Scouting The Trade Market: Padres’ Position Players

The Yankees came into the All-Star break five games back of the Orioles in the AL East but only 3.5 games back of the Mariners for the second wildcard spot. The problem: they have to jump four teams to get that wildcard spot. Going for the division title figures to be a little easier thanks to all the head-to-head games remaining.

The team’s focus will likely be on pitching at the trade deadline in the wake of Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow injury, but they can’t forget about the offense either. They average only 3.99 runs per game, one-third of a run below the AL average. They’re getting below-average production from every position other than left field, center field, and first base, but they are unable to make changes at some spots due to contract status, iconic status, etc.

Right field and third base are the easiest positions for the Yankees to upgrade. They’re shaken things up a bit by cutting ties with Alfonso Soriano and giving Zelous Wheeler a chance, but that has had negligible impact. The Yankees will need to make a trade (or two) to improve their run-scoring, and one of the teams that will be a seller at the deadline is the Padres, who are currently between GMs. That complicates things. Last week we looked at their pitchers, now let’s look at their position players.

Headley. (Denis Poroy/Getty)
Headley. (Denis Poroy/Getty)

3B Chase Headley
Over the last three weeks or so we’ve heard the Yankees are both “regularly” scouting Headley and not strongly pursing him. Both are probably true. The Padres are terrible and Headley is an obvious trade candidate, so the Bombers have to do their due diligence and get some eyes on him. They don’t have to be knocking down the door trying to trade for him at the same time either.

Headley, 30, is having a miserable season, hitting .226/.296/.350 (87 wRC+) with seven homers and a career-low 7.5% walk rate in 74 games. He has been better of late, going 21-for-63 (.333) with a 109 wRC+ in his last 18 games, which coincidences with his return from four games on the shelf with inflammation near a disc in his lower back. (He received an epidural.) Headley had a monster 2012 season, putting up a .286/.376/.498 (145 wRC+) line with 31 homers, and even last year he hit a solid .250/.347/.400 (113 wRC+) with 13 homers. This season has been a disaster though, and Headley doesn’t believe a simple change of scenery will do the trick.

“Even when things are going full-on crappy, like now, I’m confident that sometime in the near future, I’m going to get healthy, stay healthy and start playing the way I know I’m capable of,” he said to Chris Jenkins recently. “I don’t look at it like, ‘Man, I gotta get out of here to be me again.’ I’m going to be me again, whether it’s here or somewhere else.”

Petco Park is a notorious pitcher’s park, even after the walls were brought in last season. Headley is a career .286/.360/.444 (118 wRC+) hitter on the road (.243/.331/.371 (107 wRC+) at home), including a 154 wRC+ away from Petco Park in 2012 (97 wRC+ on the road from 2013-14). If the Yankees were to acquire Headley, he would be moving from one of the worst hitting parks in the game to one of the best. It would be damn near impossible for his numbers not to improve.

Headley’s struggles this year are not all ballpark related, however. Obviously his back was acting up at some point and that likely hurt his performance. How could it not? He is hitting fewer ground balls this season — 40.3% compared to 46.1% last year and 45.1% career — and the average distance of his batted balls in the air is down a bit from recent years. From Baseball Heat Maps:

Chase Headley Batted Ball Distance

That seems like something that could be explained by the back issues. Headley’s plate discipline numbers are right in line with his career norms and his numbers from both sides of the plate are down as well, so it’s not like he’s been fine as a lefty and brutal as a righty or something like that. Headley isn’t hitting the ball as far (and thus as hard) as he did the last few seasons, which could be attributed to the back injury or something else entirely, like a swing or mechanical problem. It could be both.

On the surface, Headley is a great fit for the Yankees as a switch-hitter with some power and a lot of patience from both side of the plate. He has also consistently graded out as an above-average defender at the hot corner, so he’s a true two-way player. That’s not who Headley is right now though, at least not at the plate. He hasn’t hit this year at all, and while the last few weeks have gone better, that’s not enough to erase three pretty terrible months.

The Padres missed their best opportunity to trade Headley following that huge 2012 campaign. He is due to become a free agent after the season and has about $5M still coming to him in the second half. I can’t imagine the Padres will give him a qualifying offer after the season — the qualifying offer is expected to be north of $15M this winter, and after what happened with Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, I think Headley would accept it in a heartbeat — so it won’t require a ton to get him in a trade. Nothing as valuable as a first round pick, obviously.

