Adrian Gonzalez

Padres fans wonder: Is this the Fred McGriff trade all over again?

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There are a couple of trades that probably spring to mind for most Padres fans this morning:

  • Summer 1993: Fred McGriff — making an outrageous $4 million a year– was sent to the Braves in exchange for Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore and Donnie Elliott.  It was one of the most notorious fire sales in baseball history and absolutely none of the players the Padres got in return did a thing to help them;
  • Winter 2006: The Padres send Billy Killian, Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka to the Rangers for Terrmel Sledge, Chris Young and … Adrian Gonzalez.

One trade was disastrous, the other a windfall. One represents the outrageous risk of sending a superstar away in a trade for prospects. The other represents the potential goldmine that a deal for prospects can be.

Obviously, in structure, this is the McGriff trade, inasmuch as the Padres are giving up the superstar. And, as most people who follow such things will tell you, if you’re giving up the best player in the deal, you probably lost the deal.

But that shouldn’t cause Padres fans to despair, because (a) that 2006 deal put the Padres way ahead to begin with; and (b) the folks making this trade are a much smarter bunch of folks than those who sent Fred McGriff to Atlanta.

The Padres gave up virtually nothing for Adrian Gonzalez, and paid him less than $10 million for five years of elite production. Indeed, there likely was not a better dollar-per-dollar value in all of baseball during that time. No, that won’t make them feel better if all of the prospects coming from the Red Sox tank, but you can’t tell the story of Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego without acknowledging it.

Likewise, if you have to give up your star for prospects, having Jed Hoyer doing it in a trade with the Red Sox is the best possible situation.  When people talk about risk with prospects, they’re really talking about two things: (1) the risk that comes from the prospect being an unknown quantity; and (2) the risk that the prospect won’t ultimately turn into a productive major leaguer.  With Hoyer’s history of working in Red Sox player development, a big component of the risk is gone.

And let’s be clear about something: keeping Adrian Gonzalez was not a realistic option for the Padres.  He is on record as saying that he would not be giving the Padres a hometown discount.  He was a mortal lock to leave after the 2011 season for a nine-figure deal.  Unlike some stars in that position — say, Prince Fielder — Gonzalez’s low salary gave him legitimate trade value.  If even one of the prospects coming back in this deal turns into something good, the Padres are ahead of where they would have been had they let him walk.  And really, it’s not like any team out there was offering a better deal for Gonzalez.  The Padres have done about as good as they could have done.

Is this deflating for Padres fans? Absolutely.  You never want to lose your superstar, especially one with the sort of connection to the community that Gonzalez has.  But it was necessary.  As the very deal that brought him to San Diego showed, it could end up being beneficial.  Given the competence, knowledge and experience of Jed Hoyer, the risks of this being a Fred McGriff deal part deux are as low as they could possibly be.  It’s the best that could be made of a bad situation.

And it might turn out to be fantastic.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.