

Side Note: what Gyorko has done this year does not merit significant mention in rookie of the year voting. Anybody saying otherwise is a delusional homer. He’s not among the top 5 rookies in the National League. You can’t just pick one offensive category (doubles for Yonder Alonso last year and home runs for Gyorko this year) and build a case for consideration for a major award. Gyorko’s power has been quite nice, but his all-around game does not match up to the other rookies actually deserving consideration.

Where Are We Going?

Expect a lot more of the same in 2014, in terms of personnel. Josh Byrnes isn’t going to give up on Yonder Alonso just yet, and certainly not in favor of Kyle Blanks, whether he deserves a shot or not. The only thing that will possibly be affected by Cabrera’s suspension is the salary he’ll earn in arbitration this offseason. He’s still the starter. Gyorko continues to be a candidate for a long-term contract extension, and will certainly be starting in the infield next season.

What Will Happen To Headley?

The big question, again this offseason, is what the Padres will do with Headley. The three options, again this offseason, are to sign him long-term, trade him, or continue going year-to-year with him, as he enters his last year before free agency. If they choose option 1, it will still likely be the franchise’s biggest contract ever given, even after his down year. If they choose option 2, they’ll be trading Headley at low point. If they choose option 3, it will likely cost between about $11million.

Believe it or not, I have a preference and a theory to match up with it. I think there is a mutual desire between Headley and Byrnes to get a 4-5 year deal done this offseason. I believe Chase recognizes the effect injuries have on a career, and wants the certainly of a guaranteed deal. I believe Byrnes doesn’t want to make the same mistake he made after 2011 again this offseason. He could have locked Headley up at a discount then, and he has a chance to lock him up at somewhat of a discount again.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and Chase, as a good union man, wants a deal in line with the market rate of a player of his caliber. After 2011, he was looking at maybe 4 years, $36 million. After 2012, he was looking at something like 5 years, $75 million. Now? I’m guessing a deal might be had for 4 years, $52 million, based on signings of comparable players last offseason. I think they should get it done.

Who Is On The 2014 Roster?

Yonder Alonso pre-arb ($500k)
Jedd Gyorko pre-arb ($500k)
Everth Cabrera arb-eligible ($2 million)
Chase Headley arb-eligible ($11 million)
Logan Forsythe pre-arb ($500k)
Kyle Blanks arb-eligible ($1 million)
Dean Anna pre-arb ($500k)

The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays. Follow me on Twitter. All stats courtesy of Fangraphs. OMG, BREAKING BAD.

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  • USMC53

    Good write-up. One question, though: There’s no mention of Amarista; what are your thoughts on him? I say keep him, because (1) obviously, he’s versatile and can step in at 6 different positions, if needed, and (2) he’s still quite young, and his game will (presumably) continue to develop. Very nice piece to have on the bench, in my opinion.
    I agree about Chase. Sign him now, while his value is diminished somewhat, and plan on him getting healthy and being a solid 3B for the next 4 years. Even though his offensive numbers are down (hopefully to go back up in the future), his defense remains very good, and that shouldn’t be ignored. A good defensive 3B will save some games for you.

    • Nathan Veale

      I’m not an Amarista fan. He’s a below-average hitter who doesn’t get on base enough to make up for his light power, and he really only plays one position well defensively, 2nd base. Even more, I really don’t like the way the Padres continually ignore that and have turned him into a super sub and primary CF backup, and I would like to see that option taken away from Bud Black and removing him from the team entirely. He is young, but I don’t think his potential makes him worth hanging on to, especially if he’s going to continue to be misused. While already older, I think Dean Anna is a more capable 2B/SS backup, with better defense at SS and a bat with more potential. If you have to go out of the organization every time your SS gets hurt/suspended, you need to find a better backup SS.

  • Geoff Hancock

    Maybe I’m reading way more into this but it feels like we are somewhat explaining away Chase’s sub-par 2013 due to injury but not willing to do the same for Alonso? Certainly he didn’t forget how to hit for power anymore than Headley forgot how to get on base and the wrist injury seems reasonable. Remember, Maybin has basically been plagued by wrist issues for two seasons, zapping him of his power as well. He’s loss of playing time and the lingering effects seem the primary culprit for his power outage this season.

    • Nathan Veale

      This is a very good point. If Yonder truly hasn’t been the same since he was hit by a pitch in June, that would explain the total loss of power. I’m actually working on a piece examining why it took so long to properly diagnose and treat Maybin’s wrist. I have a feeling a big culprit will be Maybin attempting to play through the injury when he was only at 50% strength. Hopefully Yonder isn’t taking the same path.

      • Geoff Hancock

        To a far lesser extent they couldn’t diagnos Alonso correctly at first if memory serves. As I recall it, they thought it was just bruised and they were on their way to Colorado and Blanks was being sent down. When I woke up the next day, Alonso was going on the DL with a broken bone and Blanks was being sent back to San Diego. I certainly am in no position to question the medical staff and a lot of injuries are dumb luck, but the rash of Tommy Johns, Maybin, Alonso point to perhaps a bigger organizational problem? Then again, maybe just bad luck.

      • ballybunion

        I’m suspecting an organizational problem with the meshing of trainers and doctors. Jerry Hairston’s fractured rib in 2010 was mis-diagnosed and treated by the trainers as a bruise. If I recall correctly, the head trainer was replaced since. Hairston turned down a Padres contract and signed for less elsewhere, and I’m reading that as a no-confidence vote in Padres medical staff. I’m also very suspicious of the rash of TJ diagnoses of young pitchers.

  • ballybunion

    I’m surprised at the mention of Dean Anna as an infield backup. He’s not on the 40 man, and would have to replace one of the infield utility players. He’s also been mentioned as someone the Padres don’t think is a major league player, along with outfielder Dan Robertson. Apparently, they’re just AAA filler to the team’s scouts and evaluators. It’s all about projection (much of that physical – short ballplayers need not apply), and if you don’t “project”, you’ll never get to the Show.

  • cindyLowe

    After 2012 I think Chase was going to get more.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chase get a 5 year 65-70 million dollar deal this offseason from the Padres.