Padres Add “The Final Piece”

They almost had me.

I was willing to give the Padres the benefit of the doubt this afternoon when they completed a one for one trade with the Oakland Athletics, acquiring left-handed outfielder Seth Smith in exchange for slider whispering setup man Luke Gregerson. Losing Gregerson stings for fans because he’s been a very successful player for 5 years, and very successful players who stick around awhile are pretty well liked by fans, regardless of position. Think about who the top 3 best Padres of all-time are. Trevor Hoffman is in that group, right? Even those of us who have devalued the closer position and the save stat still put him in that group. That’s what success + longevity gets you.

In any case, Gregerson was set to make approximately $5 million in his last year of arbitration, and no smart team keeps guys like Luke Gregerson through their free agent years anymore. Relievers are bred to be journeymen, and raised in the seclusion of the bullpen as an acknowledgement that they are never really a whole part of the team. This is their lot in life. Heath Bell signed a free agent contract with the Marlins 2 offseasons ago, and as of today will join his 3rd team since officially leaving San Diego. Maybe he’ll get to close again. Maybe not.

Seth Smith is an average hitting left handed outfielder who is above average against right-handed pitching. He’s never been able to hold down a starting position, but he’s average over 400 plate appearances in each of his 5 full seasons. He’s good enough to be useful, and can play both corners, although he’s not a positive defender in right field and that’s hurt his overall value (he’s average 1.2 fWAR the past 4 seasons). He’s also in his last year of arbitration, and will make between $4 and $4.5 million.

That’s about what you can get for a pretty good setup man in his last year of team control these days. It seems like only yesterday you could get 2 pretty good starting pitching prospects for a very good setup man, but it was actually 2 1/2 years ago, and the market for relief pitching has changed significantly since then.

So with all that said, I was just fine with the trade. It should complete the outfield, although not with a new starter as some had hoped, and allow Bud Black to keep players like Jesus Guzman and Alexi Amarista out of the outfield as much as possible, if they even remain on the roster. It creates a hole in the bullpen, but I figure Ramona’s own Nick Vincent is just about ready to fill that hole if Byrnes doesn’t go out and grab recently non-tendered hurler John Axford (who happened to be on a flight to San Diego when he was non-tendered, seemingly coincidentally) or someone of that ilk.

Given the Padres new-found depth at starting pitching, it’s likely that Burch Smith doesn’t make the opening day rotation. He should be able to slip into the bullpen and let loose with his fastball, which is a bit of a gamble, but Smith has a very high ceiling as a reliever. Dale Thayer wasn’t good last year, but he was good in 2012. He needs to show up much improved in 2014 if he wants a shot as a setup man again. Kevin Quackenbush wasn’t as good in AAA as he’d been in every other stop on his path to the majors, but the PCL is hell on pitchers, and most of his issues were BABIP related. He’s likely ready to step up to the Padres pen.

The Padres bullpen at this point probably shapes up something like this:

Huston Street
Nick Vincent
Burch Smith
Dale Thayer
Kevin Quackenbush
LHP not yet acquired
Tim Stauffer

Brad Boxberger could make Smith’s move to the bullpen unnecessary or keep Quackenbush in AAA for the time being, but he’s yet to prove he’s capable. Also, the Padres are still looking for a LOOGY, and internal options are unimpressive. I think they’ll keep shopping for one they can grab out of the bargain bin. The best bullpen you’ve ever seen? No. A liability? I think it’s likely league average, but reliever performance is unpredictable from year to year. Maybe I’m being a bit optimistic.

So yeah, while everyone on my Twitter feed freaked out over how bad the trade was, I wasn’t that worried about it. Then, Josh Byrnes went and said something dumb and everything went to hell in a hand-basket.

“The roster sets up better right now,” said Byrnes. “I liked our offense from the All-Star Game of 2012 to 2013 before we got hit by injuries. This could be the final piece.”

“The final piece” is such a loaded phrase, you use it as a proclamation that your team, or in this case offense, is now ready to make the playoffs and beyond. Josh Byrnes is saying that all this offense needed to put it over the top this offseason was a reserve/platoon outfielder. That’s it. 1-3 World Series wins are ours now, I guess.

Josh Byrnes drives me nuts.

The Vocal Minority is vocal and sometimes very much in the minority. We don’t always agree with each other either. It’d be less fun if we did. Follow me on Twitter. I’m less than 400 tweets from 10,000. You won’t want to miss that.

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  • Geoff Hancock

    It’s a bit of an odd choice of words, no question. But I think you are right on with the trade analysis. A lot of hand-wringing today over something that didn’t seem that bad to me. You articulated that a lot better than I ever could.

    As for the “final piece” comment? Poor choice of words. And a phrase I’ll forget (though I’m sure Twitter will not) just as quickly as it came.

