The first two weeks of December were full of suspense for San Diego Padre’ fans.
It started with the excitement of being finalists in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Before there was enough time to process the disappointment of losing out on him to the Los Angeles Angels, the MLB Winter Meetings began. As is the annual tradition, rumors and reveries were flying until the team made its first major move in acquiring veteran third baseman Chase Headley and pitcher Bryan Mitchell from the New York Yankees in exchange for Jabari Blash.
The move was met with some trepidation by members of Padres’ fandom. A reunion with Chase Headley seemed very much out of the blue and not in line with the youth movement direction that the team had taken over the last several months. This was a clear salary dump by the Yankees, as Headley is owed $13 million in 2018. Saying goodbye to Blash was casually welcomed by many Padres fans, but really, what benefit was the team collecting in this deal?
The team made a few more moves before the end of the meetings. They traded Ryan Schimpf to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league infielder Deion Tansel and acquired shortstop Freddy Galvis from the Philadelphia Phillies for prospect RHP Enyel De Los Santos. All of this on top of the undying speculation about the team signing free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, and at what cost. With all the ongoing commotion, there actually hasn’t been that much analysis of what the Padres really came by in the Yankees deal.
It’s true that Chase Headley holds some value. He was effective enough at the plate in 2017, slashing .273/.352./.406 with a 104 wRC+ and a WAR of 1.9. It seems that A.J. Preller intended on dealing Headley upon acquisition and still very likely could. If this happens, the team will probably get a haul of some value, but let’s not overlook what would be left from the original deal. That being an interesting young arm in Bryan Mitchell.
Mitchell is a 26-year-old RHP who is under team control through 2021. He features a four-seam fastball that reaches 98 mph and generates an extreme number of ground balls. His secondary pitches include an above average curveball that he throws extremely hard and a useful cutter. He also carries a rarely used changeup in his arsenal. After the deal was done, Preller stated that Mitchell is a player that his scouting team has had its eyes on for years. They feel that he has a lot of upside and they like the years of control.
The 495th overall pick in the 2009 draft simply never reached his potential with Yankees. He carries a 4.94 career ERA with 64 strikeouts and 44 walks in 48 appearances (nine starts) over four seasons. He has been called up to the majors 14 times since 2014. At this point he is out of options, meaning that he can’t be sent back down to the minors without passing through waivers.
Preller and company appear poised to give Mitchell a chance at the rotation in 2018. With a little tweaking and a shot to start regularly, it seems that Preller believes he could be another diamond in the rough. Mitchell’s last opportunity to start for the Yankees was on July 17, during which he gave up only one earned run on six hits in five innings, against the wild card-bound Minnesota Twins. Two days later, the Yankees acquired Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox, and Mitchell was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There he posted a 3.25 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 63 innings (13 starts). When the roster expanded in September, Mitchell was called back up to the Yankees, but his opportunities were few and far between for the remainder of the season.
Clearly the Padres’ scouts see something in Mitchell. If they hit the mark on this one, it could be a great addition to a team on the cusp of introducing some serious pitching prospects into MLB. The team is figuring out how they are going to fill out their rotation for 2018 and the acquisition of Mitchell has put one more piece of the puzzle together. Imagine a young rotation including Dinelson Lamet, Luis Perdomo, Matt Strahm, and Mitchell firing on all cylinders with guys like Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi all knocking on the door. Suddenly this team’s pitching staff is starting to look like it has some potential to make an impact. Stay tuned.