The San Diego Padres pulled the trigger on one of what is expected to be several significant trades this offseason, sending Derek Norris to the Washington Nationals. In exchange for the catcher, the team will receive right-handed prospect Pedro Avila.
The deadline for the San Diego Padres to tender arbitration-eligible players is Friday night, meaning that the team has several decisions to make in a matter of hours. On Friday afternoon, one of these decisions was made, as the team traded catcher Derek Norris to the Washington Nationals.
There were many questions over Norris as he struggled immensely in 2016, hitting just .186. Coming into the day, many anticipated general manager A.J. Preller to merely allow Norris to enter the arbitration process, knowing that the team wasn’t necessarily interested in renewing his large contract.
Instead of this happening though, the Padres worked out a deal with the Nationals. Washington, who is a bit thin at the catcher position, was willing to pay for the 27-year-old’s contract, and give up a decent pitching prospect.
Pedro Avila is a 19-year-old starter who just completed his second season in the lower levels of Washington’s minor league system. Ranked the 23rd prospect in the organization, the native of Venezuela has plenty of potential, which is attractive to San Diego.
In Single-A, the right-hander logged 93 innings, posting a 3.48 ERA. His 92 strikeouts stand out, speaking to his natural pitching ability and wipe-out pitches.
Most Padres’ fans feel that this move will benefit the team long term. It all but secures Austin Hedges the starting job at catcher, and further proves that the organization is all in for their young talent. It also clears up a lot of space that had been holding the club back last offseason, opening up a world of opportunity before 2017 even begins.
Now, with just two catchers under team control, focus shifts to Hector Sanchez to see what the team plans to do with him. With Norris gone, it would make sense to secure Sanchez for 2017 as the second catcher on the roster.
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Eight other players remain arbitration-eligible, so the moves are far from over. But Norris was clearly the biggest question coming in, as fans knew that the organization was not completely satisfied with their December 2014 trade.
On top of the fact that San Diego is free of Norris, they now also get to look forward to developing another young arm. While still several seasons away from the majors, Avila is a very promising hurler for an organization which is seeking pitching depth. Even though he isn’t the main focus of this trade, he wasn’t thrown in by default or on accident.
This move comes as little surprise, but its ramifications are still significant. With Norris gone, fans can really begin to get excited about the direction of the franchise. Clearly, they feel that they really have a young core which can contend in the near future. Most of all, this means that more moves are on the way.