Padres get terrific return from Angels for Huston Street


The Angels wanted a true closer awfully badly, giving up three of their top 10 prospects to bring in Huston Street from the Padres on Friday.

It was a six-player deal in all, with the Padres getting second baseman Taylor Lindsey, shortstop Jose Rondon, reliever R.J. Alvarez and right-hander Elliot Morris from the Angels for Street and right-hander Trevor Gott.

ESPN’s Jim Bowden was the first to report the deal, with the Los Angeles Times’ Mike DiGiovanna and’s Ken Rosenthal filling in the particulars.

Lindsey opened the year as the Angels’ No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America. In fact, he was the team’s only prospect to make BA’s preseason Top 100 list. Lindsey, though, has had a tough season as a 22-year-old in Triple-A, hitting a modest .247/.323/.400 in a very good environment for offense at Salt Lake. He’s still a nice all-around offensive prospect with his history of hitting for solid averages and decent pop. He also doesn’t strike out too much (just 44 times in 334 plate appearances this year). He’s no better than average defensively at second, but he should be good enough to stay there. Ideally, he’ll push Jedd Gyorko to third next year with Chase Headley expected to depart as a free agent (if not well before then).

While Lindsey’s stock has dropped, Rondon’s has been on the rise this year, what with him hitting .327/.362/.418 as a 20-year-old in the California League. He doesn’t figure to develop any home run power as he ages, but his line-drive stroke will produce doubles and he’s a legitimate shortstop. He’s gives the Padres another potential long-term alternative to Everth Cabrera, though he’s at least two years off.

Alvarez has definite closer potential. The 2012 third-round pick has allowed just one earned run in 27 innings for Double-A Arkansas this year, striking out 38 in the process. He has a 155/48 K/BB ratio lifetime in 103 minor league innings. Command is an issue, he throws in the mid-90s and has a very good slider. He could reach the majors in the second half and challenge for the closer’s role come next summer.

Morris, a 2013 fourth-round pick, was 5-4 with a 3.27 ERA and an 84/41 K/BB ratio in 85 1/3 innings between low-A Burlington and high-A Inland Empire this season. He’s not as highly regarded as the other three prospects.

Still, that’s quite a return for Street, who is making $7 million this year and whose deal contains a $7 million option for 2015. He’ll step right in as the Angels’ closer, pushing Joe Smith back to the eighth inning and strengthening in the bullpen as a whole. Of some concern to the Angels should be the fact that Street hasn’t pitched 60 innings in a season since 2009. He’d been used carefully by the Padres this year — they haven’t had all that many leads to protect — throwing 33 innings in the first half. The Angels will have more work for him, but they might want to tread carefully.

It should be noted that the Angels didn’t just get Street in the trade: Gott, a 2013 sixth-round pick, has a good chance of reaching the majors as a middle reliever or maybe a setup man. He has a 3.56 ERA and a 42/18 K/BB in 43 innings between high-A and Double-A this year.

In all, this one looks like a real winner for the Padres, especially in light of the fact that infield prospects were their biggest area of need. They matched up well with the Angels there, since the Angels feel they’re set with Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick going forward. It’s just that minor league depth is hardly a strength of the Angels system; they’re not going to have much to offer if injuries strike and they need additional reinforcements this year.

MiLB president Pat O’Conner says teams would contract if minor league players had to be paid more

Minor League Baseball
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As Craig mentioned earlier, a new law is likely to pass as part of a Republican-led spending bill that amends language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The result of that will make minor leaguers exempt from being owed minimum wage and overtime pay, meaning that teams can continue to pay them very little. Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball lobbied Congress to do this, as MiLB president Pat O’Conner readily admits, as Josh Norris of Baseball America reports.

Why all this effort? In 2014, former minor leaguer Aaron Senne filed a lawsuit along with Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle, alleging that the minor leagues violated state and federal minimum wage laws. In many cases, minor leaguers earn less than $10,000 a year and only a small percentage of players can be buoyed by their signing bonuses.

