A look at the San Diego Padres’ acquisition of Craig Kimbrel after the 2015 season.
Five years ago today, the San Diego Padres and general manager A.J. Preller shocked the baseball world by acquiring one of the best closers in the MLB, Craig Kimbrel. The move on April 5, 2015, came on the eve of the new season, which was Easter Sunday.
Along with acquiring Craig Kimbrel, the Padres also received Melvin Upton Jr. and the remaining 46 million dollars of Upton’s deal.
In return, the Atlanta Braves acquired outfielder Carlos Quentin, outfielder Cameron Maybin, right-handed pitching prospect Matt Wisler, outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st pick in 2015 draft, which ended up being third baseman/outfielder, Austin Riley. The Padres also gave the Braves $24 million to pay for Quentin and Maybin and the remaining salary due to them.
Even though the Padres gave up a lot to get Kimbrel, he only lasted one season in San Diego. Kimbrel pitched very well in his lone season in San Diego, despite recording a career-high in ERA. In 61 appearances, Kimbrel pitched 59.1 innings while striking out 87 batters. The ace closer posted a 2.58 ERA and a 1.045 WHIP, his highest since his rookie year in 2010. This season is the only time the hurler failed to make the All-Star team when pitching more than 20 innings.
The San Diego Padres traded Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox following the 2015 season as the team looked to change gears for the future.
The other newly acquired Padre, Melvin Upton Jr., had little expectations when acquired. The outfielder failed to meet expectations for the Atlanta Braves after he signed the richest deal in their franchise’s history. The Padres hoped that he would benefit from a change in scenery.
However, Upton’s first move as a Padre paved the way for his tenure in San Diego: a DL stint. Upton battled minor injuries throughout his career, but they finally caught up to him in 2015. Despite the limited playing time, Upton played decent ball for the San Diego Padres. A 110 OPS+ with above-average fielding gave the Padres hope that Upton will be productive for the final two years of the contract.
Upton stayed healthy during the beginning of the 2016 season. Even though he remained on the field, his production fell at the plate. His OPS+ dropped to 99, and the Padres decided to move on from Upton.
On July 26, 2016, the San Diego Padres traded Melvin Upton Jr. to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP prospect Hansel Rodriguez. At the time, Rodriguez was the Blue Jays #18 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The Padres also sent the Blue Jays $17 million to cover most of Upton’s contract.
Melvin Upton Jr. finished the season for Toronto but never made it back to the majors. Rodriguez is still in the Padres farm system and pitched for the Lake Elsinore Storm last year. Rodriguez pitched well in 2019, coming out of the bullpen. In 19 appearances, Rodriguez tallied 24.2 innings, 32 strikeouts, a 2.92 ERA, and a 1.054 WHIP.
As for the players that the San Diego Padres sent away for Kimbrel, they didn’t see much success for the Atlanta Braves either.
Carlos Quentin battled injuries and never made it back to majors following the trade.
Cameron Maybin lasted one year in Atlanta. Maybin hit .267 with 10 HRs and 23 stolen bases. The Braves traded Maybin to the Detroit Tigers following the 2016 season.
Matt Wisler made his MLB debut for the Atlanta Braves on June 19, 2015. In 20 games in his rookie season, Wisler tallied 109 innings and 72 strikeouts. He struggled, putting up a 4.71 ERA and a 1.459 ERA.
Throughout his first three seasons in bigs, Wisler had a 5.26 ERA and a 1.419 WHIP. The Braves traded Wisler to the Cincinnati Reds before the 2018 trade deadline. The San Diego Padres re-traded for Wisler in April 0f 2019.
The Padres drafted Jordan Paroubeck in the second round of the 2013 MLB draft. Paroubeck played well for the Padres in the 2014 Arizona League before the trade sent him to Atlanta. The Los Angeles Dodgers then acquired Paroubeck from Atlanta in July of 2015. Paroubeck is no longer in baseball.
The final piece in this trade is the 41st overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft, which the Braves used on Austin Riley. Riley made his major league debut last season on May 15. He quickly impressed by earning the NL Player of the Month Award for May by batting .356 with 7 HRs.
Riley finished the season with 19 HRs and a .750 OPS. He will be the most productive player for the Atlanta Braves from this trade.
Neither team received much production on the field from any of the players acquired, although Austin Riley still has a chance to be productive for the Atlanta Braves. Because the Padres ate a ton of money in this trade, which set them back a couple of years, they are deemed the “loser” of this trade.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”