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The Padres had a moderately busy offseason, as they made one good trade, one bad trade and a couple of inconsequential trades. There were some other moves, with minor-league signings forming the bulk of these. However, for better or for worse, the Padres are primarily the same team that won the 2005 NL West. The question is whether or not this is enough to stand up to the improved L.A. Dodgers and a Giants team with a possibly-healthy Barry Bonds.

Ramon Hernandez, C (FA – Baltimore Orioles)
Miguel Olivo, C (Non-Tendered – Florida Marlins)
Rob Fick, C (FA – Washington Nationals)
Mark Loretta, 2B (Trade – Boston Red Sox)
Joe Randa, 3B (FA – Pittsburgh Pirates)
Sean Burroughs, 3B (Trade – Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
Damian Jackson, INF (FA – Washington Nationals)
Xavier Nady, OF (Trade – New York Mets)
Mark Sweeney, OF (FA – San Francisco Giants)
Adam Eaton, SP (Trade – Texas Rangers)
Brian Lawrence, SP (Trade – Washington Nationals)
Pedro Astacio, SP (FA – Washington Nationals)
Akinori Otsuka, RP (Trade – Texas Rangers)
Rudy Seanez, RP (FA – Boston Red Sox)
Chris Hammond, RP (FA – Cincinnati Reds)
Craig Breslow, RP (Non-Tendered – Boston Red Sox)

Others: Billy Killian, C (Trade – Texas Rangers), Todd Greene, C (Released – San Francisco Giants), Jesse Garcia, INF (FA – Colorado Rockies), Ricky Steik, SP (Trade – Detroit Tigers), Rusty Tucker, RP (Waivers – Chicago White Sox)

Mike Piazza, C (FA)
Doug Mirabelli, C (Trade – Boston Red Sox)
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (Trade – Texas Rangers)
Mark Bellhorn, 2B (FA)
Bobby Hill, 2B (Trade – Pittsburgh Pirates)
Vinny Castilla, 3B (Trade – Washington Nationals)
Mike Cameron, OF (Trade – New York Mets)
Terrmel Sledge, OF (Trade – Texas Rangers)
David Roberts, OF (FA)
Chris Young, SP (Trade – Texas Rangers)
Shawn Estes, SP (FA)
Andy Ashby, SP (FA)
Dewon Brazelton, SP (Trade – Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
Seth Etherton, SP (Rule V Draft)
Steve Andrade, RP (Rule V Draft; via Trade – Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
Jason Anderson, RP (Waivers – New York Yankees)
Alan Embree, RP (FA)
Doug Brocail, RP (FA)

Others: Jason Hill, C (FA), David Ross, C (FA), Walter Young, 1B (Waivers – Baltimore Orioles), Justin Leone, 3B (FA), Manny Alexander, INF (FA), Eric Valent, OF (FA), Kenny Baugh, SP (Trade – Detroit Tigers), Eric Junge, RP (FA), Brian Sikorski, RP (FA)

Besides several inconsequential trades, such as the swap of Ricky Steik for Kenny Baugh or the trade of struggling former first-round picks, where the Padres picked up Dewon Brazelton, Kevin Towers made two important trades. In my opinion, he won one handily and lost the other. The first trade was when he dealt Mark Loretta to the Red Sox for Doug Mirabelli. It seems like once it became clear that Ramon Hernandez wasn’t going to resign with the Friars, Towers looked at the options on the free agent market, namely LoDuca and Molina, and decided neither was worth their asking price. Then, rather than try to piece together a catching tandem from lesser-known options, such as David Ross, Miguel Olivo or other free agents like Tom Wilson and Jason Phillips, Towers decided he wanted a proven name and set his sights on Mirabelli. I’ll discuss the Padres 2B job more in detail later, but Loretta is quite a good second baseman, even during an off-year. Even if Towers had decided to deal him for internal reasons, such as cost or to give Josh Barfield an opportunity, you have to get more for a middle infielder one year removed from slugging .495 in PETCO than a backup catcher.

However, Towers made up for his loss with his other big trade of the offseason, where he swindled rookie Rangers GM Jon Daniels out of Princeton product Chris Young. The Padres acquired Young, Terrmel Sledge and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and minor-league catcher Billy Killian. Otsuka was a quality reliever and part of a strong Padres bullpen, but he’s expendable in the right deal, such as this one. Eaton came over to the Padres from the Phillies in the Andy Ashby trade in 2000 and has spent his entire stint in the MLB with the Padres. Over those five years he has basically been a slightly below league-average pitcher. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but the potential that made him the 11th overall pick in the 1996 draft has never materialized, and at this point likely never will. The fact that Eaton is a year away from unrestricted free agency and put up those average numbers in an extreme pitcher’s park makes him an even more fungible property.

