Grab A Snickers, Carlos Quentin

As we count down the last few days to non-waiver trade deadline, Carlos Quentin’s name has come up quite a bit as a desirable right-handed power bat amongst contenders, specifically Baltimore. However, each rumor has come with the caveat that Quentin has a no-trade clause and that Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes isn’t motivated to trade Quentin. Basically, Carlos Quentin isn’t going anywhere for awhile.

Fans wonder why Byrnes would be so loathe to trading the team’s highest paid player, who is not only injury prone but also under contract for 2 more seasons. Isn’t selling their highest paid players what bad teams do? Wouldn’t Quentin be better off as a DH for an AL team like the Orioles or perhaps the Rangers? Wouldn’t trading him be a win-win situation?

Here’s the problem: Josh Byrnes wants to field a winning team in 2014, and he thinks that Carlos Quentin, who is very good at baseball when healthy, can help him accomplish that.

Last season, Quentin played 86 games all year, with just 340 plate appearances. This season, he has already played in 80 games and come to the plate 314 times. Last season, Carlos hit 16 home runs with 21 doubles. This year he’s already hit 13 home runs and matched last year’s doubles output. Last season, Quentin had a 146 wRC+ and was worth 1.8 fWAR. This year, he has a 144 wRC+ and has been worth 2.1 fWAR.

Yes, the Padres have played a total of 106 games, so Quentin has already missed 26 games this year and as a Padre has now missed over 100 games, which is 40% of the team’s games since his arrival. However, the goal for Quentin was to play in 120-130 games, and he’s on pace to play in 122. He can’t afford to hit the DL again if he plans to make that 120 games played goal, but he can miss close to 2 games a week, which seems reasonably likely.

If Quentin is a 120 game, 450 plate appearances player who hits 20-25 home runs with a 140 wRC+ while earning 3+ fWAR, isn’t he more than worth the $9 million a year? Aren’t those types of numbers not very easily replaced?

Quentin also isn’t a platoon player, like other hitters the Padres have been relying on for offense. This year he’s hit .282/.378/.493 versus lefties with a 148 wRC+. Versus righties, it’s .276/.362/.503 with a 143 wRC+. For all intents and purposes, and considering sample size, those numbers are identical.

Yes, he’s not a great defender. How he managed to survive as a right fielder all those years is beyond me. He’s barely passable, albeit below average, as a defender in Petco’s smallish left field area, and he’s not likely to get anything but worse over the next two seasons.

Yes, there’s an argument to be made that Kyle Blanks could be a reasonable Carlos Quentin facsimile at a fraction of the cost. However, he’s had an even harder time staying healthy than Quentin, and his offense appears to be more affected by nagging injuries than Quentin’s, as his performance has dropped off to just slightly above average after a blistering start to the season. If money isn’t a factor, isn’t Quentin the better player?

Moreover, should the Padres be selling off their highest paid players just because they are sellers? Nobody should bat an eye if the Padres trade relievers or bench players this week. There are players ready and available to fill those roles in the minor league system right now that could use an 8 week tryout to see if they can handle themselves and contribute to the 2014 squad. However, if they’re building to compete next year, they’re going to need a cleanup hitter, right?

The Padres’ best power-hitting outfield prospects are Rymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe, and neither of them is going to be contributing to the big league squad before 2015. Quentin’s contract ends when Hunter Renfroe, if things go as they have so far, will be knocking down the door to the big leagues. If Quentin can play 100-130 games a year, isn’t he a pretty great placeholder? Why would you want to trade that at the deadline?

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  • SingingFriar

    Great arguments for keeping Quentin, but I think the primary motivation for trading him now is precisely because (knock on wood) he has played so well this year and is on track to play 120 games. Given his performance/injuries last year (not to mention his chronic nagging injuries), Quentin in LF is a ticking time bomb, one that the Padres cannot afford to go off.

    I think getting out from that contract is a safer bet for the Padres than holding onto Quentin and keeping their fingers crossed that his knees don’t explode while making one of those “interesting” catches in LF.

    Finally, I’d like to see if KB can stay healthy playing at 1B for an extended period, rather than careening all over the outfield, but that’s a topic for a different post…

    • Nathan Veale

      I don’t disagree that there’s the definite possibility of Quentin not playing 100+ games, next year, 2015, or even still this year, and I’ve already been called a jinx twice for suggesting he could play in 120 games this year. I think the problem is that you create a pretty big hole in the lineup if you trade hm, and the chances of being able to fill that hole with someone who produces like Quentin produces are fairly slim. And what do you get in return if you trade him? A back of the rotation starter? You create a bigger hole than you fill.

  • ballybunion

    Actually, of the 26 games he’s missed, a major number were not due to injury, but suspensions and Buddy giving him days off after night games to keep him “fresh”. The Padres learned in 2011 that there’s a need for a big bat, the effect ripples up and down the lineup. They got him cheap in trade and he gave a discount to his hometown team in exchange for the no-trade clause. Why can’t people be happy with good fortune?