A good reason for Padres fans not to worry about trading Adrian Gonzalez

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Elvis Andrus.jpgFOX’s Tracy Ringolsby writes today about just how big the Mark Teixeira trade was for the Rangers. As a Braves fan it pains me to no end, but the cold hard facts of it all must be repeated whenever possible:

With Teixeira slightly more than a year from reaching free agency, the
Rangers dealt him on July 31, 2007 to Atlanta for Elvis Andrus, who has become Texas’ shortstop; right-hander Neftali Feliz, the closer; left-hander Matt Harrison who is in the rotation; catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, currently on the disabled list, and minor-league
pitcher Beau Jones, the No. 1 draft pick in 2005.

The addition of that group of players pumped life into a Rangers farm
system that was shaky at the time, and provided a foundation for a young
core for the future. Atlanta, meanwhile, kept Teixeira for 363 days and
dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league pitcher Steve
Marek and first baseman Casey Kotchman, who in turn was dealt a year later to Boston for Adam LaRoche, who left
last fall as a free agent.

In my nearly 25 years of Braves’ fandom, this is the only trade that I truly would take back if I could. All of the others either came out in the wash or were mixed bags. This one was an unmitigated disaster and will haunt Braves’ fans for a long, long time.

But you don’t care about my team. The reason I bring it up is because later this year the Padres are going to trade Adrian Gonzalez. When they do, people will moan about big markets and small markets and all that jive.  When they do that, remember the Mark Teixeira trade, because it’s totally repeatable.

Remember: the Braves are a team that, historically speaking, appreciate the
value of young prospects and rarely if ever part with the ones who they
think are going to make something of themselves. Quick: apart from this trade, who was the last guy they traded away who really came back to bite them? Maybe Jason Schmidt, but it’s not like he was needed at the time. Jermaine Dye? Same deal.  The list is so short it’s almost not worth making a list.

But they got burnt here, partially because someone in Atlanta had a brain lock and partially because there was a sharp GM on the other end of the deal in Jon Daniels.

There’s a sharp GM in San Diego now too in Jed Hoyer. All he needs to make the Adrian Gonzalez deal pay off is for one of the 29 other GMs to have a brain lock themselves. 

Six of seven players decline $17.9 million qualifying offers

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Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one of seven eligible players to accept his $17.9 million qualifying offer. Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock, Craig Kimbrel, Patrick Corbin, Yasmani Grandal, and Dallas Keuchel each rejected his, officially making them free agents. Teams that had their QO’s rejected will recoup a draft pick once the player signs elsewhere.

That Harper rejected his QO comes as no surprise, as he is expected to strike perhaps the largest free agent contract in baseball history. Though the free agent market has been less lucrative lately than in previous years, the combination of Harper’s elite talent and his age — he’s only 26 years old — makes him a primary target for more than a handful of teams. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension offer from the Nationals, so that would seem to be a baseline.

It is also not surprising that Kimbrel, 30, turned down his QO from the Red Sox. Despite a so-so showing during a championship run, Kimbrel is still young and talented enough to land another lucrative contract on the free agent market.

Keuchel bet on himself in turning down the Astros’ QO. He’s been solid since winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2015, owning a 3.77 ERA across 83 starts over the last three seasons. However, he turns 31 years old at the beginning of 2019, and his already mediocre strikeout rate declined even further this past season, so there may be some skepticism about his ability to perform over the course of a multi-year deal. Keuchel will still get one eventually, but his market may be slower to develop.

Pollock, soon 31 as well, will be the outfielder most coveted once Harper is off the market. When he’s healthy, he’s a dynamic five-tool player. However, Pollock hasn’t played in more than 113 games in a season since 2015, so that may be a red flag. Pollock ended 2018 batting .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 460 plate appearances while playing above-average defense according to various defensive metrics.

Grandal, 30, could’ve gone either way with his QO, but ultimately chose to decline. He had a disappointing postseason, both offensively and defensively. Given how humans are prone to recency bias, it stood to reason that his October performance could have hurt his market. The catching position, however, is rather weak and Grandal stands out in a market that is otherwise focused on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. Grandal did swat 24 home runs with an .815 OPS in 140 games for the Dodgers this past season.

Corbin, 29, was the most obvious QO decline after Harper. The lefty is coming off of a career year, finishing with a 3.15 ERA and a 246/48 K/BB ratio in exactly 200 innings. Corbin is the best free agent pitcher on the market this offseason. The Yankees have been seriously linked with Corbin even before the season ended.

Ryu likely chose to accept his QO because of his age and injury history. It would have been a gamble to pursue a multi-year deal. He did, however, make 15 starts during the regular season to the tune of a 1.97 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 15 walks in 82 1/3 innings. Those are great numbers. And most clubs would have been smart enough to look beyond his 5.21 ERA in the postseason, which has more to do with a leaky bullpen than his own personal failings. Still, it’s hard to fault Ryu for playing it safe and taking the guaranteed $17.9 million for one year.