To many casual fans, the Padres are doing little more than cutting costs, and today's trade of Jake Peavy only reinforced that surface impression.
Who can blame fans for wondering why the conditional sale of the club in March hasn't increased the franchise's ability to spend money on the product?
My response is, stay tuned. I'll add that ownership may need to do a better job of explaining what it's doing, something that may be complicated by the ongoing John Moores divorce.
OK, onto the Peavy trade.
This looks like a potentially big victory for the Padres and new CEO Jeff Moorad -- if, and it's a big if, the club can parlay the $56 million saved into good investments throughout its baseball operations and future payrolls.
The Padres say the trade helps their chances of signing several draft picks, including top pick Donavan Tate, whose adviser, agent Scott Boras, is seeking $6 million and perhaps more if the money is spread out up to five years.
For what it's worth, the Padres regard as first-round talents all three of their unsigned players taken in the top four rounds. Doesn't do much good to draft them and not sign them.
The money also could allow the Padres to resume their aggressive posture in Latin America. In January, Sandy Alderson, the CEO at the time, said the club had budgeted $3 million for its international budget this year. By my math, the club had spent less than half of that after the July 2 deadline passed to sign international amateurs. Rivals such as the Rockies were more aggressive, while also charging hard in the draft.
With Adrian Gonzalez eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, the chance of retaining him may have improved when Peavy accepted the trade to White Sox. Moorad has said the club will listen to serious inquiries on Gonzalez in the offseason, yet even if the Gonzalez talks rekindle, and I expect that they will, clearing the $17 million due Peavy in 2012 gives the Padres more leeway to offer big bucks to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez's agent, John Boggs, told me today it would be nice if the Padres can be aggressive on two fronts -- acquiring talent to assist Gonzalez and, down the road, making him a fair offer. Boggs, though, also said he understands why the Padres might instead deal Gonzalez, because he could bring a lot of talent in return.
Players in Chicago say Peavy will fit in well with his White Sox teammates. Peavy, 28, and his fellow Sox starters could form a tremendous rotation next year.
Looks like a potential winner for both the Padres and Peavy, plus the four pitchers acquired by the Padres, who now get a chance to pitch in a pitchers park, opposite DH-less lineups.
Credit Moorad for not allowing obstacles to prevent him from acting on his long-term vision. The Padres moved a pitcher who often is very good when healthy, yet one whose contract and ankle injury eliminated many potential suitors.
Obviously if Peavy didn't have a no-trade clause, the Padres could have gotten a lot more for him last offseason than they did today. But two clubs I spoke with today said the Padres made a good trade, even a very good one, all things considered.
No matter how you slice it, the Padres have done an extraordinary job of acquiring power arms over a short period of time.
Go back to early March. GM Kevin Towers, angry over the dearth of strong arms emerging from the farm system, charged his scouts with finding hot fastballs, and they've brought back nine pitchers who will touch the mid-90s: Richard, Poreda, Russell and Carter from the White Sox; Gallagher, Webb and Italiano from the A's; Mujica from the Indians and Perdomo from the Giants. The Padres are playing to pair of strengths -- Petco Park and the teaching skills of manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley, who too often were asked to work miracles with pitchers who lacked a good fastball.
A source tells me Heath Bell was nearly dealt to the Dodgers. While mindful that Towers has made trades within the division, I strongly doubt that Gonzalez would've been part of the same deal. Moorad was averse to sending Peavy to the Dodgers, and I believe he'd be even less inclined to send Gonzalez, the face of the franchise, to Chavez Ravine.
The dismissal of hitting coach Jim Lefebvre is disappointing because the man is passionate about baseball, yet it was far from surprising if you read one of my recent posts. His ouster is probably not a great sign for farm system overseer Grady Fuson, who strongly backed Lefebvre's hiring into the job. Fuson, among others, had said that Lefebvre could untrack Kevin Kouzmanoff. But Kouzmanoff's on-base percentage has stayed below .300 most of the season, and he didn't generate interest in the recent trade market.