Before the season started, beloved Padre Travis Jankowski was a man about to be expendable by the team.
He originally showed up in the majors during the 2015 season and exhibited tantalizing potential the following year with his plus running and fielding ability.
However, he has failed to make much of an impression since, having been demoted to Triple-A El Paso twice, once in August of last year and again before Opening Day 2018. Each time, San Diego fans have hoped that he would fix his contact issues and become more of an on-base threat, a role that suits him due to his electrifying speed.
Well, he may finally have figured out major league pitching after being called up on April 29, hitting .309. While his BABIP of .412 explains much of Jankowski’s success as luck, there are several factors which make the outfielder’s future projection look bright. From lowering his strikeout rate to below 25% for the first time in his career to posting a delightful .375 OBP, the character SD fans lovingly nickname Freddy has definitely become useful at the highest level. Other teams have taken notice of this and want to trade for the 26-year-old as a means of scaring opposing pitchers.
Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times mentioned in one of his articles how the Mariners are interested in the Padres’ leadoff hitter.
With Robinson Cano gone for 80 days due to a PED suspension, the team has had to shift Dee Gordon from center field to his natural home. As a result, the club possesses only four true outfielders, two of which have drastically underperformed this year and do not look like significant pieces long-term. In other words, they need one more reliable outfielder.
With his speed, defense, and improved hitting skills, Jankowski could be that player. Even regression shouldn’t erase the improvements he’s shown. As such, the Mariners may try to arrange a deal with Preller in order to get more contribution from their outfield. The only problem so far has been Preller’s disinterest in Seattle’s lowly farm system. However, the draft is upon us and that stance may change depending on who gets selected. Also, San Diego could package Travis with a starting pitcher and a good relief arm in an attempt to receive Evan White. The first baseman from Kentucky State has an intriguing mixture of tools which are reminiscent of Paul Goldschmidt.
Besides the Mariners, however, there are many competitors who would like to have a defense and speed-oriented athlete with some knowledge of hitting.
One team that comes to mind is the Angels, even though there are several others. They need more offense to back their stellar pitching staff and have outfield spots to fill. Los Angeles requires an outfielder to replace their former star, Kole Calhoun. The right fielder in Anaheim has struggled since having a great year in 2016. This season he has hit for a scant .145 batting average and has caused his team to lose one game already, having been worth -1.1 WAR. Not even his Gold Glove-worthy fielding has offset the damage he has done to his own team. Yet, if the Angels were to send Calhoun to the minors, then there may be hope for a career resurgence. The Halos just need a positive contributor in the meantime.
Here, Jankowski fits quite well. His fielding would keep the team’s outfield a defensive success while his running ability would be a great addition to an already quick roster. If all goes well for the club two hours north, Calhoun can come back from a minor league stay and be a star once again while the current Padre becomes a versatile fourth outfielder. In return, San Diego can ask for their consistent infield prospect, David Fletcher, or their toolsy amateur outfielder, Trent Deveaux. Either would be solid additions to San Diego’s already loaded system.
Although the Padres could fetch a higher return if they traded arguably their fastest player now, while his stock is at its highest, any deal may not be worth it as Jankowski provides a ton of value for San Diego. He has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Friars’ lineup and has given high-priced first baseman Eric Hosmer plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. In addition, he can play all three outfield positions and be a plus fielder at each. This is something Andy Green desperately needs, as many of the Friars’ outfielders, including Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, and Francy Cordero have all spent lengthy stints on the disabled list.
Moreover, Manuel Margot has fallen far shy of expectations coming into the season as he tries to stay above the Mendoza line and improve upon his disappointing defense. In other words, Jankowski has been sorely needed and it would be somewhat risky to let him go before the injured return and Margot experiences a revival. As the trade season picks up, a decision will have to be made and the opportunity to receive additional prospects may be enough for Preller to trigger a move, especially considering that the Padres have too many outfielders for the roster to hold. Either way, this story is worth monitoring over the next few weeks.