Evaluating Jarren Duran as a Padres trade candidate

Aug 2, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Boston Red Sox player Jarren Duran hits a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: John Froschauer-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

There are several rumors that the Padres are interested in swinging a trade with the Red Sox for outfielder Jarren Duran.

According to a few reports, one being from Jon Heyman, the Padres are interested in trading for Red Sox centerfielder Jarren Duran. Dennis Lin from The Athletic confirms they have had recent discussions for the speedy outfielder.

Obviously, the Padres need outfielders (yes, plural). The current state of their outfield could be convicted in a court of law for negligence. Duran would instantly be the second-best outfielder on the Padres roster, after, of course, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Up until last year, Duran was something of a light-hitting fourth outfielder-type. Between 2021 and 2022, he batted .219 with a meager .622 OPS and 69 OPS+.

Last year, he seemed to find a new level at the plate, albeit with some better luck to go along with it. He batted .295, with 98 hits in 102 games. His .828 OPS and 121 OPS+ were both well above league average.

The million-dollar question is, was that his next sustainable level ? Or was it a mirage?

His .381 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was over 60 points higher than his previous career average. That means he seemed to experience some extreme good luck when putting the ball in play. It’s fair to expect a regression to some degree.

However, then there’s his 96th-percentile sprint speed—usually, speedy players like Duran experience higher-than-normal BABIP figures. A simple ground ball to shortstop could turn into an infield hit with his speed.

His speed is displayed in his 24 stolen bases in 26 tries last year. However, his defensive metrics leave something to be desired. Despite his speed, he was in just the 57th percentile for Outs Above Average and posted a poor -6 Defensive Runs Saved.

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At worst, he is a nightmare matchup as a late-inning pinch-runner in a tight game.

In comparison to the Padres’ previous center fielder, Trent Grisham, he is slightly faster but a less proficient defender. At the plate, he makes contact more often than Grisham, but for not as much power.

Per the ZiPS projections on FanGraphs, he is projected to bat .257 with a 97 wRC+ (league average being 100) and 1.6 fWAR.

Either way, he would be a giant upgrade over any in-house candidate to start Opening Day in centerfield. Those options being Jose Azocar, Calvin Mitchell, Jakob Marsee, or Oscar Mercado. Plus, he’s a lefty, of which the Padres desperately need more.

The other attractive part of Duran is that he is just 27 years old with five seasons of control left. He is still in his pre-arbitration years. That certainly would help the Padres upgrade on a budget.

Two other questions arise, one- whether or not the Red Sox are even interested in dealing him, and second- what would be the price?

Given that Duran basically costs peanuts against the payroll, perhaps the Padres and Red Sox might discuss a salary dump mixed in. It’s been reported that the Red Sox want to rid themselves of four-time All-Star closer Kenley Jansen‘s two-year, $32 million deal. If the Padres would ever agree to that, a costly player likely would be heading back to Boston, perhaps like Jake Cronenworth or the Padres parting with very little prospect capital.

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Let’s keep it simple, though. Say the Padres and Red Sox agree to a deal of a three-to-one variety.

Given that Duran is not an All-Star or someone with any elite-level skills besides speed, he would not require Preller to gut the farm system. However, to entice the Red Sox to even be willing to deal him at all, it feels like the Friars will either need to agree to a salary dump or give up a few respectable prospects.

Samuel Zavala could be the centerpiece for such a deal. He actually compares quite well to Duran as a speedy lefty outfielder himself. If the Padres land Duran and he pans out as a major contributor for multiple seasons, the need for Zavala is diminished slightly. He currently ranks as San Diego’s No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He posted a 140 wRC+ and .871 OPS in 101 games in Single-A last season. He projects as a possible 20 HR/20 SB player.

Marcos Castañon doesn’t seem to have a spot in the coming few seasons in the infield for the Padres. Between Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, and one of Jake Cronenworth or Ha-Seong Kim, the Padres have a host of infielders. The 2021 12th-round pick hit .284 with 17 homers between High-A and Double-A last season. The Red Sox could groom him into a possible quality infielder in the next season or two. MLB Pipeline ranks him as San Diego’s 25th-best prospect.

To complete the three-for-one deal, the Padres could throw in Brett Sullivan. With the acquisition of Kyle Higashioka and the emergence of Luis Campusano at catcher, he has less of a place on the roster in San Diego. The Red Sox would be getting a possible reserve catcher with MLB experience.

Overall, Duran would be an upgrade for the Padres. At the same time, the price should not be very high, given his lack of true elite hitting skills. Preller should avoid overpaying for him as it’s very possible he regresses to a league average or even slightly worse-than-average hitter. In this scenario, the Red Sox get a higher-tier outfield prospect, a flier on a mid-20s Double-A infielder, and a backup catcher with MLB experience.

Either way, the Padres must upgrade their outfield and may need to get creative to do so.

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