Acquisition of Jose Pirela
To kick off the 2015-2016 offseason, A.J. Preller swung a trade for infielder Jose Pirela from the New York Yankees, giving up minor league pitcher Ronald Herrera in the process. It is unclear where Pirela slots in with the Padres for next season, but he will most likely compete with fellow trade acquisition Carlos Asuaje for playing time as the Padres infield utility man.
In just 78 plate appearances with the Yankees last season, Pirela had a slash line of .230/.247/.311 with a wRC+ of 47, not altogether inspiring. A change of scenery could be good for Pirela, but both his offense and defense weren’t good for the Yankees last year. The Padres didn’t give up much at all for Pirela, so it is a low risk, potentially high reward move for the Padres if Pirela can perform better.
The Trade of Joaquin Benoit
Following the minor acquisition of Pirela, A.J. Preller turned things up a notch with the trade of Joaquin Benoit to the Seattle Mariners, in return for two prospects: RHP Enyel De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward. While Benoit was a big part of the Padres Major League roster last season, both of these prospects are long term acquisitions that may not provide value to the big league team for quite a few years.
De Los Santos got as high as low A ball last season and had an ERA of just over 4.00 in 37 2/3 innings in low A. De Los Santos is known for his good raw talent and his high strikeout rate. He has the potential to be the real steal of this trade and could be a great reliever for the Padres in the future. On the other hand, Nelson Ward is more of an organizational depth piece who had a slash line of .282/.362/.436 and a wRC+ of 119 for the Mariners high A affiliate last season. He could end up being more, but expectations aren’t super high for the former 12th round selection in the 2014 draft. Either way the Padres saved quite a bit of money and turned an aging reliever into two prospects; one with a potentially high ceiling.
The Trade of Craig Kimbrel
Next on the list of moves this offseason was the trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox for a prospect package including, CF Matt Margot, SS Javier Guerra, infielder Carlos Asuaje, and pitcher Cody Allen. While Margot was the key piece in this trade, the Padres got several other intriguing talents who could be very useful for the Padres future. Margot had a slash line of .271/.326/.419 last season in Double A, and should be MLB ready with another year or so of development.
Javier Guerra could be the Padres shortstop of the future, slashing .279/.329/.449 in Single A last season, but he is still several years away from being MLB ready. Carlos Asuaje could be as ready as early as next season for the Padres, and is a good bet to compete with other acquisition Jose Pirela for time as a utility player, or perhaps starter if either can exceed expectations. Finally, the Padres got recent draftee Cody Allen, who is still quite a ways away from the Majors, but comes with huge potential upside as a mid rotation starter. The Padres not only saved quite a bit of money in this trade, but also acquired a premier package of minor league talent in return. This was probably the best trade in the entire A.J. Preller era for the San Diego Padres.
The Trade of Yonder Alonso
With the best assets traded, Preller then moved on to finding a new home for his former first baseman. The Padres traded Yonder Alonso as well as Marc Rzepcynski to the Oakland Athletics in return for Major League LHP Drew Pomeranz and minor league pitcher Jose Torres. A former first round pick, Pomeranz pitched in 53 games last season, including nine starts, and finished the season with an ERA of 3.66.
The Padres needed a left handed starter/reliever option and Pomeranz fits that mold regardless of what role the Padres put him in. Torres represents a potential high upside minor league option, finishing the season with a 2.69 ERA in 44 games in A ball last season, and could find a place in the Padres bullpen in the long term as a left handed option. The Padres also saved around four million in this deal and freed up a 1st base spot for Wil Myers, making this a win-win trade with a lot of potential upside.
The Trade of Jedd Gyorko
To complete the makeover of the Padres right hand side of the infield, A.J. Preller completed a trade that sent 2nd baseman Jedd Gyorko to the St. Louis Cardinals, along with seven million, in return for center fielder Jon Jay. The Padres clearly wanted to be free of the long term commitment of Gyorko’s contract, and now only have the six million of Jay’s contract through next season.
With Gyorko out of town, Cory Spangenberg slots in as the second baseman, as he actually performed better than Gyorko in almost all aspects last season, and Jay fills the Padres hold in center field left by the departure of Will Venable. Jay represents a solid defensive option with some good offensive upside, and is a good one year stop gap until Manuel Margot is ready to be the Padres full time outfielder. This was a good deal for the Padres, as they were able to upgrade two positions, and save a good amount of money in the long term.
Rule 5 Draft Picks
The Padres acquired four Rule 5 Draft picks, in outfielder Jabari Blash, relievers Blake Smith and Josh Martin, and starting pitcher Luis Perdomo. While it appears highly unlikely that all four will meet the requirement of remaining on the Padres 25-man roster all season, all come with good potential upside. Blash has shown a lot of power in recent years, but does strikeout way too much. Both Martin and Smith could be strong relief options for the Padres, and both will have the chance to earn spots in the bullpen for next season. Finally, Perdomo is a high upside starter who has yet to advance past A ball, but will get a chance to earn a rotation spot next Spring training. While all four guys come with some risk, that risk is minimal with a potentially large upside. It may be hard to grade these moves until the season is over, but all four seem to be good pickups on paper.
The Acquisition of Christian Bethancourt
The most recent, but likely not final, trade of this offseason was the Padres acquisition of catcher Christian Bethancourt from the Atlanta Braves for two minor leaguers in RHP Casey Kelly and catcher Ricardo Rodriguez. This trade seemed like a bit of a head scratcher, given the Padres three other catchers, including two of which who cannot be demoted to Triple AAA. Bethancourt also profiles similarly to current Padres catcher Austin Hedges which makes this trade even more questionable.
Bethancourt hit only .200/.225/.290 in 160 plate appearances in 2015 with the Braves, but his defensive potential is definitely high. However, Bethancourt is a very similar player to Austin Hedges, and doesn’t seem to be much of a fit on the Padres current roster that already has a similar player, as well as Josmil Pinto and incumbent starter Derek Norris. While the Padres didn’t give up much in this trade, it just doesn’t make too much sense on the surface.