What the Padres Gave Up: Scott Linebrink was a big part of the bullpen success since he was famously acquired on the waiver wire from the Houston Astros in 2003. In 2004 and 2005 Linebrink averaged nearly a strikeout per inning occupying the 7th inning role and later the 8th when the Padres traded Akinori Otsuka to the Texas Rangers. The past two years Linebrink’s strikeout to innings pitched ratio has declined along with a rise in his ERA from a low of 1.83 ERA in 2005 to a 3.80 this year.
While Linebrink is still a very dominant pitcher in PETCO, 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA, he has struggled on the road with a 0-3 6.05 ERA. Additionally, Linebrink is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
What the Padres Got: All three pitchers were ranked highly by scouts around the league, with Inman the consensus top player acquired. This year, Inman was dominant in the Florida State League (High A) 4-3, 1.72 ERA, a 98/23 K/BB ratio and only allowing 56 hits in 78.2 innings pitched but has struggled in the Southern League (Double-A) 1-5, 5.45 ERA, 42/16 K/BB ratio and 38 hits in 39.2 innings pitched. While his won and loss record is obviously not good, the peripheral numbers are not that bad, especially when taking into account he is only 20.
Thatcher bounced between Huntsville and Nashville (Triple-A) in the Brewers’ organization. The big draw on him are the stats he’s been putting up in Nashville, 33 strikeouts in only 21.2 innings pitched with a 2.08 ERA. He throws a cutting fastball in the high-80s, low-90s along with a big slider and will join the major league team.
Garrison is putting together a nice year in High - with an 8-4 record and a 3.44 ERA. His peripheral statistics aren’t great, 105 hits in 104.2 innings pitched, and a 74/28 BB/K ratio, but as with Inman, he’s very young to be competing at this level.
“It was a complete shock,” Garrison told MadFriars.com on Thursday. “I always heard it came out of nowhere – but, really it came out of nowhere.”
Why the Padres Made the Deal: The Padres bullpen in July is not the same as the one that catapulted the team to the top of the NL West standings in the first two months of the season. Cla Meredith, Doug Brocail and Linebrink have all struggled in recent months, with Linebrink posting a 1-2 record and a 9.35 ERA in July and being removed from the eighth inning slot.
With starters Greg Maddux and David Wells well into their 40’s and Justin Germano still feeling his way into the role of a major league starter, the ability to hold close leads into the 6th and 7th innings with the Padres’ low scoring offense is critical for the team’s post-season chances.
General manager Kevin Towers is attempting to rebuild the bullpen by bringing back Clay Hensley into a role that he thrived in 2005, relying more on Rule 5 pickup Kevin Cameron and lefty Justin Hampson while hoping that Cla Meredith can return to last year’s form. Although Linebrink would have been helpful in this process, the chance to pick up three quality young arms for a middle relief pitcher was just too much for the Padres to pass.
Towers caught Milwaukee at the perfect time. A perennial also-ran, the Brewers are competing for the playoffs for the first time since the Robin Young/Harvey Wallbanger era and are desperate to prop up a tired bullpen with the hope that Linebrink will return to the pitcher he was in 2005 and 2006. For that hope, they were ready to give up a pretty steep price – young pitching.
Conclusion: This could end up being a good deal for the Padres because even if Linebrink stayed in San Diego, he was only a component, not the key, to the Padres remodeling of their 6th and 7th inning relief corps. Thatcher should easily be able to occupy the role that Linebrink would have had.
The Padres minor leagues have taken a big step forward this year, but the pitching talent is still thin, especially with some sub-par performances from pitching prospects Jared Wells and Aaron Breit and the injury to Cesar Carrillo. Inman and Garrison will provide some much needed depth.
Finally, as the trade deadline is demonstrating, the most valuable commodity in baseball now are teams that have players under their control for their first six years, whose salaries are significantly lower than their counterparts.
Although this deal is not as sexy as sending Linebrink for a “big bat” such as Adam Dunn or Jermaine Dye, Towers may have acquired a relief pitcher that is the equal to the one he gave up and obtained another starter or two for a relief pitcher whom the organization believed was on the decline and was about to become a free agent.