The list of rental hitters traded in recent years includes Kevin Youkilis and Shane Victorino, both of whom were once productive players going through disappointing seasons mired with injury concerns. Youkilis netted the Red Sox two fringe big leaguers (Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge) and salary relief while Victorino brought the Phillies a fringe big leaguer (Josh Lindblom), a middling prospect (Ethan Martin), a non-factor player to be named later, and salary relief. Seems like decent framework for a Headley trade, no? He is very much available and I don’t think the Yankees would have much trouble actually acquiring him. The question is whether he will produce in the second half.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

OF Carlos Quentin
One of the many reasons the Padres can’t seem to get out of the gutter are their failed contract extensions. Guys like Cameron Maybin, Cory Luebke, Nick Hundley, and Jeff Gyorko simply haven’t lived up to expectations either due to poor performance or injury. Quentin belongs in that botched extensions group as well, though he was already a veteran and established when San Diego gave him four years and $37M three years ago.

The 31-year-old Quentin is hitting a weak .182/.287/.322 (78 wRC+) this season, though he has only appeared in 45 games due to lingering knee problems. He has played in only 331 of 581 possible games (57%) since 2011 due to ongoing problems with both knees, including four surgeries. Quentin hit .262/.356/.498 (137 wRC+) with 53 homers from 2011-13, so up until this season he had always hit when healthy. He was just never healthy.

The Yankees have zero right-handed power on the roster right now — their right-handed hitters have hit 16 (!) homers all season — and Quentin would provide that, at least in theory. He has always been a patient hitter who draws a healthy amount of walks (10.2% from 2012-14) and gets on base, which is something the Yankees lack in general as well. Quentin has zero base-running value and he’s more or less a DH who can play the outfield, so if he doesn’t hit, he’s useless.

Unlikely Headley, Quentin would not be a rental. He is owed roughly $4.5M through the end of the season plus another $8M next season. Unless the Padres eat a bunch of money like the Cubs did with Alfonso Soriano last year, I’m not sure Quentin is someone the Yankees want on their roster despite their need for righty pop. He should come cheap as a salary dump player, but there is no room for a defensively challenged, injury prone player on the roster.

Venable and Denorfia. (Presswire)
Venable and Denorfia. (Presswire)

OF Chris Denorfia & OF Will Venable
These two don’t have the name value of Headley and Quentin, but they have been quality platoon bats who also provide some value in the field and on the bases. Denorfia, 34, is hitting only .244/.295/.329 (79 wRC+) overall this year, but he has mashed lefties at a .296/.357/.458 (131 wRC+) rate since 2012. It won’t exactly solve the team’s right-handed power problem, but it would help. Denorfia is a rental. He’ll be a free agent after the season.

Like so many of his teammates, the 31-year-old Venable is having an awful year, hitting .201/.258/.277 (54 wRC+) overall. Just last season he managed a .268/.312/.484 (122 wRC+) line, and since 2012 he’s hit .252/.311/.417 (104 wRC+) against righties. Introduce him to Yankee Stadium and the short porch and his power output should tick up. Venable is arbitration-eligible for the fourth time as a Super Two next season, though his salary won’t be anything crazy. He’s making $4.25M this year. A year ago, both Denorfia and Venable would have been solid additions. This year, they aren’t worth much thought because they’ve stunk.

* * *

Outfielder Seth Smith would have been the best fit for the Yankees as a left-handed power-hitter for right field, but San Diego gave him a two-year contract extension two weeks ago. Jon Heyman says the Padres told Smith he will not be traded following the extension, so forget about that. He is hitting .283/.387/.508 (155 wRC+) with ten homers and would have been a wonderful fit as a rental right fielder. Too bad he’s off the table now.

Aside from the prospect of buying super low on Headley and hoping he rebounds in the second half, the Padres don’t have many quality position players to offer in a trade this summer. I’m guessing they would move Quentin today if some team was willing to take on his contract, and neither Denorfia or Venable are impact players even when they’re at their best. They’re just quality role players. If the Yankees can get Headley for a Youkilis or Victorino-esque package, they should be all over him. Other than that, there aren’t many reasons to call San Diego this trade season.

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2013 Potential Trade Targets — Part II

Quentin. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Quentin. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Last week, I scoured through some of the RAB comments (bold!, I know), and wrote a post on a few potential trade candidates. Since then, we’ve received several trade suggestions. So, what was initially expected to be a two-part series has now become a four-part series. With that said, let’s dive into part deux.

Carlos Quentin
A former Diamondbacks first round draft pick (2003), Carlos Quentin, has done fairly well this season, batting .262/.364/.482 (.367 wOBA, 143 wRC+) over 195 plate appearance heading into last night’s game. He’s spent time throughout his career at both outfield corners, and would represent a noticeable upgrade over the cumulatively less-than-stellar production of Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Thomas Neal, Brennan Boesch, and former Yankee, Ben Francisco.

