"Marlinsifying" the Padres

I love the way the Florida Marlins are run. Not by penny-pinching owner Jeffrey Loria, of course—I don’t approve of simply pocketing revenue sharing money, not in the least—but by their front office, given Loria’s ridiculous constraints.

Every so often, a player will hit arbitration, and what do the Marlins do? They trade him. How many Marlins actually leave the team as free agents?

Of course, this strategy is emblematic of most teams constantly in “rebuilding” mode. But you know what’s weird? The Marlins never seem to be a bad team. They’ve won two World Series in under two decades of existence, and they keep coming up with young talent that keeps them in contention.

How do they pull that off? Well, the Marlins follow one simple rule:

Get maximum value from every player.

(If you’re reading this article on the Chicken Friars homepage, click “Continue Reading” for the rest of the entry).

So, if you know you’re not going to re-sign somebody after the season, you trade him for a lot of young minor leaguers you have six years of team control over (or five-plus, if you’re going to trade them too). That way, one simple decision—the decision to acquire one specific quality player—can lead to getting years and years of good value at low cost.

Consider the Mark Mulder trade with the A’s. They got Dan Haren, Daric Barton, and Kiko Calero in that trade. They got a couple of solid years out of Calero, and then he pretty much vanished. Haren, of course, matured into one of the AL’s best pitchers, and they got six players in return for him. Barton is currently the team’s starting first baseman.

So, in return for Mulder, the A’s got several years of Haren, several years of Barton, a couple of Calero, a year of decent starting from Dana Eveland and Greg Smith (the latter of whom was used in a deal to get Matt Holliday, who brought back Brett Wallace, who was turned into Michael Taylor), a great year (and more to come) from Brett Anderson, and the team’s top prospect, Chris Carter.

Many of those players are still in the A’s organization, and could still bring the team significant trade value of their own. All that for Mulder. Even if Mulder had gone on to be the best pitcher in the game (he of course did not), that’s worth it easily.

Now, this logic of getting extra value for players (in the form of trade returns) is, of course, nothing new. The Padres are considering applying it to Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez, and definitely would if the team hadn’t gotten off to such a surprising start.

But what makes the Marlins different is that they apply this logic to nearly everybody. Yes, it’s easy enough to realize the difference between two months of Adrian Gonzalez and six years of the prospects he’d return, but it’s not as easy to see that with a mid-level guy.

Still, I like the idea of simply turning all your veterans into young guys if you have financial limitations (which the Padres certainly do) and are planning to be a long-term force more than a short-term one.

Of course, this means that the following players would be gone:

Adrian Gonzalez
Matt Stairs
Heath Bell
Jerry Hairston
Scott Hairston
David Eckstein
Jon Garland
Yorvit Torrealba
Chris Young (if healthy)

My question is, what would the Padres roster look like after all those players were traded, if none of the players received in return go directly to the big league team?

Currently, it would look something like this:

Catcher: Nick Hundley/Dusty Ryan
First base: Kyle Blanks
Second base: Lance Zawadzki
Third base: Chase Headley
Shortstop: Everth Cabrera
Left field: Mike Baxter/Oscar Salazar
Center field: Tony Gwynn/Chris Denorfia
Right field: Will Venable/Aaron Cunningham
Utilty infield: Sean Kazmar, Christian Colonel, Craig Stansberry, or Anthony Contreras (Salazar can also spot at 1B/2B/3B, and Baxter at 1B/3B)
Rotation: Mat Latos, Kevin Correia, Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, Sean Gallagher
Bullpen: Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, Ed Mujica, Joe Thatcher, Cesar Ramos, Adam Russell, Tim Stauffer

Okay, it’s not the most talented team in the world, I’ll give you that.

But still, how much are we losing here? The rotation has held up great without Young, and swapping out Garland for Gallagher shouldn’t be too big of a deal. I know Gallagher struggled early in the year, but he was apparently hurt, and he’s still got filthy stuff. If he’s not right by the deadline, fine…Radhames Liz could come up, or perhaps Will Inman. Simon Castro could be ready by then, but I wouldn’t want to rush his arbitration clock.

The bullpen is already overflowing as it is, which makes the loss of Bell hardly noticeable. Even beyond the current seven pitchers, there’s Ernesto Frieri, Ryan Webb, Brandon Gomes, Mike DeMark, Craig Italiano, and more who look to be solid MLB relievers by midseason.

The offense retains five starters in Hundley, Headley, Cabrera, Gwynn, and Venable, and a sixth (Blanks) opened this year as the cleanup hitter. The most noticeable loss is at second base, where I put Zawadzki, although if Logan Forsythe is healthy and hitting by the deadline, he’s more likely to be the team’s 2B starter if Eckstein is dealt. Regardless, Forsythe, Drew Cumberland, and others would be hot on Zawadzki’s tail from day one, so it wouldn’t be a long-term black hole if Zawadzki struggles.

I really think a platoon of Baxter and Salazar could be effective. Salazar’s been an effective major leaguer, and Baxter is a plus defender with a decent bat who could be a Todd Hollandsworth sort of player. Denorfia and Cunningham could pick Gwynn and Venable up against lefties, and Ryan would replace Torrealba as Hundley’s backup.

Bottom line: Is this “Marlinsified” team worse than the current San Diego Padres? Absolutely, yes. But how much worse is it? Left field is nothing special (not that Scott Hairston is something special as an everyday player) and second base is poor (not that David Eckstein is great), and we’d be counting on Blanks to replace Gonzalez, but that’s probably what? Ten wins worse?

The point is that the team wouldn’t be laughably bad in the near-term. And of course, in the long-term picture, the nine traded players would probably bring back 15-20 prospects with varying degrees of promise, who would probably transform the San Diego system into one of the best in the majors. I think that edge would ultimately be several wins a year for several years, which would far outweigh being a 73-win team instead of an 83-win team (just random numbers there, not projections) for a year.

The money you save from stripping the roster down to largely league-minimum players can then be put into, say, buying out the arbitration years of Mat Latos, Simon Castro, and other key players, allowing the Padres to keep more of their core around for longer. That’s the advantage of not being the Marlins, but still using their strategy—you have the money to actually keep some of your players.

Anyway, I think it’s a neat strategy that could be very effective in the long term. We’ll see what Jed Hoyer and the Padres actually do.

Tags: San Diego Padres

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