San Diego Padres: Was Trading Kimbrel a good idea?

The San Diego Padres traded star closer Craig Kimbrel at the beginning of 2016 in exchange for prospects. Looking back a full season later, did the deal work out?

The San Diego Padres have made various moves during the past calendar year, each garnering mixed reactions. Most notably, general manager A.J. Preller has let Matt Kemp, Drew Pomeranz, and Craig Kimbrel go in a series of trades.

The Padres are undeniably “sellers”, as they enter another offseason in the midst of a rebuilding process. It is clear that they are more interested in building for the future than anything, even at the expense of their existing roster. This was never more evident in a trade than it was when the team shipped Kimbrel to the Boston Red Sox before 2016.

The trade benefited San Diego in several ways, as they acquired prospects Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen. But the absence of Kimbrel was felt in a season where San Diego’s bullpen had the 11th highest ERA in baseball.

On one hand, the deal has served its purpose. San Diego is solid in the minor leagues, and expects some or all of the pieces they got in exchange for the All-Star closer to make a difference in the next five years at the major league level. Since Kimbrel is already 28 years old and has just a couple of seasons left in his prime, the team figured that keeping a multi million dollar contract would be unnecessary and unproductive.

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But on the other hand, moving an important piece with experience makes it very difficult for the Padres to develop their young pitching, especially their bullpen. Young teams need a veteran or two in every major area, or else they will never grow as intended.

The need for veteran players on young teams was never more clear than it was in this past World Series. For the Cubs, it was David Ross, Jon Lester, and Jason Heyward. While each of these players may have struggled, they made significant contributions by helping the young talent through. For the Indians, their veterans Coco Crisp and Mike Napoli played a similar role.

It is unlikely that San Diego will find themselves in the position of the 2016 Cubs or Indians. But if they miraculously do, they will definitely regret moving Kimbrel.

Plus, only Asuaje and Margot have made it as high as AA. Therefore, the value the package of minor league players the Padres received may not do them any good if they never pan out.

Part of baseball is making difficult decisions, and the Padres elected to invest in their future in this case. So far, it hasn’t paid dividends at the major league level. However, the trade was made with the long term in mind, so there is no reason to be critical of Preller just yet. Time will tell whether or not this move will pay off.

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