In return for a good reliever on the wrong side of 30 and a slightly below-average pitcher the Padres received Chris Young, Terrmel Sledge and Adrian Gonzalez. I think San Diego would have won this trade if they received Young by himself. Young put up a 4.26 ERA in a hitter’s ballpark and was easily the Rangers second-best starter last year. He’ll fit in quite well at PETCO and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him post a sub-4 ERA. He’s in his age-27 season and he’s only been pitching in the majors for two years, so San Diego has him under control for several more years. He’s already a better pitcher than Eaton is, or at worse they are very comparable. Terrmel Sledge is at worst a good fourth outfielder and at best could be half of a platoon in the outfield. Adrian Gonzalez has struggled in the majors so far and his stats won’t look any better in PETCO, but he still has the potential to be a starter or a good bat off the bench. Both Sledge and Gonzalez are young, cheap and relatively good; it’s just a matter of determining whether they can start for a major league team.

So, how do the 2006 Padres shape up compared to the 2005 version?

2005 Season:

Player					GPA	RC/27		
C: Ramon Hernandez			.279	5.2	
1B: Phil Nevin				.255	5.1
2B: Mark Loretta			.269	5.7
SS: Khalil Greene			.261	5.5
3B: Sean Burroughs			.236	3.5
Backup C: Miguel Olivo			.298	6.7
Backup IF: Robert Fick			.265	5.3
Backup IF: Damian Jackson		.256	4.7
Backup IF: Joe Randa			.255	4.0
Backup IF: Geoff Blum			.258	4.2

2006 Projected Roster

Player					GPA*	RC/27*	
C: Mike Piazza				.250	4.6
1B: Ryan Klesko				.263	5.1
2B: Josh Barfield			.246	4.5
SS: Khalil Greene			.255	4.8
3B: Vinny Castilla			.222	3.5
Backup C: Doug Mirabelli		.238	4.2
Backup IF: Mark Bellhorn		.243	4.3
Backup IF: Bobby Hill			.235	3.9
Backup IF: Geoff Blum			.214	3.2

*Projections based on Dan Szymborski’s ZIPS projection which can be found here. His work is much appreciated

Piazza was a decent flier to take, although obviously he’d fit in better with an AL team if he was willing to DH. Nevertheless, the Piazza signing raises more questions about the Mirabelli move. Concerns over Piazza’s defence aside, it still doesn’t necessitate the trade of a former All-Star second baseman for a backup catcher. Nevertheless, Piazza will likely continue his offensive decline, but as long as he doesn’t fall off a cliff then he will still produce enough to avoid being a liability. His defence is atrocious, but as long as pitchers are comfortable throwing to him then it shouldn’t cost the Padres an undue amount of runs because of defensive miscues. All other factors aside, Mirabelli is a better backup to have than a waiver-wire player like Olivo or David Ross, which is good news for the Padres, especially in light of how much he may play.

Klekso will likely see the bulk of his time at first base this year, but he also could spend some time in right field if the Padres give Adrian Gonzalez an opportunity in the majors. Apparently the Padres see him as their first-baseman in 2007 and beyond, but he’ll likely some time in the majors this year.

The 2006 infield is projected to be worse at every position than it was in 2004. Barfield is a fine prospect, but likely will experience growing pains and will be worse than Loretta was in 2005. I expect Barfield will make the team out of spring training, over Bellhorn or Bobby Hill, and will quickly assume the regular spot at second. Unless he has real trouble adjusting the majors he will continue to receive the bulk of the playing time throughout the season. The Padres have options in place if he struggles, which is a smart approach for a contender with a rookie in the everyday lineup. Khalil Greene is projected for a minor drop in performance and, not surprisingly, Vinny Castilla is projected to be horrible offensively, even worse than the now-departed Sean Burroughs. As you may have heard, Brian Lawrence (the pitcher Towers dealt for Castilla) has a torn labrum. Bowden didn’t insist on a MRI before the trade was made and this was met with scorn by many, until it was pointed out that if he did than the Padres may have requested one on Castilla’s knees, with equally damaging results.

