Well, despite the season being just a mere couple hours away Padres General Manager A.J. Preller managed to squeak in one more big trade during the club’s breathtakingly busy offseason. After hooking up with the Braves – and new GM John Hart – in mid-December for Justin Upton, the Padres once again acquired another Upton, Melvin, along with dominant closer Craig Kimbrel for a plethora of moving pieces: Right-hander Matt Wisler, whom I ranked as San Diego’s top prospect in my book, as well as young outfielder Jordan Paroubeck (the club’s 16th best prospect) and veterans Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Atlanta also acquires the 41st overall pick in the 2015 draft.
In terms of moneys exchanged, the Padres take on a smidgen over $80 million (not including Kimbrel’s $13 million team option) while shipping out $17 million in guaranteed contracts (with another $19 million in potential options).
For the Padres, who pushed the franchise’s cards to the center of the table many months ago, the deal was about adding another late-inning, impact arm to an already potentially underrated pen. Kimbrel’s arrival pushes Joaquin Benoit back into a fulltime setup role, and the three-headed trio of Brandon Maurer, Shawn Kelley, and Kevin Quackenbush should easily bridge the gap from the middle to late innings.
Kimbrel – and his velocity – have held up remarkably well during his five-year big league career as he’s appeared in at least 60 games in each of the last four seasons and has actually seen a slight uptick in fastball velocity every season, going from 95.4 to 96.2 to 96.8 to 96.9 to an even 97.0 mph in 2014, the second highest reading among all qualified relievers.
The price, however, was enormous. Dealing away a pair of veterans pushed deep down the depth chart is understandable, as is trading away a low level prospect and one of the more promising minor league arms, but absorbing the millstone that is Melvin Upton’s contract (in addition to Kimbrel’s) is a massive price.
As for the Braves, they acquire their likely starting center fielder – and defensive wizard – Cameron Maybin and another potential starting outfielder in Quentin as they continue to stockpile promising high ceiling arms.
Maybin’s appeared in just 109 games over the last two years due to suspension and injuries and hasn’t resembled the once burgeoning star he appeared to be in 2011 when he hit .264/.323/.393 with 40 stolen bases en route to totaling more than four wins above replacement. Since then, he’s batted a paltry .235/.297/.336. Even if the bat doesn’t bounce back in 2015, Maybin’s defensive contributions should push him towards league average value.
HBP-magnet Carlos Quentin, who also lost a good portion of 2014 due to a variety of injuries, has never appeared in more than 131 games in any of his nine years at the big league level. When he’s healthy, he offers up above-average to plus-power and a strong eye at the plate. And despite appearing in just 86 and 82 games in 2012 and 2013, he managed to total 2 fWAR.
Finally, the prospects.
In my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, I wrote the following about Wisler:
“Overlooked because some of his more famous counterparts – Taijaun Walker, Archie Bradley, Robert Stephenson, etc… – Wisler’s production largely measures up with the best of them. And the homerun spike in the PCL last season – he coughed up 19 in 116.2 innings, eight more than he surrendered in his previous 280.0 innings – should prove to be an anomaly. A strong feel for the mound with a solid ability to miss bats, Wisler should develop into a #2/#3-type arm.”
And for Paroubeck, a 2013 second round pick, I wrote:
“Already pushed behind the typical development curve, Paroubeck’s season – as impressive as it was – has to be looked upon with at least a touch of skepticism as he was a 19-year-old in the lowest stateside league. Again, much like last year’s second round pick (Michael Gettys), Paroubeck’s strikeout rate was a bit problematic (26.8%).”
In the end, the Padres acquired one of the game’s top three relievers, but paid a pretty hefty price, and the Braves did well in shedding Upton’s contract while acquiring a nearly big league-ready arm.