In December of 2010, after their most successful season since their 1998 National League Championship, the San Diego Padres traded their most popular and productive player, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. All the San Diego native had done in his five short years with the team was play in 799 games, which ranks 10th in the history of the franchise, hit 161 home runs, which are two shy of Nate Colbert’s club record, a record that has stood for 40 years, and drive in 501 runs, which ranks fourth among Padre players, all-time. In addition, Gonzalez was a three-time All-Star, finished as high as fourth in MVP voting, won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger Award.
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The reason for the trade, of course, was the Padres claiming small market poverty, which was interesting considering the team, only three years earlier, had given Jake Peavy a $52 million, three-year contract extension. Regardless, new GM Jed Hoyer, shipped off Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox (Hoyer’s former employer) for outfielder Reymond Fuentes, pitcher Casey Kelly and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo and Kelly were the key pieces of the trade, with Rizzo the heir apparent at first base. Prior to coming to the Padres, Rizzo had hit .260 with 25 homers and 100 RBI at High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Maine. In his one year with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate Tucson, he .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. In a brief audition with the Padres in 2011, Rizzo hit .141 and struck 46 times 128 ABs. He hit one home run and drove in nine.
Enter Theo Epstein, newly appointed President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. One of his first moves was to hire Hoyer as the club’s new general manager, and Hoyer was quick to jump ship. Enter Josh Byrnes as the Padres new GM. One of Byrnes first moves was to trade Mat Latos, the team’s best pitcher, to the Reds for Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Yasmani Grandal and Edison Volquez. The Padres now had two players, allegedly so limited in range, that they could only play first; Rizzo and Alonso. And in the infinite wisdom of Josh Byrnes, offensive juggernaut Yonder Alonso was handed the job at first.
Re-enter Hoyer. One of his first moves was to reacquire Rizzo for pitcher Andrew Cashner.
Last year, Rizzo hit .286, hit 32 home runs, drove in 78 runs and made his first All-Star team. Alonso has never hit more than nine home runs and has played in 97 games or fewer the last two years.
So, essentially, the Padres traded Gonzalez for Cashner, Fuentes and Kelly.
In 2012, Kelly pitched in six games for the Padres, going 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA. In 2013, Kelly had Tommy John surgery and it remains to be seen how effective he will be.
Fuentes, in 2013, played 23 games with the Padres, hit .152 and drove in one run. He spent last with El Paso and San Antonio, hitting .294, with five home runs and 33 RBIs.
So the question becomes what did the Padres really acquire for a player the caliber of Gonzalez? The answer, at this point, is not much.
Cashier has shown flashes of brilliance. He won 10 games in 2013, posting a 3.09 ERA. Last year, he went 5-7, but his 2.55 ERA certainly points to a lack of run support. However, his arm bothered him on and off. He absolutely has the potential to be a number one starter, something the Padres desperately need, if he pitches, which is why I was shocked to hear reports that the team would listen to offers for Cashner.
Which brings me back to Gonzalez. The Padres leader in RBIs in 2014 was Jedd Gyorko with 51. Fifty-one. Since leaving the Padres, Gonzalez, who of course now plays for the Dodgers, has driven in 117, 108, 100 and 116 runs, respectively. Think the Padres could use that kind of offense? But that’s not even the point. The Padres can trade Cashner and Ross; it would only hurt the Padres. But if they do, they better make sure they receive something legitimate in return. The team has a long, long history of dumping big-time players and getting next to nothing in return. In fact, I would argue the only salary dump trade that worked out well for the Padres was the one that sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins for Andres Berumen, Jose Martinez and one Trevor Hoffman.
The Cubs recently traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s for legitimate Major League prospects, specifically Addison Russell. If A.J. Preller plans to dismantle a solid rotation, he better make sure he gets two things in return: Major League-ready talent and that team’s top prospect.