Orlando Hudson will be the Padres starting second baseman in 2012. While the club may want to shop his contract, it is highly unlikely that any team will be interested. Beyond that, it’s not clear how serious the Padres are about wanting to rid themselves of Hudson. Sure, certain people in the organization may want him gone. Certain people may want to free up the salary and the position. But remember, Hudson is a former client of the Padres current owner Jeff Moorad. They have a close relationship.
Setting aside Moorad’s relationship with Hudson, let’s take a look at the contract, available options, and why the Padres are going to be stuck with him.
Orlando Hudson is due $7.5 million in 2012. He signed a two-year $11.5 million contract when he came to San Diego, was paid $4 million in 2011, and will make the remainder next season. That’s a lot of money for a player with a triple-slash of just .246/.329/.352. That’s a lot of money for a player who only played in 119 games. That’s a lot of money for a 33, soon to be 34, year old second baseman who hasn’t provided the clubhouse leadership the Padres hoped he would.
Hudson has had a decent career, but he has been on the decline for the past three years. His WAR has steadily been decreasing. His OBP has actually decreased in each of his last four seasons. Hudson is simply showing the tell-tale signs of an aging baseball player.
The Padres would love to pick up a free agent second baseman, give Jason Bartlett another year, and rid themselves of $7.5 million dollars that would otherwise be wasted. However, this is an unlikely scenario. Instead, the Padres will probably trade Bartlett and decline Hudson’s team option for the 2013 season. So, we are left with looking ahead to the 2013 season and of course the games Hudson will surely miss to injury during the 2012 season.
Jesus Guzman, as I have talked about on many occasions, would be my choice to fill the hole at second. But since the Padres seem intent on playing him at first base, we’ll have to look elsewhere. Evereth Cabrera spent most of last season at Triple-A Tucson, but he could be a good platoon guy with Hudson. Cabrera hit .297/.370/.402 with Tucson in 58 games, but hasn’t fared as well with the Major League club. In his career with the Padres Cabrera is just a .236/.318/.328 hitter.
Outside of Cabrera, who is shortstop by trade, not a second baseman, the options get pretty sparse. Vincent Belnome, the Padres 23-year old prospect playing for their Double-A affiliate in San Antonio, may be an option very soon if he can keep up his offense. He played in just 75 games last season, but hit .333/.432/.603 with 17 home runs. While the pitching at the Double-A level may not be great, I put more weight on home runs hit in the Texas League than the Pacific Coast League. Belnome needs some more minor league at bats before being thrown into the mix for the Padres, but it would not be surprising to see him called up next September when the rosters expand.
Outside of players already under the Padres control, the team may look for a trade. Like we discussed previously, Hudson provides little trade value, so the Padres would likely need to give up prospects to get a second baseman in return. That being the case, the team will probably wait until after the 2012 season to pursue this option. This would give them time to explore their minor league options, try out different players at second, and hope they find a fit.
Orlando Hudson was a nice idea when he was signed. He and Bartlett seemed like they could anchor the middle-infield perfectly together. So far, that just hasn’t been the case. Hudson, by all accounts, will be a Padre next season, but beyond 2012, the club needs to go another route.