The biggest questions on the infield will be how Barfield adjusts to the majors and how much Piazza still has left in the tank. According to The Hardball Times Piazza’s PrOPS for 2005 was .822, compared to his actual OPS of .778. ZIPS projects an OPS of .739, which is partially due to the park factors of PETCO, but also indicates a drop of almost .100 points off what Piazza was expected to do. That decline may be somewhat drastic, as Piazza’s 2004 OPS was .806 (and in 2003 it was .860). After two years hovering in the low .800’s to expect a decline of 10% may be pessimistic, but Piazza may implode at some point (see: Bernie Williams, 2005).

In 2005, with Portland of the Pacific Coast League, Barfield hit .310/.370/.450 with 25 doubles and 15 homers. At 6’0 and 185 pounds he is listed identically to Loretta. In terms of skill set, Barfield also seems to be very similar to Loretta, except that he doesn’t make contact nearly as often. Consequently, the Padres may not lose as much off 2005 as ZIPS thinks. Nevertheless, obviously some rookies struggle and a poor start could damage Barfield’s confidence. Having an ex-big leaguer for a father should only help the mental side of his game.

Last year the infield backups were quite productive, particularly Rob Fick who got a number of at-bats at 1B and Miguel Olivo who had just over 100 outstanding at-bats when subbing for Ramon Hernandez. This year ZIPS isn’t nearly so optimistic, as Geoff Blum is due for a poor year after starting 2005 in San Diego and ending it in Chicago, with a World Series ring to show for it. Bellhorn’s year will go as his batting average does, as he is always good for a ton of walks, some power and a ton of strikeouts. What matters is if he hits .210 or .265. He’ll likely stay around to backup Barfield and switch-hit off the bench, while Bobby Hill could well be the odd-man-out in Spring Training, but he should spend some time in San Diego in 2006 with injuries and whatnot.

2005 Season:

Player				GPA	RC/27		
LF: Brian Giles			.337	9.2
CF: Dave Roberts		.290	6.1
RF: Ryan Klesko			.288	6.0
Backup OF: Mark Sweeney		.319	7.5
Backup OF: Xavier Nady		.279	4.5
Backup OF: Eric Young		.277	5.1

2006 Projected Roster

Player				GPA*	RC/27*	
LF: Brian Giles			.291	6.6
CF: Mike Cameron		.250	4.6
RF: David Roberts		.252	4.5
Backup OF: Terrmel Sledge	.245	4.3
Backup OF: Ben Johnson		.249	4.6
Backup OF: Eric Young		.233	3.6

Giles is aging, but San Diego signed him to a very reasonable below-market 3-year deal. Considering that last year he put up a .301/.423/.483 line in PECTO, that money is going to be well spent. He’s failed to crack a .900 OPS once since 1999 and he should be good for an OPS in the 870’s or 880’s at the worst. With Mike Cameron and Dave Roberts the outfield defence should be quite good and there’s lots of room to track down flyballs in PETCO’s spacious outfield. However, ZIPS does not believe Roberts will come close to replicating his offensive numbers and Cameron won’t replicate Klesko’s, either. The improved defence won’t make-up for the offensive loss, which will be felt across the board as both Giles and Roberts will have a tough task maintaining their offensive numbers from 2005.

The Padres also got very good production from their 3 backup outfielders last year. Mark Sweeney arrived from Colorado and gave San Diego a 136 OPS+ in 260-odd plate appearances and Xavier Nady and Eric Young also had an OPS+ of over 100. For 2006, Terrmel Sledge is a good fourth outfielder and Ben Johnson should fit in well as a defensive substitute, pinch-runner and fifth outfielder. Eric Young will also make the club and he has value because he can play the infield and outfield. Nevertheless, the Padres will not get the production off the bench that they got in 2005, either.

2005 regular pitching staff:

Player			Position	ERA		K/BB
Starting Rotation
Jake Peavy		SP		2.88		4.32		
Brian Lawrence 		SP		4.83		1.91		
Adam Eaton		SP		4.27		2.27	
Woody Williams		SP		4.85		2.08
Tim Stauffer		SP		5.33		1.69
Pedro Astacio		SP		3.17		1.27


Trevor Hoffman		RP		2.97		4.50
Scott Linebrink		RP		1.83		3.04
Akinori Otsuka		RP		3.59		1.76
Rudy Seanez		RP		2.69		3.81
Chris Hammond		RP		3.84		2.43
Darrell May		RP		5.61		1.60
Clay Hensley		RP		1.70		1.65
2006 Projected Roster
Player			Position	ERA*		K/BB*	
Starting Rotation
Jake Peavy		SP		3.39		3.55
Chris Young	 	SP		3.95		2.87
Woody Williams		SP		4.45		2.27
Shawn Estes		SP		5.06		1.25
Chan Ho Park		SP		5.08		1.40


Trevor Hoffman		RP		2.95		4.45
Scott Linebrink		RP		3.16		3.13
Clay Hensley		RP		4.25		2.06
Alan Embree		RP		4.67		3.08	
Brian Sikorski		RP		No projections available
Scott Cassidy		RP		4.76		1.81
Tim Stauffer		RP		4.74		2.06

*Calculated from the aforementioned ZIPS projection system.