    • VM David

      There are certainly people who are mad simply because he’s Luke, our buddy, and severely overrate his value. There are also people for whom the team will always be wrong, until they are proven right. All of these people are wrong.

      There are others who are concerned about depleting an already depleted bullpen for a player who seems redundant on this roster. I fall into this category, and am open to the idea that I’m also wrong. Subsequent moves could obviously paint this trade in a much different light. For right now, I’m not a big fan.

      • Geoff Hancock

        I’m not a huge fan but I’m not overly concerned either. I suppose I’m just “meh” about it. I certainly understand the concern though it seems that bullpens are far easier to assemble than any other part of the team. Perhaps that’s a clouded opinion based on the mid-2000 Padres. I’m not sure.

        But I sort of get the concern the Padres have regarding the OF. If they believe Venable can be more of an everyday starter (which I assume they do to some degree with this move) an based on the injuries they’ve had in the OF (leading to Amarista in CF on far too many occasions) then I think it’s better to have extra bats vs extra arms.

        As with every trade though, no one knows yet. Especially considering the winter has barely started, who knows what the next shoe is that drops.

  • Nathan Veale

    The good news about Byrnes’ quote is that it makes it less likely they trade Headley.

  • http://padrespublic.com/ AvengingJackMurphy

    I love that quote. How funny. Big believer in belief, that Josh Byrnes.

  • Sac Bunt Melvin

    And then I went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like I loooveee yoooouuuu.

    • http://www.padrespublic.com/padres-trail PadresTrail

      And then you went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like exploooooding.
      /gratuitous Simpson’s reference

  • pointerdave

    For me as it’s stands for now I find the move useless, I get the idea that he may add some ability vs right handed pitchers , which will be nullified when he faces one in a 1 run game with a man on and Black will ask him to sacrifice , but that’s not here nor there .I cannot become excited to the fact that he will allow the club to keep guys who have no business in the outfield out of the outfield , nor that he (can DH as well) really? exactly who can’t and other than his agent even brings that up (Mr.Center) Nor am I excited he will be able to spell one the other 5 non everyday playing outfielders. The most ridiculous outfield in the majors just got “the missing piece”
    No offense to Smith but they already have a couple Smith’s and Jones’s

    • http://www.padrespublic.com/ GhostofRAK

      Bud Black NEVER calls for the bunt. EVER.

  • Ivan Verastica

    If we sign someone like Axford and one of Boxberger/Smith/Quackenbush steps up and fills Gregerson’s hole then I’ll be fine with it. Smith is not spectacular, but he is solid and I think he will do a good job at giving CQ some needed rest and platooning with the rest of the guys . Also as a decent bat off the bench, better than Kotsay. That is all you can ask for a 4th outfielder.

  • Rick

    I don’t think that Seth Smith is the final piece. Trading one of the best relief pitchers in baseball (Gregerson), a highly-sought after reliever, for a 4th or 5th outfielder who doesn’t play great defense isn’t going to bring them into the playoffs. I do think that hiring a competent general manager to replace the incompetent Byrnes could be the final piece.

    • pat

      What evidence do you have that Gregerson is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball? Any examples of him being highly sought after?

      • Rick

        Sure, here is one of many articles: And here is one quotation from the article: “He’s been a dominant reliever throughout his career, and has a year of control remaining.” http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/07/pirates-looking-at-padres-reliever-luke-gregerson.html. Gregerson has been one of the most dominant pitchers for the past 5 years, and many teams have wanted him, including the Yankees, Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, and Pirates.

      • pat

        His ERA+ is just a tick above the median of 120 for relievers who have pitched at least 200 innings in the past five years. Twenty other guys also were between 120 and 131, 37 others were better than 131, he was at 126. I don’t see being slightly above average as being dominant.

  • lol

    If this truly is the final piece to add to our position player roster, lets all get our hopes up for an 81-81 season!!!!!! Can’t fucking wait to see black, byrnes et al carry our padres through another “if only” season. When Byrnes said he was looking for a LH bat, I assumed he meant a starter, not yet another 4th/5th outfielder. We’ve got scores of those already. Trade headley, s. smith, a pitching prospect and a couple of lottery tickets for a legit power corner infielder and a loogy. There you go. Problem solved. Mr Byrnes.

    /sarcasm lol jk jk

  • Lonnie Brownell

    In the “cup half full (of coffee Byrnes didn’t drink)” school of sunshine, at least we’re not the White Sox. As Joe Sheehan put it on the twitter today: “The #WhiteSox strategy of returning a 99-loss team completely intact is interesting.”

    • SDPads1

      Byrnes returned an 86 loss team completely intact before the 2013 season and it resulted in another 86 loss season. We’ll see how it works for the White Sox.

