Win Now or Build for the Future: What the Carlos Quentin Trade Means

The Padres have been making national sports headlines all off-season.  Heath Bell left to sign with the Marlins, Mat Latos was traded to the Reds, and now San Diego picks up Carlos Quentin.  The moves have been a rare combination of building toward the future (grabbing draft picks and prospects) and trying to win immediately (getting a Major League-ready first baseman, getting a complimentary back-up catcher, and filling a huge void in the outfield).  The question is, can the Padres have both? Can they have their cake and eat it too?

Of course they can.  All the good teams do it, but they usually do it with a higher payroll than San Diego’s.  However, the moves made by Josh Byrnes have not been the shoot from the hip variety.  These moves have clearly been carefully calculated in an attempt to maintain a well-stocked farm system and to improve the Major League roster in 2012.  Let’s look at the Carlos Quentin trade, what it means, the realism of him being in San Diego more than one year, and how it shapes any additional off-season moves.

I’m not going to reiterate Quentin’s numbers for the umpteenth time, I’ll simply say, that when healthy, he’s an average outfielder and an above-average force at the dish.  Even with a drop-off in production, which is entirely possible in San Diego, Quentin should boost the anemic offense the 2011 Padres put on display.  The team was shut out seven times in April alone.  That can’t go on, and Quentin should help the offense quite a bit.

Carlos Quentin is not cheap.  He is projected to earn $7.5 million in 2012, and he will likely see another raise for 2013 if all goes well.  With that in mind, the Padres have one option if they wish to keep Quentin beyond 2012.  Sign him to a contract extension.  Quentin is done with arbitration years after 2012, and if the Padres allow him to test the free agent market, there’s little chance they will see him back in 2013.  If the team we’re to lock Quentin up to a new deal, it will likely take at least three years for at least $9 million per year.  He may even see upwards of $10-11 million a year.  Can the Padres afford that?  Maybe not.

If San Diego can’t afford or doesn’t want to work out an extension for Quentin, they can still benefit in multiple ways from his presence during the 2012 season.  As we mentioned, Quentin can provide a much needed offensive boost that may help the Padres compete next year and can bide time for the team to find a long-term solution for the outfield.  On the other hand, the Padres may be able to get some draft pick compensation for Quentin if he leaves for free agency after next year, or they can use him as trade bait around the July 31st trade deadline.  The Padres certainly have many ways to benefit from the addition of Carlos Quentin, but he also affects future moves.

With the 2012 outfield all but set, the club still has one glaring issue.  The middle infield.  With Quentin now a part of the team, Byrnes can turn his focus towards finding a solution for second base and shortstop.  Both Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett are under contract for next season and neither has garnered much attention from the rest of the league.  Yet if the Padres can package one of them up in a deal with Anthony Rizzo, they may be able to improve at least one half of the middle infield.  Teams are obviously very interested in Rizzo, and with the pile-up of players available to San Diego at first base, he could become the perfect trade chip to get the team very good second baseman or shortstop.

If the season were to start tomorrow, I’d say Josh Byrnes has made a splash in his first year as Padres GM.  But something tells me Byrnes is far from done.  I would expect more trades, possibly more free agent signings, and probably some contract extensions.  The Padres are looking to start the new year off right.

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  • Websoulsurfer

    WOW! Do you REALLY think Quentin is an AVERAGE outfielder defensively?

    Go take a look at his stats. Over the past 3 seasons, of outfielders with 2500 innings played, he is the very worst defensive outfielder in baseball according to at least 6 different metrics.

    Not only is he a butcher with the glove, he has a miniscule range and his arm is worse than Juan Pierre’s.

    He has a below average batting average at Cellular Field, a decided hitters park, and will likely hit under .230 in Petco.

    He strikes out 17% of the time while only walking 7% of the time.

    Worse yet, he averaged only 120 games played with the White Sox. Just 105 games per season in the field.

    So just what DOES he do well?