Jake Peavy is projected for a small regression and that’s probably a safe bet. According to Hardball Times his xFIP was 3.15, which isn’t far removed from his projection for this year. Peavy will still be one of the best starters in the National League and he only turns 25 on the last day of May. Injuries while celebrating a division title aside, he is supposed to have a good makeup and he’s a very intelligent pitcher, as well. He should be good for quite a while, and Chris Young now gives the Padres a good number two starter. As stated, Young put up a 4.26 ERA in a hitter’s ballpark and an xFIP of 4.69 is still good for Arlington. The Padres have the lanky righty’s rights for several more years and alone he was a great return for Eaton and Otsuka. Young is a flyball pitcher, with a G/F ratio of 0.66 and that is a good match for PETCO.

After the front two the rotation is filled with many questions. Woody Williams should get the next rotation spot and with Woody what you see is basically what you get. He won’t strike out a lot of batters and his control is okay, but nothing special. Williams will give you about 5-6 slightly-below league average innings per start. He’s better suited to the #4 or 5 spot in a good rotation and he’s no one’s idea of a good #3. Shawn Estes looks like he’ll get a good chance to make the team as the rotation’s only southpaw. He barely strikes out a batter every two innings and his K/BB ratio suffers as a result. Estes is another pitcher with limited upside, as he’s posted ERA+s of 78, 74, 86 and 92 the last four years. If the Padres get anything above an 85 from him, they should consider it a success.

Finally, Chan Ho Park may take the last spot in the rotation. Park did not have a single good year with Texas after signing his big contract and was finally dealt to the Padres in the summer for Phil Nevin in a swap of struggling players. Park didn’t fare any better in San Diego, but he’s pitching well for the Korean team in the WBC so far. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get a shot in the rotation; teams often give multiple chances to highly-paid players rather than writing them off as a sunk cost. The Padres may feel like returning to the National League may help him recapture his past success. Given his success out of the pen at the WBC (albeit very small sample size so far) the Padres may also try him there and Bruce Bochy’s made noise to that effect, but I think he’ll get six weeks or so in the rotation, first. If Park or another starter is sent to the pen or released, the Padres have Clay Hensley, Tim Stauffer and Dewon Brazelton as potential replacements.

San Diego didn’t really seem to have a backup plan to Hoffman and if he had signed elsewhere the Padres may have had to enter the season with Scott Linebrink at closer. Linebrink’s turned into a quality reliever, but given the loss of Seanez, Otsuka and Hammond, it’s good for the Padres to have a proven setup man they can turn to in tough situations in the 7th or 8th innings. I’ve got a sentimentalist streak, so that I’m also quite glad that Trevor Hoffman, one of the best closers in baseball history, is likely going to finish his career with San Diego, where he made a name for himself and has pitched all but 35.2 of his career innings. Hoffman will be in his age-38 season next year and he posted his second-worst season since 1996 last year. However, a sub-par Hoffman year still includes a sub-3 ERA, a 4.5:1 K:BB ratio and 43 saves. The back of the bullpen should be no problem for San Diego.

As previously mentioned the Friars lost Otsuka, Seanez and Hammond from the setup and key middle-relief roles. They brought aboard Chris Hammond on a minor-league deal, but he is basically guaranteed to make the team if healthy, as he is the only reasonable left-handed option they have for the bullpen. He won’t be as good as Hammond, but Embree still has something left in his tank. He had offseason arm surgery and he’s not as bad as he pitched in 2005. Clay Hensley, who had a 2.99 ERA as a starter with Portland, will likely assume a key middle-relief role, as he bides his time before he becomes a member of the rotation. Hensley may end up starting by the end of 2006, but it’s likely he’ll start the year in the pen. If Hensley is given an important middle-relief role it’s probable that San Diego will keep a potential long-reliever in the bullpen, and if Estes and Park grab the last spots in the rotation that pitcher could be Tim Stauffer. Stauffer struggled last year, but he’s a former first-round pick who pitched quite well in the low minors. He may go back to Portland for more seasoning, but he’ll get every opportunity to prove himself, particularly with 2004 first-round bust Matt Bush weighing heavily on the minds of the front office. Dewon Brazelton is another candidate for the long-man role in the bullpen.

