What the Dan Haren Trade Means for the Padres

You’ve probably heard about the big trade of Arizona ace Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks to the Angels. If you want to read an 1800+ word diatribe on it from me, check out my Trade Analysis piece on Call to the Pen.

If you don’t care to sift through several pages on it: I’ll boil it down to one sentence for you: Arizona screwed up, bigtime.

(more after the jump)

That affects the Padres, of course, because a small-market team that makes poor moves is simply not going to compete (see the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates). Therefore, Arizona isn’t likely to compete in the near future. Baseball America rated their farm system 27th in the majors entering the year, and they made a huge reach to take Barret Loux 6th overall in the draft, so it’s not like there’s waves of young talent coming to supplement the team currently easily in last place in the NL West.

If the Diamondbacks, who many thought were a serious long-term contender entering the year, are truly out of the picture for the next half-decade, that’s a huge plus for San Diego.

The other teams in the division have problems too. You don’t want Frank McCourt to run a team in the first place, but now the Dodgers have a broke Frank McCourt at the helm. Not good. I’ve never been a fan of Brian Sabean’s decisionmaking over in San Francisco, and that farm system isn’t exactly brimming now that many of their top talents have graduated to the majors. I give Sabean and Co. credit for a year of good decisions, but that doesn’t mean I’m entirely convinced they’ve learned from their mistakes.

So, the two “big-market” teams in the NL West have questionable leadership, and the other three teams, including the Padres, are thus theoretically able to compete. The Diamondbacks seem intent on taking themselves out of the race entirely, so that makes the West an annual four-team race featuring two evenly-matched small-market clubs (San Diego and Colorado) and two larger-market teams with more financial flexibility but less leadership. Just doing simple math, if we assume all the teams are equal, the Padres should now have a 1 in 4 chance every year, rather than 1 in 5.

That might not sound like much, but it’s better than just about any other divisional situation in baseball. Both East divisions are extremely tough, the NL Central has six teams, the AL West is the only division in baseball where all the GMs rate in the top half of major league front office heads, and the AL Central features big-market Chicago and Detroit teams, a scrappy Minnesota team, and good young talent in Kansas City and Cleveland.

The NL West is now like the AL East if you swapped out the Yankees and Red Sox for the Mets and Cubs. You have the doormat (Orioles/D’backs), the two intelligent small-market clubs (Tampa Bay, Toronto/Colorado/San Diego), and the two messed-up big-market clubs (Cubs, Mets/Dodgers/Giants (the Giants aren’t on that terrible level, but they have slightly less money)).

Point is, from my point of view, it looks like the Diamondbacks have gone into self-destruct mode, and that’s bad. Even a top-notch executive wouldn’t be able to fix that mess for three or four years–which is pretty much the Padres’ window of opportunity anyway. San Diego, Colorado, and Arizona were supposed to be the three young-talent teams in the West this decade. It now seems like one horse has dropped out of the race, leaving the other two with a better chance to win by default, let alone by skill.

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  • Larry Faria

    I have only one quibble: Frank McCourt has always been broke. He’s a master of leverage: borrowing money. If the rumor I’d read is true, that McCourt borrowed on over $300 million in future Dodgers gate receipts, then the Dodgers could be down for a considerable length of time.

    That might bring the Padres annual division chances to 1 in 3. If there’s any truth to the accusation that the Rockies are playing fast and loose with the humidor, we could be seeing a two-way battle between the cities by the bay for the next half decade. Oh, wait! the Commish would have to actually DO something about the Rockies humidor. Nevermind 1 of 3 it is.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      Well, I haven’t heard that rumor, but if it is true, then you’re definitely right. McCourt may have to sell to someone at some point (which may ultimately help the Dodgers more than it hurts).

  • gerold

    Nathanial – what do you think of Gonzo economics? You seem to have a good grasp of how the front office/business end works. I’ve heard that gonzo is going to be offered a multi-year deal in the $20 million/year range, and also that there’s no way the Pods can afford that kind of money. Is that his true market value?

    You seem to have a good understanding of the front office/business end of the game. Any idea how the revenue stream divides between regular season gate, post-season, TV rights, and MLB revenue-sharing? Does petco have enough seats to pay gonzo-level salaries, even if it was sold out every game? And how much extra revenue does the post-season actually represent?

    I don’t know that losing gonzo would be fatal, but I’d hate to see that happen. Sure would be nice if the Pods could find a way to keep him here.

    • http://bleacherreport.com/users/10925-nathaniel-stoltz Nathaniel Stoltz

      Adrian Gonzalez was “worth” $29.8 million last season, and has been “worth” $15.8 million this season already (according to Fangraphs’ data, which is useful for this sort of thing).

      So yeah, $20 million a year from 2012-2016 or so sounds about right. He’ll likely be worth $26-30 mil at the beginning, around age 30, and taper to $12-$14 mil in his mid-thirties. He was worth between $13-17 mil per season from 2006-08, so he’ll likely be around there again once he starts declining in a couple of years.

      I’m no expert on the nitty-gritty of the baseball revenue streams, unfortunately, so I’m not going to pose as one. I will say, though, that first base is the easiest position to replace in baseball, other than possibly relief pitcher. Gonzalez himself was something of a throw-in when San Diego acquired him. There’s always guys languishing around Triple-A who could do real damage if promoted. Carlos Pena, Russell Branyan, and Kendry Morales are three recent examples of elite 1Bs coming out of nowhere.

      In fact, in dealing Gonzalez, either in the offseason or next trade deadline, the Padres could well receive a prospect who could be the next lineup anchor like him. Heck, Kyle Blanks could be that hitter; he looked like it last year, although it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll be like when he finally returns to the Padres.

      From what we’re seeing this deadline, teams still tend to overrate MLB talent, so it’s very possible the trade package for Gonzalez could pay off bigger than Gonzalez himself has. Of course, it’s a risk, though: it could easily blow up in San Diego’s face, too, if they’re not careful.

      Thanks for the comment!