The 2018 MLB trade deadline is in full-effect as the San Diego Padres have made their first move.
Good morning, San Diego! As you got to work and fired up your computers, you may have seen some pretty big news announced. The San Diego Padres have traded closer Brad Hand and relief pitcher Adam Cimber to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for catching prospect, Francisco Mejia.
The Padres will now have 10 prospects within Baseball America’s Top 100 list, making it undoubtedly the richest farm system in all of baseball.
Mejia was hitting .279 with a .328 OBP, seven home runs, and 22 doubles for AAA Columbus. He is currently the 15th ranked prospect in baseball.
The immediate question was, does Mejia catch with the Padres or continue to play in the outfield, as he did for 28 games this season. Dennis Lin of The Athletic immediately answered that question with this tweet, saying that the San Diego Padres will keep Mejia as a catcher.
This is a big, bold move by A.J. Preller and the franchise. Austin Hedges is well known for being one of the best defensive catchers in all of Major League Baseball. However, after hitting .214 last season with a .278 wOBA and 71 wRC+, Hedges has not shown much improvement in 2018.
In 39 games this season (missed time due to nagging injuries), Hedges is hitting .232 with a .288 wOBA and an 82 wRC+. Not much better than 2017. His strikeout rate has also increased, from 29% to over 34%.
Mejia brings a 60-grade hit tool, according to Fangraphs evaluations. While his arm is an 80-grade, his overall defensive capabilities aren’t on Hedges’ level, however, his eye at the plate and overall offensive game project well-above what Hedges has shown up to this point in his career. There are still questions about Mejia’s ability to get on base at a high-rate, known for being overly aggressive, but he’s hit consistently well through his journey in the minors.
The aftershock of this trade will also be big.
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This is a challenge to Austin Hedges. Hedges will still catch games as the defensive option behind the plate, but Mejia will undoubtedly get the majority of games. Suddenly, A.J. Ellis and Raffy Lopez don’t have much of a role on the team. Expect Ellis to be moved over the next few days.
The player that this may hurt the most is San Antonio Missions catcher, Austin Allen. Allen was seen as a possible late-season call-up and the offense to Hedges’ defense. That option is no longer on the table.
Mejia doesn’t have much left to prove in the minor leagues. In the month of June, Mejia hit .455 with a 1.193 OPS, 14 doubles, and four home runs. Don’t be surprised to see him on the major league roster, almost immediately. Especially if Ellis is moved this week.
Overall, this is a positive trade for the Padres. This team needs offense and they have gone out and upgraded a position to provide more offense. It also presents the opportunity to flip Austin Hedges for another big name prospect, if the Padres believe Mejia does have the ability to stick behind the plate. Stay tuned. The trade deadline madness is just heating up.