The last spots in the pen are up for grabs in Arizona. Doug Brocail was a leading candidate for one of them, but an emergency angioplasty, which may have saved his life, has sidelined him indefinitely. Brocail, who was throwing a 90 mph and who had impressed Towers, began complaining of chest tightness on March 3 and was admitted to the hospital on Friday and the surgery was performed Saturday morning. Brocail will undergo another two weeks of tests to ensure he is recovering from the 99% blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery. Dr. Albers, who performed the surgery, described a 99% blockage as “scary” and stated, "The outlook is good from the point of view of health and having him for his wife and five daughters. The outlook from a baseball standpoint is very up in the air. But we may be breaking new ground." Even if Brocail never pitches again, the important thing is that five girls will get to grow up with their father in their lives.

With Brocail likely not in the picture in the foreseeable future, the door is even more open for the last couple of spots in the bullpen. The leading contenders appear to be Scott Cassidy, Brian Sikorski, Seth Etherton, Steve Andrade and Jason Anderson. Cassidy is apparently getting a long look in spring training and is pitching well so far. Sikorski, who signed with San Diego after five years in Japan, is also receiving a long look. Jason Anderson had a 2.66 ERA for Columbus, the AAA affiliate of the Yankees, in 2005 and was claimed on waivers by San Diego in the winter. Etherton, a Rule V pick, had a 2.72 ERA in 19 starts for Sacramento (AAA) in Oakland’s system. Andrade, also a Rule V pick, had a 1.97 ERA for Double-A New Hampshire in 35 games. Of course, Etherton and Andrade have to be returned if they don’t make the Padres; I’m not sure the options and contract situations of Cassidy, Sikorski and Anderson. My money is on Sikorski and Cassidy to make the team, but that may be wishful thinking that we get Andrade back in our system. It’s very unlikely both Andrade and Etherton make the team, given their contract status, but it’s quite possible Towers carries one of them now that Brocail is out of the picture.


Who makes the last couple of spots in the Padres bullpen shouldn’t make or break their season, but if they lose out on a playoff spot by a game or two it may. What is important to know is that the Padres, by virtue of being in the NL West, are basically automatic contenders for the playoffs. They’ll form part of what looks to be a three-team race with the Dodgers and Giants. The Padres as they stand now would be hard-pressed to advance far in the playoffs, but with a healthy Peavy leading the rotation anything is possible. I don’t see the Padres making the playoffs this year, however. There are just too many likely regressions amongst important players, such as Giles, Roberts and Klesko, that Towers did not do enough to solve. I predict 77 wins, but they’ll miss the playoffs by several games. I think 85 might win the division, but the Padres need a fair amount to break right for them to reach that figure.

2006 San Diego Padres Preview | 4 comments | Create New Account
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CaramonLS - Sunday, March 12 2006 @ 04:44 PM EST (#142382) #
When you have an unexpected power drop in the 2005 season, your value is going to drop off the map ala Loretta.

Look at Mike Lowell, the Marlins could barely give this guy away and basically threw him in as a 'tax' on the BoSox in the Beckett deal. A gold glover at 3b and can slug over 500? All because of the possiblity he took the juice.

Not saying Loretta was using, but there is a stigma out there with very solid players who all the sudden fall off the map.
Thomas - Sunday, March 12 2006 @ 05:17 PM EST (#142387) #
Actually, that's a good point Caramon. I still think Loretta had more value than Towers dealt him for, but you're right, maybe the flag for steroids was used (justifiably or not) and Towers never thought he'd get his 2003-4 numbers back.
Thomas - Sunday, March 12 2006 @ 05:17 PM EST (#142388) #
Actually, that's a good point Caramon. I still think Loretta had more value than Towers dealt him for, but you're right, maybe the flag for steroids was used (justifiably or not) and Towers never thought he'd get his 2003-4 numbers back.
Gerry - Sunday, March 12 2006 @ 05:57 PM EST (#142389) #
Interesting Thomas. I didn't know the moves looked so bad until you laid them out like that. I wondered if some of the moves were defense related, get Cameron, move Roberts, Giles and Klesko down the defensive spectrum, but Towers signed Piazza to kill that theory. Last years pitchers after Peavy, Williams, Stauffer, Lawrence and Eaton, are all control guys but Williams is back and the Padres are relying on Estes and Park, so I don't know what is going on in Towers head. I agree with your 77 win assessment.
2006 San Diego Padres Preview | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.