As the Hot Stove gets heated up, one team that has shown itself to be unafraid of making moves over the last year is the San Diego Padres. Enough was said about A.J. Preller last offseason, but he is up to similar tricks so far this offseason. Following the trades of Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit and Yonder Alonso, Preller has shown he is not afraid of making deals this offseason. One deal that makes a lot of sense, and could come to fruition at the Winter Meetings next week, is a trade involving right-hander Tyson Ross.
Following the trade of Kimbrel, Ross is the remaining Padre with the most trade value. Ross is coming off the best season of his young career, and is now only two years away from testing free agency. Given the Padres’ past, and current position in the National League West, it appears highly unlikely at this point that the Padres will be either willing or able to meet the price on Ross’ next contract. Fresh off such a good season, Ross’ trade value is at its highest point and will likely only go down from here.
There are plenty of teams in the market for pitching, as evidenced by both the contract received by David Price, as well as the wide-scale interest in acquiring Shelby Miller via trade. Ross represents a cheap, albeit short-term option. For teams that may miss out on, or be unwilling to take on the cost of, the big free-agent pitchers on the market, Ross is one of the best options available on the trade market outside of Miller.
With countless teams looking for young, controllable pitching, such as the Miami Marlins, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, among others, one team stands out as the most logical fit. That team is the Houston Astros. The Astros have gone on the record with their interest in bolstering their pitching staff, and they have one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball, one that the Padres would love to tap into. The Padres will only part with Ross for the right return, and the Astros may be most willing and able to meet that price.
Earlier in the week, it was made clear that the Astros were shopping both Chris Carter (now non-tendered) and Jake Marisnick. Obviously both these names should be of at least some interest to the Padres, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s focus on Marisnick. The Astros currently have a log jam of outfielders for next season due to the unexpected return of Colby Rasmus, and despite the trade of several minor league outfielders to the Brewers last season. Based on the reports he is being shopped, Marisnick appears to be the odd man out at this point.
Enter the San Diego Padres.
The Padres are likely to lose Justin Upton to another team via free agency and also still lack a bona fide option in center field. The trade of Yonder Alonso has likely freed up a spot at first base for Wil Myers, but has also created another hole in the San Diego outfield. With some holes to fill, Marisnick is just the type of player the Padres should be looking for in the outfield. Despite struggles at the plate in 2015, with a slash line of .236/.281/.383 in 372 plate appearances, Marisnick made up for his lost value at the plate with 24 stolen bases and solid defense up the middle, which all added up to make him a two-win player for the Astros in part-time playing time.
The Padres shouldn’t expect too much from the bat of Marisnick if they do swing a trade for him, but his defense and speed fit the mold of what the Padres need. Last year, with an Opening Day outfield of Matt Kemp, Myers, and Upton, the Padres ignored speed and defense entirely in order to focus on the offense. That experiment failed, and now the Padres need to create a more balanced team overall if they hope to improve on the field next season. Marisnick would be a good way to help make that happen in the short term.
Obviously the package for Ross may need to be a bit more, given his higher worth than Marisnick in the short term. The Astros have one of the deepest farm systems in all of baseball and could throw in any number of pieces to get the Padres attention and make a deal happen. A top prospect such as an A.J. Reed or Colin Moran may be too much to ask for just Tyson Ross, but perhaps a bigger deal involving other pieces could make that a more logical fit. Either way the Houston Astros have the need for pitching, and have the means to get this sort of deal done.
Let’s see A.J. Preller work his trade magic one more time this offseason.
***This article first appeared on baseballessential.com