      • Lonnie Brownell

        Yeah, that’s the point–don’t expect the outcome to change much. But with a 2013 payroll of $124 million, you’d think they could find a way to mix things up a bit (moreso than the Padres could with their self-imposed 2012 $63MM salary cap), assuming that a 99 loss season is something you’d much rather not even come close to repeating.

  • MrWhamBam

    Josh Byrnes, is a clown…yea, you read that right. People seem to forget, he’s been fired once already. And all the caution he’s taken with recent trades, speaks more to a guy who is behaving like he’s thinking more about the misstep that might cost him this job, over anything related to a guy who is really thinking about the kind of trades and acquisitions that will make the team better.

    Ron Fowler said at that town meeting that us fans should look forward to an “exciting offseason”. I know he said that because I watched the video 3 times just to make sure I heard him right.

    he sat there with this smug look on his face, probably hating the fact that he had to answer questions about what else the owners were gonna do besides resigning over the hill pitchers like Jason Marquis…he said that he as an “impatient” person…and he said that despite wanting to do more, he was going to “stick with the plan here, that Josh has set forth”

    now, none of us are exactly clear on what that plan is or isnt…but we keep hearing about a plan, just the same.

    so instead of going off on Byrnes for doing anything but what Fowler called “exciting”, in trading for Seth Smith, I’ll just say this. And you guys can meditate on this litle fact-oid if you feel like it:

    THERE IS NO WAY AN OWNERSHIP GROUP PUTS DOWN ALMOST A BILLION BUCKS TO BUY A BASEBALL TEAM, AND THEIR INTRODUCTION TO A HISTORICALLY LEARY FANBASE, IS TO RE-SIGN JASON MARQUIS!!…that move was flat out GANGSTA’..and I dont mean that in a good way.

    first impressions are always the last impression. When they pulled that little Jason Marquis trick, I knew right then, they were full of it. So, Im supposed to be surprised that they did no better than acquiring Smith?…really?

    in 2008, I went to that horror story of 22 inning game we played against the Rocks..we lost 2-1. I had a headache so bad the next morning, I couldnt even go to work. And I have not stepped foot inside Petco Park, since that game.

    Matt Vasgersian was on Darren Smith’s show, some months ago….and he said something I’ll never forget.

    he said, until the Padres are willing to spend some “throw away money” on a free agent hitter or two, they will continue to tick off the fanbase and stay in the rear view mirrors of all the other teams in the NL West”

    ‘throw away money” is a scary phrase, I know…but what Matt meant is very clear to me. He was saying that management and ownership, are going to have to do a lot more than talking about how nice the weather is here, in order to bring difference makers here. And signing players to an inflated deal, might become a necessary evil. The last team to win a WS, with a payroll remotely close to what ours typically look like was the “Florida Marlins”, in 2003..THAT WAS 10 YEARS AGO!…

    So, what are we doing here?…we have this hyped farm system, for what?…we havent made any trades to speak of, with any of the blue chips on the farm, so what are spinning our wheels for?…and what is this team willing to give up to get the impact players, here?

    You go to any other home game of a team in the NL West, and you will hear the name(s) of players who are called difference makers, when they step up to bat (Goldfinch, Montero, A. Gonzalez, CarGo, Tulo, Kemp, H. Ramirez, Puig, Pence, Posey, Sandoval)…THERE IS NOT ONE, ON THE SAN DIEGO PADRES!…and for a handful of years, the only impact player we had was Adrian Gonzalez…ONE GUY!

    Gimme a break…you’re tellin me that you look forward to hearing the PA announcer say, “ok,, fans!…lets hear it for Nickkkkkk Hundddd-leyyyyyyyy!”,or any other name on this lineup.

    will guys like Gyorko, Alonso and Grandal become those type of players?…absolutely. But the Padres are not helping their cause by putting all the pressure of carrying the team on their shoulders. Young teams like this one (the youngest in the division) need veteran players who know how to carry a team for a period of time. Mark Kotsay is not that kind of guy…David Eckstein was not that kind of player..Tony Clark was not that kind of guy. Hell, Adrian was here for 5 yrs, and he wasnt able to do it all on his own. And apparently Chase Headley only shows up to hit when the season is just about over. Same thing can be said about Will Venable..

    until this front office spends money to acquire a free agent that has a name known thru out the game, I will not darken the entrance to Petco Park.

    Ron Fowler said this would be an exciting offseason/ THAT WAS A FLAT OUT LIE. And Im supposed to believe anything coming from the mouth of somebody in the front office. That lie was told by the point man for the owners group…what?..so I turn to Byrnes to shoot straight with the fans?…yea, right.

    • http://www.padrespublic.com/ GhostofRAK

      I’m going to borrow a Sez Bill line:

      RANT!

      • MrWhamBam

        thanks..