When the Padres’ signed outfielder Seth Smith to a two-year contract extension worth$13 million this past Wednesday, it seemed like a reasonable deal, but after a couple of days of thinking about it, I reevaluated the terms of the deal, and it didn’t make any sense to give $6.5 million a year to a player who would be a fourth outfielder on a decent ball club.
Taking nothing way from Smith’s performance this season, on a team that is going to set a record for the worst offensive production since World War II, his numbers are average at best, with little power and a career .266 batting average. Entering today’s game against the San Francisco Giants, he is batting .282 with nine home runs and 25 RBI, which leads in most Padres’ offensive categories.
Granted, Smith got off to a hot start, and seems to be the only Padres’ hitter whose shown any consistency throughout the year, but he he has tailed off quite a bit when he was named NL Player of the Week back in May. Ever since, he has seen his average steadily decline below .300 and he is only batting .190 against left-handed hitters.
With the firing of GM Josh Byrnes two weeks ago, the organization is definitely looking to shake things up. Most are expecting to see Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin traded by July 31st, but it’s uncertain whether Andrew Cashner, Huston Street, and Joaquin Benoit will be with the Padres’ in August.
However, signing Smith, shows that he is staying with the club for the rest of year, and it doesn’t make any sense when the Padres’ can still get something in return for a 31-year-old player, who is having a career year by his standards.
As Dave Cameron states from Fangraphs, “…teams will see the career numbers and limited upside just as we can, and their offers would have reflected that. But rebuilding teams need to throw as many darts as they can, because once in a while, trading away a few months of a decent but unspectacular rent-a-veteran can get something in return.”
If Smith showed consistency year-in-year out, and that he was an everyday player, it would be safe to say that the Padres’ made a good deal. However, if he reverts back to the type of player he’s been over the course of career, the Padres’ will get very little from him when they trade him next year.
Without a current, and permanent GM hired yet by the front office, it’s difficult to say if he even fits into the grand scheme of things. Cameron adds, “…rebuilding a team without a GM, extending an aging, limited player over a timeline in which they won’t win anyway, doesn’t really fit the idea that the Padres do understand that they need a new direction.”
Whichever way the fans see Smith’s signing, it’s important to look at it from where the Padres will be next year or the year after. Does Smith really play a part in the future after this contract ends?