Carlos Quentin is the biggest name the Padres have picked up in quite some time. Some may argue Huston Street, but I’d say Street has lost some of his hype over the last few years. Quentin’s addition means more power and credibility to the offense. Of course, this can change on a dime if Quentin finds himself struggling to hit like many others have in the past. That puts the Padres front office in an interesting position. Do they consider a contract extension now (or at least early in the season), or do they wait to see how the season plays out?
The team will likely want to see at least how Quentin performs through the All-Star break before considering a high-dollar contract extension. However, in doing so they put themselves in a strange position. If the team is falling out of contention by then, it becomes increasingly tempting to trade Quentin before the July 31st trade deadline. Such a trade would be forced based on circumstances at the time and likely would not take the overall future of the club into consideration. If the Padres are still contending, they are more likely to retain Quentin and work on a new deal.
So that brings us back to the original question, should they go ahead and start negotiations now? Probably not. The problem with brining a new power-hitter into Petco Park is well documented. The park absolutely stifles offense, and for a player used to 30-35 home runs, the adjustment may not be easy. Power-hitters can still put up big numbers in Petco (even from the left side – see Adrian Gonzalez). They just have be willing to accept what the park gives them. If Petco will only allow 20-25 home runs, then the focus needs to shift to doubles and getting on base. However, the Padres will not know if Quentin can make those adjustments until they see him play. Giving him a contract extension before he plays a game would not be wise. But waiting until the trade deadline may not be wise either.
Depending on Quentin’s performance, contract negotiations could resume somewhere around June. That would allow for a decent sample size to evaluate Quentin’s offense. It will also help the Padres make a decision that will not be so heavily weighted on their current season’s results.
Quentin is a nice addition to a team in desperate need of some offense, but he will still need to prove himself. His cost verse his production will be an important topic in the coming months, and it will be interesting to see how Josh Byrnes and the Padres handle him.