Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the San Diego Padres are looking for a left-handed hitter and relief help.
The Toronto Blue Jays could offer players that can fill both of these needs for the Padres: they have several good relievers who are out of options and a left-handed hitters who crushes righties in Adam Lind.
Citing San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, Center writes that the Padres aren’t looking for 30-home-run power (not likely in Petco Park anyways) but wouldn’t mind someone “capable of 400 at-bats over the course of 2014.” With an injury to 1B Yonder Alonso last year, someone like Adam Lind who had 369 at bats with a .924 OPS against right-handed pitching could be very attractive.
Center reports that the Padres are making three pitchers, all of whom are in contention for the #5 starter slot, available: Burch Smith, Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin. Stults is a 34-year-old veteran lefty fly-ball pitcher who doesn’t strike out a huge number of batters but has excellent control.
Robbie Erlin is a young, left-handed pitcher who made his big league debut last year for the Pads. Marc Hulet at Fangraphs had Erlin ranked as the club’s #7 prospect going into 2013 and he had some solid numbers in Triple-A Tuscon. At 23, Erlin’s velocity isn’t going to get above the low-90s but Hulet thinks it looks faster than it is and calls it “sneaky quick.”
The best candidate of the bunch, Burch Smith, is a 23-year-old righty who made his major league debut in 2013. Rated the club’s #9 prospect by MLB.com, Smith had a fantastic year in the minors and can hit 97 mph but scouts think that his offspeed stuff is behind the development of his fastball. He showed his great stuff in the majors, striking out 27.5% of batters but walked far too many at 12.6%. Steamer’s projections think that he’ll throw to a 3.25 FIP in 2014 and knowing how the Jays love big arms, this 6’4″ Texan might be a candidate to replace another one that they traded away last offseason.
Obviously there are some questions about a deal like this. Would San Diego even want Lind, knowing his injury history and his poor defense at 1B? The only other left-handed hitters that would be available are catcher Josh Thole and young center fielders Colby Rasmus and Anthony Gose.
Rasmus would certainly be an interesting piece to dangle in front of the Padres. He would be an absolute upgrade and would be a joy for fans to watch patrol the spacious center field of Petco Park. He also has big enough power to get the ball out of any stadium so his home run total wouldn’t be too affected. If Rasmus proves to be too much, perhaps the Padres would like Anthony Gose, another rangy center fielder who is still developing and still has the potential to be an above average every day center fielder.
Another question to ask is would someone like Burch Smith even be an upgrade for the Blue Jays? While he certainly has a little more upside than someone like Kyle Drabek or Drew Hutchison, it’s not even guaranteed that Smith would beat out J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman or Sean Nolin for a starting spot. If the Blue Jays were to go after a starter from the Padres, it would have to be someone from the front three of the rotation; Center’s article names Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy as the other three (Josh Johnson is also named but he can’t be traded until June 15 even if the Jays wanted him).
I could see the Jays going after someone like Cashner or Ross. Kennedy gives up too many fly balls but both of the other two are younger (2014 will be both pitchers’ Age-27 season) and controllable.
Ross was featured in an interesting article by Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan. Sullivan looked at contact rates of starters and noted that Ross tied with Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano as the starters in the National League who were most difficult to hit. Ross is only 26, has good ground ball numbers, struck out over 23% of batters and walked 8.6% (slightly above league average). Ross also throws hard, averaging over 93 mph with his fastball and cutter and has an incredible slider that he uses to put batters away. The big caveat on Ross is the fact that he’s had injury issues. The Blue Jays are no strangers to arm injuries and the fact that Ross has had quite a few shoulder problems could be a reason to stay away.
As far as Cashner goes, he doesn’t strike out as many batters as Ross but throws harder. He has a more diverse repertoire and gets a lot of ground balls with his sinker (a necessity in Rogers Centre) but the nasty slider that got him a lot of strikeouts went missing in 2013. Cashner, who is projected to be the Padres’ “Ace” may be very expensive to go after for the Blue Jays.
If I was Alex Anthopoulos and I was serious about prying a starter out of the hands of another team, I would go after Ross or Cashner aggressively. I’d start with a package that included Lind, a reliever who could start (Esmil Rogers?) and one of Nolin, Drabek, Hutchison or Chad Jenkins (a ground ball pitcher who would do very well in Petco). If the Padres wanted someone better than Lind, I would be willing to replace him with Colby Rasmus but would need to get more back from the Padres.
If the negotiations escalated, perhaps the Jays could try to pry second base prospect Cory Spangenberg or catching prospect Austin Hedges away from the Padres. Ryan Goins, J.P. Arencibia, A.J. Jimenez and/or Josh Thole could go back the other way. And throw in another pitcher not part of “Strochez” and we’d be cooking.
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo7) November 15, 2013
What do you think? Is Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner a good trade target for the Blue Jays? What would you give up to get him?