How long will the Padres stick with struggling Brad Hawpe?

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Beginning the season in a 9-for-63 (.143) slump is bad enough, but yesterday Brad Hawpe’s early struggles extended to his defense at first base, as his misplay contributed to the Braves’ five-run inning in a 7-0 defeat of the Padres.

Hawpe had started a grand total of eight career games at first base prior to this season and any problems there defensively are no doubt being magnified by the fact that he’s replacing two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez.

Stepping into Gonzalez’s shoes no doubt isn’t helping Hawpe’s cause offensively either, although there isn’t much of a cause to begin with at this point. Not only is he hitting just .143 through 21 games, Hawpe has zero homers and four walks versus 23 strikeouts, leading to a hideous .382 OPS. To put that into some context, considering that NL pitchers have a .326 OPS.

Hawpe is coming off a career-worst season with the Rockies and his raw numbers with Colorado were always inflated by Coors Field, but he’s still a career .269 hitter with an .829 OPS on the road and for a modest $3 million investment he seemed like a worthwhile pickup for the Padres.

Instead he’s been perhaps the worst player in baseball through four weeks and is in danger of being replaced.

Kevin Kiermaier on Rays’ recent moves: “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset.”

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On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”

Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.

The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.

When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.