    A .245 ISO. He has a little power when he actually hits the ball. But he doesnt hit the ball nearly often enough to be worth anything at Petco.

    He will likely hit 37% less home runs in Petco than he has so far in his career according to park factors. Of his 24 home runs in 118 games in 2011 (7 at home, 17 on the road), just 16 would have been home runs in Petco.

    This was a horrendously bad trade for the Padres.

  • ChickenFriars

    @Websoulsurfer You’re talking to the wrong guy when it comes to defense. I rank defense well behind OPS, OBP, and power. You mention BA, but in my book, that’s a pretty meaningless stat. OBP covers that and everything else. Quentin’s OPS is 13% higher than league average for his career. I’ll buy the power reduction from Petco, but I would need to see some empirical evidence that Petco suppresses BA. Also, you mention Quentin’s home runs. He hit 7 at home last year and Park Factor only analyzes the home ball parks. Therefore the 37% drop in home runs you quote is only based on his home figure. So 37% off of 7 is 4 total home runs. Your argument is that we should be concerned that Quentin possibly hits 21 home runs instead of 24? When quoting park factor you have to remember only half the games are played at Petco. I have no doubts Quentin’s power numbers will slide in San Diego, but if we concern ourselves with that too much, no player should ever come to San Diego.

  • Websoulsurfer

    @ChickenFriars You bring up stats like WAR that take defense into the equation, but say you dont count defense much? His dWAR has been -31.9.

    No matter how you look at it, Quentin is the very worst fielding OF in baseball. No regular has been worse over past 3 years. Do you REALLY ant to see the very worst at it playing in your park for your team? I certainly hope not.

    Hmmm, I guess you missed the memo then. Petco suppresses batting average. League batting average in Petco is more than 40 points lower than in the other parks in the league as a whole.

    OBP, OPS and any other offensive stat you would like to throw out is also suppressed significantly at Petco.

    Quentin’s games in the field have been worse recently. He has just 87, 103 and 100 games started in the OF over past 3 seasons respectively.

    When you map them out for distance, and we know hits travel less distance at Petco due to the marine layer(thick damp ocean air), of Quentin’s 24 home runs anywhere in 2011, only 16 would have been home runs in Petco.

    I think we should be concerned about a guy blowing 10 games of the 100-120 he plays with bad defense and his offensive output dropping significantly. If he hits more than .230 I will be amazed and the other scouts I have spoken with tonight are predicting 16-18 home runs in 2012 if he remains a Padre.

    BTW his OBP is inflated by getting dinked so many times. Wont get 23 HBP in NL.

  • pareams

    @Websoulsurfer@ChickenFriars Won’t get his 23 times in the NL?Why not? It’s a pretty repeatable skill for Quentin. He played half a season in the NL West in 2007 and got hit 11 times. The year before that he played 1/3 of a season and got hit 8 times. He’s always among the league leaders in that category. Why would a league change alter that?

    That being said, even if Quentin has the production that you are pessimisticaly/realisticly forecasting, he’s still an improvement on what we had in the OF last year. A .230/340/440 guy with 18 HR would be our most productive corner player. And it wouldn’t be that close.

    This is a pretty low-risk, low-upside move. I’m not sure what all the hoopla is about. He’ll start here until July. If he’s having a great season and we’re not contending, he’ll get moved; if he’s not hitting or is injured (both possibilities, I grant you), then there’s not a lot of harm done. At this point, both Castro and Hernandez had been passed by a bevy of other starting pitching prospects in our system.

  • ChickenFriars

    @Websoulsurfer I understand your concern, but you can’t simply look at the negatives in every transaction. When I wrote my piece with no players’ names listed, just their numbers, Quentin ended up being the overwhelming favorite with CF readers. I think it’s easy to criticize the move because of past failures, but there is no doubt in my mind this was a good move even if Quentin performs as “poorly” as you suggest he will. Happy New Year! Always a good debate.

  • ChickenFriars

    @pareams very well said and I couldn’t agree more.