The answer to our prayers?

By Editorial Staff

The title of this post should have an exclamation point, but in my view a question mark is more appropriate.

In case you haven’t guessed it, I’m referring to San Diego’s trade of Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez for Carlos Quentin.

I have to admit, a month or two ago I was pining away for Quentin. He’s consistently put up strong power numbers, hits from the right side, and seemed to be just what I felt the Padres needed to bolster the middle of the lineup. Now that the deal is done, however, I find Quentin’s numbers to be…well…ordinary.

First…what’s to like. The power is there. His ISO the past three seasons in Chicago has been over .200. In two separate seasons (’06 and ’07) in Arizona, Quentin had ISO’s of .277 and .135, respectively. The two seasons combined for 395 at bats, though, not quite enough for ISO to be reliable. What I like is that he doesn’t strike out much for a power guy. Here’s a string of K% for the past four seasons: 14.1, 13.0, 15.7, and 17.4. Those are solid strikeout numbers for a slugger. His park-adjusted wOBA numbers for the past three seasons are also impressive: 2009–.323, 2010–.349, 2011–.353. Average wOBA is generally around .320. 

Second…what’s concerning. It is a bit of a concern that he hasn’t played in more than 140 major league games in one season in his career. If he’s going to be our middle-of-the order stick, we need him for upwards of 150 games. Another is his UZR is pretty below average. The last three seasons of playing OF in cozy U.S. Cellular Field have produced: -15.5, -15.9, and -4.7. Average UZR is generally zero. Petco’s LF is the easiest of the three outfield positions, so maybe the Padres have plans for him there. If so, that brings up other concerns that I’ll talk about in a bit. 

Two players have come up in some of the trade reactions: Ryan Ludwick and Kyle Blanks

I’ve seen fans discussing Quentin as Ludwick 2.0, and that’s not a compliment. On the surface, I can see that comparison. Both are stocky-framed sluggers. Both are right handed hitters. Both tend to excel at pulling the ball. But that’s where the comparisons end. Ludwick is on the wrong side of 30, four years older than Quentin. Ludwick has hit more than 20 HR’s only twice in his career. Quentin has done it the last four years, consecutively. Ludwick’s average ISO is .193. Quentin’s is .233. Now, to my knowledge, ISO is not park adjusted, and Quentin has played in a  hitter-friendly park the past four seasons. Finally, Ludwick’s overall K% is 22.5 while Quentin’s is 15.9. I think we can safely assume that Quentin will not give up nearly as many at bats as Ludwick did, but I’m sure we’ll see his power numbers drop at Petco National Park. I think he’ll be lucky to find the seats over 20 times this season, playing in the NL West parks.

As for the issue with Blanks, my concerns run much deeper here. If our OF to start the season is Blanks-Maybin-Quentin, then I’m a happy camper. Blanks is fine defensively…just needs experience to get better reads. Maybin is a future gold glover. Quentin is a bit of a Michael Jackson–wears a glove for no really no purpose (stole that from my buddy Jim White), but hopefully his bat makes up for that shortcoming. Venable can be the late-inning defensive replacement.

However, if management has written off Blanks as has been speculated by SD writer Tom Krasovic, then I have some serious bones to pick with the Byrnes regime. I’ve written about Blanks before because I really don’t think he’s been given a fair shot. He crushes it, even at Petco Park. He simply needs to be given the same opportunity that Maybin was given, and I think you could see this neighborhood: .260/.350/.490 (similar to Quentin’s numbers). He would also be able to add some much needed protection for Quentin in the lineup. Yes, he’s going to strike out quite a bit, but he’s also going to spend time trotting around the bases as well.

Ultimately, though, what we gave up was really next to nothing, and I have to hand it to Byrnes for making this deal. I think we’ll get a slugger, even for Petco, and really we won’t miss either of Castro or Hernandez. Castro was once a highly-touted prospect, but his K/9 has been dropping every season. Maybe the White Sox have seen a quick fix, but even if he becomes an MLB starter, I think it will still be an even trade. Hernandez has some excellent BB/9 numbers, but he’s got a small frame, and I’m not convinced he’ll stick on a 25-man roster.

So, at the end of the day, I think this is a good move for the team, especially considering what we’ve given up. I don’t think that Quentin is going to be the savior of the offense, but he is certainly a boost. Ultimately, if Headley can improve the power, Maybin continue to make gains, Blanks realize his potential, and Alonso/Rizzo/1B provide solid production, the offense will be greatly improved. There are still plenty of question marks among those mentioned, however. It’d be nice to see those questions answered in 2012.