By: Nick Recchia
RHP - KIRBY YATES
The Padres are entering an important season in 2020 where they are on the cusp of competing yet still have some spots in the lineup that have long term spots available. Some spots that have been question marks for years (3B/SS) now have long term cogs playing them for the foreseeable future. Spots like second base, the outfield as a whole minus new addition Tommy Pham, and catcher all have young talented players at them yet more potential than production yet. These young players all come with prospect pedigrees and rosey outlooks yet all have warts upon their games that creep up doubt in the back of your mind from Francisco Mejia’s defensive chops to the unknown that is Trent Grisham, and the injury histories of Franchy Cordero and Jurickson Profar. Talent doesn’t play when it's on the injured list.
When you start to near towards the end of February, the Free Agent market is all but dry, Yasiel Puig notwithstanding, and the trade market is seeing prices climb as teams have held tight throughout the Winter to where they are now. The Padres have depth in a number of places from the recently #2 ranked farm system in MLB to a number of young major leaguers in Josh Naylor, Ty France, and Franchy Cordero, to a bullpen that will have as much talent at the AAA level as half the teams in baseball have at the Major League level. This particular area has been reinforced for multiple reasons from shortening the game for a young staff with a history of injuries, to just never having enough pitching. When the team last week dealt outfielder Manuel Margot and prospect Logan Driscoll to Tampa for reliever Emilio Pagan, the depth of the pen reached almost comical levels though.
When talk of reallocating this bullpen depth to shore up other parts of the roster was broached by Padres Chairmen Ron Fowler last week, eyes certainly perked up. Outside of the underrated Pham pick up, the bullpen acquisitions of Pomeranz, Pagan, and resigning of Craig Stammen have been the heavy lifting of the Padres' off-season. It's not unreasonable that Padres ownership has expectations that might have not been met yet but with Preller trying to hold his poker face with opposing GM’s, it's sure more challenging. Preller knows what he has and doesn’t have and other GM’s in this data driven sport are holding firm to their player values and utilizing the owners chirps as leverage. Now to make a trade possible, it takes two GM’s that are capable and motivated to make changes happen. A trade that allows both teams to “win” the trade are usually the right ones to pursue.
One such trading partner for AJ Preller might be Cincinnati Reds GM Nick Krall who has led an unusual spending spree for a team usually bogged down towards the bottom of the NL Central. After trading for Trevor Bauer last July, who is in his final year of team control in 2020, he has signed both 2b Mike Moustakas and OF Nicholas Castellanos to four-year $64 million contracts. This is a team spending money with what they deem as their window of contention opening in 2020. With an offense that will slug in one of the National League’s supreme hitters parks in the Great American Ballpark, a starting staff led by Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Trevor Bauer, there are few areas of concern.
One area that might be of interest is the back of the bullpen where current closer RaiseI Iglesias ended the year with a 4.16 ERA due to a HR/9 of 1.6 which led all of their fulltime relievers. The Padres having just acquired last year’s Tampa Rays defacto closer Emilio Pagan, now possess a multitude of options to close out games at Petco. Kirby Yates, one of the best closers in baseball and a developing local favorite, is on the last season of his team control. A closer is a volatile commodity to begin with, but a soon to be 33 year young closer on the final year of his deal, is usually a commodity too rich to hold onto unless you’re pushing your chips all in like Cincy is.
A possible deal could include Padres closer Kirby Yates and prospects for young Reds phenom Nick Senzel who seemingly has been blocked by a number of free agent signings over the last two seasons. This would provide a long term cog for the Padres who would have six years of team control over Senzel who could play CF or 2b and the Reds could slot Yates into the back of the pen, sliding everyone down one spot and giving them their best path of winning the NL Central for the first time since 2012. It takes two to tango and we shall see if a move like this benefits both GM’s moving forward.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.