Thursday, May 5, 2011

Opinions...

Everyone has them. Here are several from me:

* I see the Padres trading Heath Bell before August.

Relievers are a renewable trade currency for the Padres, who can find them at the 99 Cents Only Store, plug them into Petco Park and eventually get big returns from them. Bell, to be sure, would be more difficult to replace than Ryan WebbEdward Mujica and other relievers traded last offseason, not only because he's really good, but also because his likely replacement, Mike Adams, also would need to be replaced and hasn't been as durable as Bell. All the same, if a healthy Bell is a Padre in August, I'd be surprised.

* I'll burn a reporter's notebook in the Loveable Kook's honor if he is dealt. Aside from being glib about baseball, Bell is astute about baseball. What's more, I believe him when he says he'd take less money to stay in San Diego. Three offseasons ago, he agreed to a two-year deal with Kevin Towers, nixed later by upper management, that was well below what he ended up getting.

* A Bell trade would be more baseball driven than dollar driven. But moves to improve cash flow have been fairly constant since Jeff Moorad took over as CEO and Vice Chairman in  March 2009 (and a Padres constant since June 2008, when it became obvious that a pennant race wasn't happening). I see the Padres exploring a package trade, dangling Bell as the sweetener to move another contract. Maybe they seek a taker for Ryan Ludwick, whose $6.775 million salary consumes nearly 15 percent of the payroll. Maybe it'll be Chase Headley, who has potential replacements in-house and whose earning power unexpectedly rose last winter, and going forward, because the Alderson Gang didn't keep him in the minors long enough to deny him Super Two arbitration.  Maybe it'll be Orlando Hudson, whose criticism of fans for booing, aside from being dumb, did not sit well with the front office. Hudson's $11.5 million contract runs through 2012, potentially a deal-breaker. One other thing about cash flow: The Padres have a glut of picks in the June draft, so extra cash could be comforting late this summer. The Gunslinger's miraculous Jake Peavy trade two summers ago is precedent in that regard.

* Here's why I didn't put much stock in the Padres' Opening Day payroll being up about $7 million this year: A trade of Bell, whose salary is $7.5 million, could lop off $3 million or more. If there's a sound track that continuously loops at 19 Tony Gwynn Drives, it's "cash flow, cash flow, cash flow." The Padres ranked next to last in payroll in 2009-2010. When was the last time that happened here? Never, apparently -- or at least since 1988, the first year of the USA Today salary database. Even the Tom Werner ownership group that lowballed draftee Todd Helton and ordered the infamous Fire Sale never ranked that low in payroll  in consecutive years. As I've written elsewhere, baseball agents and execs say John Moores, with Bud Selig's sanction, got a sweetheart price for the club,  considering it was a distress sale, and even accounting for balllpark debt. Moorad is still paying Moores off. 

* I'd rather the Padres had gone with more of a platoon at catcher, so that Nick Hundley will not get overly tired. He's not blessed with good feet or the softest hands and thus must work extra hard at a position that already is grueling. To his credit, Hundley has been a workout wonder since the Padres drafted him out of Arizona. Whether the Padres believe Rob Johnson is a backup or a platoon guy, I do not know, but I've already seen fatigue in Hundley's game. I think it's a mistake to ask him to catch as much as, say, Buster Posey or Brad Ausmus, each blessed with excellent feet and soft hands. I liked how Bruce Bochy, a former catcher, eased Posey's transition to catching last summer by spotting him at first base. A backup catcher or a platoon catcher for most of his career, Bochy regards everyday catchers as baseball gods. Two week of being the full-time catcher in the majors, he said, was far more taxing than he would've guessed. Something like a 60-40 split for Hundley could be a win-win.

* If Mat Latos regains full confidence, Petco Park deserves an assist.

Take Tuesday's game, when the slumping pitcher was again showing uncertain body language. Latos was already down two runs in the first inning when he gave up a cannon shot that Will Venable caught on the warning track in Death Valley with a man on second base. In most ballparks, that's a double, triple or home run. The blast that the Pirates' Chris Snyder hit off Latos in the middle innings, caught by Ludwick in front of the left-center wall, stunned even Latos, who told me he assumed it was a home run. Latos said he was puzzled initially that Ludwick was even bothering to chase the ball. Then it landed in Ludwick's glove.

* Latos loses points in the clubhouse, where he wasn't Mr. Popular entering this season, when he's not fully accountable in his postgame comments to the press. Say a teammate makes a defensive mistake and Latos then allows the next hitter or hitters to mash the ball. Teammates appreciate a pitcher telling the press he should've slammed the door after the mistake.

* Sorry to be repetitive here, but the Padres miss David Eckstein's smarts and persistent leadership. Sorely.

* A foghorn should be sounded at Petco when 8 p.m. arrives, signaling doom for most home run bids. As Hoyer noted on Darren Smith's show on 1090 AM, none of Adrian Gonzalez's home runs in San Diego last year came after 8 p.m. Snyder's blast off Latos came five minutes after 8 o'clock. "You know what I tell my hitters when I come to the West Coast?" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, the former Rockies manager, told me. "After the sun goes down and it gets dark, you'd better hit line drives or groundballs."

* Petco at all hours can daunt hitters, especially lefties, so it's no surprise that even Gonzalez, the rare lefty who can reach the left-field seats here -- something Brian Giles never did -- would go a whole season without a home run after 8 p.m. All the more reason for relief pitchers, especially righties, to beg for the Padres to hire them.

1 comment:

  1. Tom-My only issue with the piece: If they want/need to move Headley.....no reason to include Bell. You simply non tender Headley at the end of the season, he's on a year to year contract after 2+ years of service.

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