A few hours before Sunday’s game right-handed pitcher Mike Adams, one of the premier relievers in baseball, was sent to the Texas Rangers for LHP Robbie Erlin and RHP Jon Wieland both from their AA Frisco RoughRiders team. According to Baseball America, Erlin was the number four rated prospect in their system and Wieland came in at number twenty-two.
Minutes before the deadline outfielder Ryan Ludwick was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the proverbial player to be named later. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune the Padres will be given a list of players from which they will be able to select from with a January 1 deadline.
INTERVIEW: Jason McLeod, San Diego Padres Assistant General Manager Overseeing Player Development.
It seemed that either Adams or Bell were going to be traded. Did it simply come down to who could bring in the most value?
Jason McLeod: We looked at every option we could and it just came down to, as you said, the way in which we could acquire the most talent.
The Padres really expanded their professional scouting department in the off-season. Did this help the organization narrow down who you did and did not want?
Jason McLeod: A.J. Hinch and his guys really did a great job of targeting guys and we were able to see both Erlin and Wieland about four or five times recently.
It’s not only in this deal they have really helped us on multiple fronts on both deals that we did and did not do. We felt really good about the information that AJ was able to provide to help us in our decision making.
What can you tell us about Erlin and Wieland?
Jason McLeod: What sticks out about both of these guys is that they are pitchmakers with advance command of the strike zone; but neither of them are “soft tossers”.
Both rely on fastball velocity and can really dominate the strike zone. Erlin can dominate the strike zone and miss bats with a power change. He will sit in the 88 to 90 mph range with plus command.
Wieland is a little bigger and has a more conventional mix. He can run his fastball in and out and throw his change out of the same slot as his fastball. He is a big body durable kid that we can see as an innings eater. Both of them we project as starters who will pitch in the major leagues.
Is the plan now to play Blanks everyday in left field to see what you have?
Jason McLeod: It does open it up for Kyle and really a lot of other people like Aaron Cunningham and others who are on the team or maybe called up. If Kyle can get back to his ’09 form that would be great and certainly is something that all of us are hoping for.
ANALYSIS: According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, this year the Padres were paying Heath Bell $7.5 million dollars and Mike Adams $2.535 million with both in line for substantial raises in 2012.
It was simply not possible for an organization with the finite funds of the Padres to pay both the $15 million it would probably take to retain them and Adams has expressed a preference to become a closer in the future.
Because Adams is under a team’s control for one year, as opposed to Bell who can become a free agent at the end of the season, he was the most valuable.
Going into 2012 the Padres will have four young talented starters; Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richards, Mat Latos,Cory Luebke in addition to Aaron Harang who has a mutual option for $5 million next season, with a $500,000 buyout clause.
Only Stauffer and Richards will be eligible for salary arbitration so the team has a potentially inexpensive rotation for a few years to come.
What the trade did, particularly with top pitching prospect Simon Castro’s struggles, is provide upper level depth. The team now has Casey Kelly, Anthony Bass, who is already in the majors, along with Erlin and Wieland with Matt Lollis and a very good Keyvius Sampson at the A-ball level.
Throw in John Barbato in short-season Eugene along with the two top unsigned picks San Diego took in the 2011 draft, Joe Ross and Michael Kelly, and Jed Hoyer may have finally picked up the minor league pitching depth he has sought since he took the job.
The Ludwick trade had little, if anything to do, with what is coming back. Trading Ludwick not only frees up salary, which according to today’s UT is estimated to be $2.24 million along with Adam’s $850,000, to spend on the four unsigned high school prospects in the draft (Ross, Kelly, Brett Austin and Austin Hedges) but it will allow the team to find out what they do or don’t have in Blanks.
In 2009 he hit .288/.393/.635. after the all-star break before going down in September. If he can return to that form and Anthony Rizzo, who appears to be bouncing back in Tucson, can convince the organization they should be the everyday players in left and at first base it is an enormous cost savings to the organization.
Look at it this way, this year those two positions with average major league players in Ludwick and Brad Hawpe cost the team just under $10 million dollars in 2010, the cost of starting Blanks and Rizzo will be under a million for 2012.
Last but not least what does this mean for Heath Bell? It’s not quite the same situation as Adrian Gonzalez last year simply because Bell seeks somewhere in the neighborhood of a few million more over three years for what AGon is paid for one in Boston.
As noted above there is an opportunity for significant cost savings at several positions, there should be an increase in television revenues with the much discussed Fox television contract and Bell has said, something Gonzalez never really did, that he is open to the “San Diego discount.”
There are a myriad of different options that could happen with Bell, including as Bill Center speculated in an article a few days agon in the UT, that he could even accept arbitration forcing the team to pay a much higher annual salary than they would want.
Whatever does or does not happen with Bell a big component will be what happens in left field and at first base this season. If Rizzo and Blanks can produce, quite a few things open up.