Eventually, Curtis Granderson will return, though who knows how he’ll do after having sustained injuries to both the wrist/forearm and the hand. Zoilo Almonte has been a feel good story thus far, though I think it’s unrealistic to expect him to be a productive full-time starting big leaguer right away. Much to Carlos’ credit, he takes a fair amount of walks (9.2 BB%) and doesn’t give up a ton of strike outs (15.5 K%).  He also fits the Yankees hit-for-power mantra (.237 ISO). On the surface, Quentin (who’ll be turning 31 years old in August), makes for a sensible choice in trade targets. As an added bonus, the Yankees would never have to wonder who’d be willing to fight Zack Greinke should he get mouthy on the mound again, so there’s that.

Just as with all players, there are some concerns though. For starters, Quentin’s never been particularly consistent. He had a really solid season in 2008 (4.7 fWAR) in which he ended fifth on the MVP balloting. Other than that though, he’s been very mediocre through limited play (just twice in his career has he amassed over 500 plate appearances). Why the limited exposure, you may ask?  Well, the answer is simple — injuries, injuries, and more injuries. Here’s the run down:

  1. 2003 — Tommy John Surgery
  2. 2007 — Partial tear of left labrum
  3. 2008 — Injured wrist after slamming bat in frustration (later reported that he had a fractured wrist and would undergo season-ending surgery).
  4. 2009 — Plantar fasciitis
  5. 2011 — Sprained left shoulder on a diving catch (would make only two more plate appearances the rest of the season)
  6. 2012 — Opened the season on the DL after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus (his knee bothered him again later in September which resulted in another season-ending surgery)
  7. 2013 — Sore left shoulder, sore right knee, sore right wrist (all have kept him day-to-day this season)

Quentin is also currently signed to a three-year, $27M contract (with a mutual option for 2016) with the Padres, though he has expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause for an AL club if he could take on a designated hitter role. These last two points are what make this scenario challenging. The team would be taking on a defensively limited guy for a couple seasons who’s not only injury prone, but also earns an average of $9 million a year. Moreover, we’re talking about a guy who is realistically only capable of playing in the lineup as a DH on any sort of regular basis (if at all). To make matters worse, over the past few seasons, Quentin has also shown an increased tendancy of not hitting lefties.

Quentin wouldn’t necessarily resolve the outfield concerns, nor would he help with the inevitable log jam at DH. It’s also difficult to say what this would cost the Yankees in terms of prospects. Perhaps San Diego requests a couple mid-level prospects and some salary relief. Or maybe they ask for more given the lack of options available by the trade deadline. Basically, I think this is one of those ideas that’s kind of nice in theory, but isn’t the most practical in reality.

Mike Morse
My gut reaction to Morse was “Here’s another guy that I have absolutely no interest in.” He’s been generally regarded as sub-par defensively and on the bases. While he does showcase some power (career .197 ISO), he doesn’t take walks at all (career 6.1 BB%) and strikes out often (career 22.2 K%).

So with proper bias in place, I visited FanGraphs. To Morse’s credit, he’s actually produced relatively well the past few seasons, basically since getting the opportunity to play full-time (148 wRC+ in 2011, 113 wRC+ in 2012, and 115 wRC+ so far in 2013), though he too has been limited in exposure throughout his career overall (only one season with 500+ at bats). Oddly, this season Morse has had some difficulty with righties despite being a .284 career hitter against them (through 138 plate appearances in 2013, he’s batting .225). I don’t think that that would be a deal-breaker by any means, but it would be something to keep an eye out on.

The Mariners owed Morse $7 million this season so the Yankees would only be on the hook for about $3.5M or so at most, depending on when the deal is done — granted that’s not really cheap for a rental. He’s also a free agent next season, so I don’t think the Yankees would be necessarily forced to give up a whole lot despite Morse’s solid start to the season, especially if the Mariners are expecting any salary relief. Again, maybe a middling prospect and some cash gets it done. As an added bonus, Morse can also play first base, which would alleviate some of the burden currently being caused by a cooling Lyle Overbay and an injured Mark Teixeira. In other words, I actually give this proposal a relunctant thumbs up. I think it may make sense now given the overall lack of power production, and wouldn’t hinder the team too much down the road.

Hart. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)
Hart. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)

Corey Hart
 A guy like Hart sure is tempting, huh?  We’re talking about a guy who’s been pretty good offensively the past few seasons (career .276/.334/.491, .354 wOBA, 117 wRC+), has hit over 25 home runs in each of the past three seasons, and who is only 31 years old. Hart’s concluding his three-year commitment with the Brewers (owed $10.3M this year) and is expected to be a free agent after the season. Better yet, we’re talking about a guy who plays Right Field and First Base — a guy kind of like Nick Swisher.  The Brewers are currently sitting in last place in the N.L. Central at 31-43, so they may even be sellers by the deadline (or perhaps before).