O’Conner said, “When the lawsuit came out two or three years ago, we started to put a strategy together. We’ve been lobbying Congress since June of 2016. … We had 94 people in Washington in June of 2016 walking the halls, talking to the elected officials.

Here’s what that lobbying effort looks like in graph form, via Maury Brown of Forbes:

O’Conner goes on, as he usually does, making disingenuous arguments to justify paying minor leaguers unlivable wages. He said, “To me, it’s fairly simple. If Major League Baseball experiences a tremendous increase in its cost of labor, it will reduce the number of players it offers to Minor League Baseball, or it will come to Minor League Baseball and expect us to pay a portion of that increase in cost. Either one of those are catastrophic to our business model.”

O’Conner went on, “If the cost of that talent is doubled or tripled, which could happen under an FLSA basis, MLB is not going to pay that much money for the talent. They’re not going to pay. They’re going to do one of two things: They’re going to say, ‘If 160 (minor league) teams is going to cost (this much), we’re just going to cut down on the number of teams. We’re not going to pay for 160. We’ll pay for 80. We’ll pay for 100.’ Then the other 60 or 80 that are left without players, if they want to stay in business, they’re going to have to pay for their own players. … You might lose half of the (league). You don’t know. You might lose leagues. You might lose cities in leagues. Nobody knows, but the fact of the matter is one of two things is very likely to happen: MLB is either going to cut back on the number of teams it provides, or (MiLB) is going to have to start paying salaries.”

Major league teams are responsible for paying the salaries of the players on their minor league affiliates. Minor league teams are only responsible for paying their own employees, including front office personnel as well as ticket-takers, ushers, concession stand workers, and such. But we’ve done the math on this before and giving minor leaguers a livable wage is a drop in the bucket to an industry that saw over $10 billion in revenue last year. The average Major League Baseball team is valued at $1.54 billion, according to Forbes. TV deals and MLB Advanced Media have a lot to do with that.

Let’s go over the math again just so we’re all on the same page. Most teams have six affiliates; some have seven or eight. Players will go up and down through the minors, so the teams are usually dealing with 50 or so players in any given year, sometimes in excess. But generally speaking each team has a 25-man roster. Six minor league teams at 25 players each comes out to 150 players. Guaranteeing them a $30,000 salary comes out to $4.5 million in total for six teams. Obviously, the total is slightly more for teams with more affiliates, and if you want to guarantee them a higher salary. $4.5 million is the cost of a free agent reliever. Fernando Rodney, Craig Stammen, and Jared Hughes signed contracts for exactly that amount this offseason. For the cost of a free agent reliever, every team could guarantee each of its minor league players a livable wage so they could pay the bills. $30,000 in the grand scheme of things still isn’t much, but in many cases, it would represent a pay increase of four or five times what they’re getting now. Teams valued north of $1 billion can easily afford an additional $4.5 million each year.

Furthermore, Matt Winkelman of Crashburn Alley brings up a good point:

As mentioned on, the Tampa Yankees, Springfield Cardinals, and Gwinnett Braves are examples of teams owned by their major league parent team. Which makes O’Conner’s fear-mongering all the more disingenuous.

Major League teams wouldn’t pass on the cost to their minor league affiliates not only because they might already own their affiliates, but also because they would be reaping the benefits of paying their players more. Being able to study film at home instead of working the graveyard shift as an Uber driver would, on the whole, make their players better. Being able to afford gas would allow them to more easily shop for fresh fruit and vegetables instead of constantly walking a block to a pizza shop or McDonald’s. Healthier players are better than unhealthier players, right? Being able to afford a quality mattress, instead of sleeping on a couch, would allow players to sleep better. Better sleep means better production in every industry. Better players means a better hit rate on draft picks, which means more talent making its way to the majors that is cost-controlled for six years. As we’ve seen with the evolution of free agency, teams vastly prefer cultivating their own talent rather than paying a premium for it on the free agent market.

What this comes down to is pure, simple avarice. It’s short-sighted greed on the part of team owners and the people that work for them. Their public justification falls flat and were they capable of feeling shame, that’s what they should be feeling. Beyond their labor, minor league players are the product being marketed to fans. Without them, the owners have nothing.