By waiting, Padres would get better value
Yes, the Padres should trade Adrian Gonzalez.
But not right now.
Barring an injury or unforeseen production decline,
Gonzalez’s value will be very high at the July 31 non-waiver trade
deadline. He will be as far from free agency then as Mark Teixeira
was at the time of the Rangers-Braves blockbuster in 2007. And you
may recall the Rangers’ return in that deal included Elvis Andrus
and Neftali Feliz.
In order to trade Gonzalez now, Jed Hoyer would need to
negotiate with general managers who can counter his
(understandably) high demands by saying, “Why should I give you my
three best prospects when I can keep them and sign Adam LaRoche,
Hank Blalock or Russell Branyan to play first base?”
Of course, Gonzalez is better than LaRoche, Blalock or
Branyan on both sides of the ball. But as long as other teams have
free-agent alternatives, it will be hard for Hoyer, a first-year
general manager, to have much leverage.
By the middle of this season, it should be different.
In July, other GMs can’t talk about free-agent options.
In July, other GMs are under pressure to
it by getting one more left-handed slugger.
In July, other GMs will look at the money remaining on
Gonzalez’s contract — at that stage, barely more than $7
million through 2011 — and say to ownership: “For this guy,
for that amount of money, we should make it happen.”
For each of those reasons, Hoyer might actually get a better
return in July than if he were to trade Gonzalez now. Gonzalez has
averaged 35 home runs and 106 RBIs over the past three seasons. He
led the National League this year with 119 walks. He’s one of the
most sought-after players in the game today, and that’s probably
not going to change anytime soon.
And let’s not forget the obvious: Hoyer has been on the job
for less than two months. He didn’t hire a new scouting director
until Friday. Generally speaking, it’s difficult to interview
candidates for a position of such importance
and work on trading your franchise player at the same
Besides, it’s probably a good idea to make some friends in
town before completing a trade that could start an uproar among
otherwise-happy San Diegans. Gonzalez is a San Diego native and
By the middle of this summer, Hoyer will have a better sense
of where his organization is strong and weak, of precisely the type
of package he would want, of the effect that Gonzalez’s departure
would have on the fan base. If done skillfully, a Gonzalez trade
could bring back enough talent to catapult the Padres back into
contention in two or three years. The Teixeira trade, at the ’07
trade deadline, did that for Jon Daniels and the Rangers.
And remember: Gonzalez, a Mexican-American star in a border
town, is the team’s biggest gate attraction. The longer he is a
Padre, the longer fans will buy tickets to watch him play.
Much has been made of the possibility of Gonzalez’s going to
Boston, where he would be an offensive force at Fenway Park. Hoyer
has intimate knowledge of the Red Sox farm system because of his
tenure as that club’s assistant GM.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, a close friend of
Hoyer’s, has a bountiful farm system from which to trade. But
Epstein has the same leverage that every other GM does right now:
He could sign a corner infielder such as Adrian Beltre or Mark
DeRosa and hang onto his prospects.
And consider this: One rival executive, who requested
anonymity, doubts Hoyer would accept an offer of right-handers Clay
Buchholz and Daniel Bard if the package didn’t also include
right-hander Casey Kelly or outfielder Ryan Westmoreland.
If that’s accurate, then it’s hard to imagine a deal
occurring anytime soon. Buchholz and Bard, after all, were major
contributors on a postseason team in 2009. They are young,
inexpensive and talented. Apparently, though, they would not be
The only rationale for trading Gonzalez now would be if
ownership ordered Hoyer to reduce the payroll, and it doesn’t
appear such a request has been made. CEO Jeff Moorad has said
publicly the payroll will be between $40 million and $50 million.
At that number, Gonzalez’s $4.75 million salary for 2010 is more
Still, bear in mind the Padres remain a franchise in
transition — quite literally — from John Moores to
At present, the names of both men can be found on the
organizational masthead. Moores is the chairman and majority owner
(for now). Moorad is the vice chairman and CEO.
Moores has owned the club since 1994 but put it up for sale
after his wife, Rebecca, filed for divorce in 2008. Moores and
Moorad reached agreement earlier this year on an ownership transfer
by February 2014; at some point between now and then, Moorad’s
group will have 100 percent control of the team.
When such high-level movements are afoot, pennies tend to
assume a greater importance than they would, say, at Fenway Park or
And if the Padres maintain their current spending levels,
they won’t be able to afford Gonzalez when he enters free agency
after the 2011 season. He could be headed for a payday on the order
of Teixeira’s deal with the Yankees last offseason (eight years,
Gonzalez gave the team one hometown discount, when he signed
his current contract. It’s hard to believe he will grant them
another. One has to believe he will wear a different uniform in the
not-too-distant future. But there’s no need for that to happen on
the first day of spring training in 2010.
In order for Hoyer to trade a local hero, he will need to get
a perfect deal. And there’s a better chance of that happening in
July than January.