Did The Padres Play Themselves?

One of the great things about Twitter, in my experience, is that it works as a sounding board for opinions and thoughts that come through your mind that you aren’t 100% sure about. Something happens, you have a reaction, you ponder your reaction on Twitter, and the community can help you decide whether your reaction is valid or not. As podcaster Alison Rosen might say, Twitter is great place to ask is it just me or everyone?

Some might say that’s one of the problems with Twitter, that it gives validity to every half-baked thought or theory that comes across a weirdo sitting on his couch watching Naked And Afraid, but hey, you gotta take the good with the bad, am I right?

Last week, the Padres put in a waiver claim on out-of-options catcher Hector Sanchez, who had been waived by the White Sox, who had signed him in the off-season after he had been non-tendered by the Giants at the end of last season. By claiming Sanchez, the Padres, who had two seemingly healthy better catching options already on the active roster, were either forced to move one of those catchers to make room for Sanchez, or carry 3 catchers for at least a short time.

The Padres chose to carry 3 catchers, with the UT’s Dennis Lin reporting that it “won’t be a long term thing,” whatever that means. The team’s official position is that they claimed Sanchez in order to improve catching depth, which I guess they could and did defend by saying that with Austin Hedges out for months and Jason Hagerty currently sidelined on the 7-day DL, the Padres have only Rocky Gale as an option in AAA if Derek Norris or Christian Bethancourt were to also be injured.

This reasoning seems dubious though. Gale is a capable 3rd catcher, and the current depth does not seem so bad as to warrant shaking up the active roster in order to improve it. The Padres will eventually have to waive Sanchez in order to send him down to AAA. At that point they could lose him, and the effort to improve catching depth would have been all for naught. It just doesn’t seem like the claim on Sanchez was worth it, if it was solely done for baseball reasons.

On Twitter, I put on my tinfoil hat:

Well, that wasn’t actually my first thought:

After Ken Rosenthal reported that the Padres weren’t in on Tim Lincecum, I supposed that the Padres were engaging in a bit of gamesmanship, using their waiver priority to block Hector Sanchez from signing in the division with either the pitching depth challenged Giants or Dodgers. Sanchez had been Lincecum’s preferred catcher with the Giants, and either team could have used him as bait to lure Lincecum into choosing their franchise.

Now that Lincecum is signing a major league deal with the Angels, the strategy worked! Right? The Padres, if both catchers ahead of him stay healthy-ish, will likely waive Sanchez in the next week or so, whenever they’re able to replace him with either a returning injured player like Yangervis Solarte or once hitterish outfielder Alex Dickerson is eligible to be promoted again.

But the cost of this move was that Padres were forced to DFA Jabari Blash, who as a rule 5 pick will have to be offered back to the Mariners if he clears waivers (which he should). The Padres hope to work out a trade to retain Blash, but it’s likely in the Mariners’ best interest to pay the $25k (half what the Padres paid them to select Blash) to take him back and stick him in AAA.

The Padres completely mis-managed Blash’s time in the majors, sitting him the bench and giving him just a few starts over his 5 weeks on the roster, only 1 against a left-handed pitcher who his right-handed power might play best against. It seemed like when Blash made the roster, the best situation would be a platoon outfield in which he received the large majority of the playing time in LF against left-handed pitching, with Melvin Upton playing CF in those situations and Jon Jay heading to the bench. None of the 3 players really had shown the talent to demand to start every day, so a platoon made sense.

The Padres instead stuck Jay in CF and led him off every day, with Upton starting in left. That left Blash on the bench, destined to fail. And he did. And it was bad. But we’ll never really know whether Blash could have succeeded in a Padres uniform or not, because before he was really given a chance, they claimed Hector Sanchez and let him go.

And of course, there are other questions. Did the Giants or Dodgers really want Sanchez? They both have capable backup catchers, and Lincecum is well past the point of his career where he can make any kinds of demands as to who catches him. Should the Padres even be concerned with where Lincecum pitches? He’s likely past the point of being anything more than a marginal piece of a starting rotation. Should the Padres, who aren’t very good and are very unlikely to be anywhere near a division race in August, let alone late September, even care?

Most importantly, in seemingly trying to play a part in the Tim Lincecum sweepstakes, did the Padres really play themselves?

Follow me on Twitter, where you gotta take the good with the bad.

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