In the spring and summer of 2012, Will Middlebrooks was on top of the world. In Boston that year, playing for the Red Sox, Middlebrooks hit 15 home runs and had a .288 batting average in half the season. His season ended prematurely when he broke his hand after being hit by a pitch against the Cleveland Indians on August 10th.
His emergence in 2012 led to Kevin Youkilis being traded. Middlebrooks was deemed the obvious heir apparent and the fan favorite Youkilis was ushered out of town. I don’t know if the pressure of taking over the hot corner from Youkilis led to his decline, but Middlebrooks never looked the same.
He started off the 2013 season with a 3-homer game against the Toronto Blue Jays in April, but quickly fell into a slump. Finishing the season with a .227/.271/.425 stat line (348 at-bats). He hit 17 home runs and drove in 49 runs, while winning a World Series title with the Red Sox. Last year he regressed even more with a .191/.256/.265 injury-plagued year where he was shuttled up and down between Triple-A and the Red Sox.
The cost on Middlebrooks was minimal to say the least. Ryan Hanigan was just acquired in the Wil Myers blockbuster deal, and he was nothing more than a costly back up catcher. At a price tag of $540,000 for this upcoming season, he is a definite bargain. Perhaps he can capture that thunder in the bat that the Padres have been lacking at third base for years.
The more you look at this deal, the more you see what a great deal it was for the Padres. Hanigan was due a whopping $7.2 million dollars for two more years. That, for a backup catcher, is very steep. Middlebrooks is 26-years old, and could blossom playing for a smaller market team. Even if Middlebrooks doesn’t make the team or fails to produce, the fact A.J. Preller dumped that Hanigan contract makes this is a fantastic deal. With the recent addition of Wil Nieves, the Padres already filled the hole left by the trade of Hanigan. Look for #5 thru #1 of this list in the next few days.