It seems the San Diego Padres are indeed willing to make some moves this winter. A.J. Preller has already pulled off two deals in the second week of November and the annual winter meetings aren’t even scheduled to start until next month. The Padres moved a minor league pitcher to obtain a super utility man. Strange, since the team seems full of those type of players. We will see how that works out.
He also moved Joaquin Benoit to the Seattle Mariners for two lower minor league prospects. Neither Nelson Ward or Enyel De Los Santos were on the Mariners top 30 prospect list. The trade of Benoit probably doesn’t change the fact the Padres are still entertaining offers on Craig Kimbrel.
The Atlanta Braves were rumored to be talking the Padres about Andrelton Simmons before he was dealt to the Angels. It is not known if Kimbrel’s name came up in the supposed negotiations. Still Kimbrel’s name has been long rumored in New York. The Yankees are in search of upgrades and the two teams reportedly were close on a deal last July revolving around Yankee farm hand Jorge Mateo. The speedy shortstop would be appealing to the Padres except for the fact he is still a few seasons from being Major League ready.
There is one team however that has all the right prospects to get a deal done and they are in need of a closer in the worst way. The Houston Astros came extremely close to knocking off the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, but the bull pen and defense failed the team. Closer Luke Gregerson is not a typical closer. He is very familiar to Padres fans, but he is just not a reliable option in closing, especially in the post season when it is all on the line.
If the Astros want to compete and take their team the next level they will have to make some moves. Acquiring a veteran closer should be their #1 priority. Kimbrel would not be cheap however. He is signed for at least the next two seasons, with a third year option. He is in the prime of his career and arguably the best closer in the game the last five seasons. The Padres will hold out for a great offer.
So what would the Padres want in return for Kimbrel? The obvious need is a shortstop, but the Astros are not moving Carlos Correa. He is about as untouchable as they come in the game of baseball. They kid looks like the real deal and should be an all-star for seasons on end. The Astros do have Alex Bregman their #1 pick from last June’s draft. He is not eligible to be traded until June (the Trea Turner rule), but it’s not likely the Astros would want to move him either. There are whispers within the organization that the team will eventually move him to third base.
The Astros do have Mark Appel who is an intriguing prospect. The former #1 overall pick in the 2013 draft from Stanford University has been off to a rocky start in his professional career. He went 10-3 last season in 25 starts with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. He has struggled with his command but still continually hits the upper 90’s in terms of velocity. He has an above average slider and change and projects as a front line starter. The Astros are growing tired of waiting for him to develop and the Padres could obtain a high ceiling pitcher for a reasonable price.
The Astros also have a mammoth left-handed first baseman who the Padres could surely use in the future. A.J. Reed is the 2014 Golden Spikes Award winner as the best player in the country. He was an outstanding athlete at the University of Kentucky where he both hit and pitched for the Wildcats. He was 12-2 with a 2.09 ERA his last season while leading the country with 23 home runs. He was shockingly not drafted until the 2nd round of the 2014 draft where the Astros scooped him up with the 42nd overall pick. Reed had 523 at bats this season between A-ball and AA-ball where he hit .340 with 34 home runs and 127 RBI’s. He did strike out 122 times, but walked 86 times resulting in an incredible .432 on base percentage. The 22-year-old is very close to being Major League ready.
That is not all the Astros have to offer in their Minor Leagues also. Tony Kemp makes an interesting case for being traded. He is a natural second baseman but is blocked by Jose Altuve on the Major League roster. The left-handed hitter played this past season in Triple-A and is reportedly Major League ready at the age of 24. He has been playing some outfield in order to try to break into the Major League roster, but is more comfortable at second. Kemp hit .308 last season with three home runs 48 RBI’s and 35 stolen bases. He has the ability to get on base and could be a special player in the right situation.
The Astros also have Jandel Gustave who most Padres fans are already familiar with. He was a rule five draft pick from the Astros last season. He was originally taken by the Red Sox from the Astros, the Sox re-assigned him where he was promptly claimed by the Royals. They held on tho him for a bit, then re-assigned him. The Padres then took a flier on him, but ultimately choose to let him go back to the Astros as the team could not afford to have him on the roster for the entire 2015 season. All that happened in a matter of weeks this spring training. The right hander went 5-2 last season in 58 relief innings where he had a 2.15 ERA. He is still struggling a bit with his command but does have a Major League quality arm.
The Astros are an intriguing trade partner as they obviously covet Kimbrel and you could also argue that the team would be interested in Andrew Cashner as well. Cashner is in the last year of his contract and is due for free agency at the end of the year. He doesn’t seem to be a candidate to re-sign with the Padres so dealing him only makes sense from the Padres stand point. The Astros have the Minor League talent that match up with the Padres needs. The Astros also have the ability to make a deal like this without decimating their farm system. If Kimbrel is to be moved, Padres fans can only hope it is for a couple of Astros prospects. We will see if the Astros come a knocking.