So what’s the catch?  Well for starters he’s been sidelined all season recovering from knee surgery. He was supposed to be back in May initially. Then he was expected to return in June. Now he’s not going to be back until after the All-Star break at the earliest. Knee injuries are a pain (literally) and they take time to recover from. It’ll be interesting to see how he does when he returns. He may go back to being his old self, or he may struggle at the plate if he’s unable to deal with the impact of pivoting through the swing. Hart is the kind of guy who wouldn’t necessarily come cheap either.  Aside from some salary relief, I’d imagine the Brewers would be looking for an above-average prospect despite the injury.

That said, Hart would be the type of player who I would hope the team seroiusly considers in the offseason if he has a strong second half of this season. Who knows, maybe another short-term deal is plausible if enough teams question his durability heading forward.

Alex Rios
Mike discussed Rios briefly in last Friday’s mailbag. He hit on my two biggest gripes against Rios, age 32. He’s been very inconsistent throughout his career and would cost quite a bit (he’s owed $13M this season and next, so the Yanks would presumably be on the hook for up to as much as $20M). Frankly, it was viewed as an act of brilliance when the Blue Jays managed to dump both Rios’ and Wells’ contracts onto other teams; I’m not sure I want to be cheering on the team that intentionally acquires both after having already committed two years too many to Ichiro. That’s a lot of cash for a potentially disasterous outfield.

To be fair, Rios was pretty solid last season, and has been pretty good this season so far (.280/.340/.465, .348 wOBA, 116 wRC+ with 11 home runs), and would certainly mark an upgrade over what the team’s been marching out into right field. On the plus side, Rios has been relatively healthy throughout his career, has some speed on the bases, and can handle pitchers of either handedness (which is a nice change of pace given all the platoon players the team currently employs). One interesting tidbit is that almost all of Rios’ home runs are hit to left field (he’s a dead pull hitter). When I checked out his home run trajectories and then overlaid Yankee stadium, they all would have been Home Runs. The point is, maybe Death Valley in left-center wouldn’t be that much of a hindrance to Rios despite less-than-ideal dimensions for his swing.

I guess what it comes down to is whether you think Rios will continue his production for another season and a half. He seems to have figured it out these last couple seasons with the White Sox. Given that it’s not my money (or my ass on the line), I’d be tempted to take this gamble assuming the cost of acquiring Rios is reasonable beyond the dollars and cents. The White Sox also currently stink (31-43), so they very well could be realistic sellers by the trade deadline.

(Mike McGinnis/Getty)
Aramis. (Mike McGinnis/Getty)

Aramis Ramirez
The first thing I’ll say about Aramis is that I didn’t realize he was already 35 years old. I forget that he’s been in the league since 1998 having spent time with the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers. The second thing I’ll say about Aramis is that he’s a Third Baseman, which by default, makes him appealing to me given the nonsense the Yankees are currently fielding at the position.

As it turns out, Ramirez has actually been pretty good too. After posting a strong season last year (5.8 fWAR), he’s continued to swing the bat well this season (.267/.347/.413, .336 wOBA, 113 wRC+). He provides some power (.151 ISO) and patience (10.2 BB%). He doesn’t strike out a ton either (18.1%), and has been pretty effective throughout his career when it comes to hitting for average (.285 BA) which is fueled by a career .292 BABIP. And as mentioned above, the Brewers will be a team likely to sell.

So, time to bring him on board, right? Well, not so fast. There are some hurdles. First, Alex Rodriguez could potentially return to the roster not too long after the All-Star break. This creates a bit of a lineup logjam. I assume they would try to to keep both Ramirez’s and Rodriguez’s bat in the lineup which means one will have to play DH — a spot already occupied by Travis Hafner, and eventually shared with Derek Jeter and probably Teixeira (should he not go the season-ending surgery route).

Secondly, Ramirez wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon if the Yankees did acquire him. He’s owed $10M this season and $16M next season, with a $14M dollar mutual option ($4 million buyout) in 2015. So what else is new with the expensive 35-year-old you might ask? Well, he’s also recovering from a knee injury. I’m not sure he’s the type of guy you want to break the bank on when it comes to rejuvenating an already severely injured lineup. I assume the Brewers will look for at least a couple decent prospects in addition to salary relief. Right idea, wrong timing here maybe. Then again, that seems to be the case for a lot of trade candidates, really.

Heyman: Yanks don’t see Carlos Quentin as a fit

Via Jon Heyman, the Yankees don’t see Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin as a fit should Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury turn out to be a long-term thing. He says they would likely seek a speedy outfielder similar to Brett should they explore the trade market.

Quentin, 29, is off to a monster start with San Diego — .591 wOBA and 291 wRC+ — after missing the first six weeks of the season with a knee problem. It was his fifth DL stint and third surgery since 2007. Quentin can straight mash from the right side, but he’s a defensive liability and obviously a health risk. He’s also scheduled to become a free agent after the season. I like him but there are obvious reasons to be skeptical.