The MLB Draft is in the books, the Home Run Derby has concluded, and the All-Star game was won.
With the first half of the baseball calendar now complete, it is finally time to look forward to the next biggest day on the MLB calendar: the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. With just 17 days left until July 31st, the trade deadline kicked off in a big way with the crosstown trade of Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox to the Chicago Cubs yesterday.
Now that the big domino has fallen, the rest of the pieces will start following over the next two weeks.
For the San Diego Padres, this year’s trade deadline will probably be a much quieter one than they experienced the last two years.
With that being said, there are still quite a few players of value the Padres will be putting on the market. The rumors are flowing and the Padres’ trade deadline season is starting to kick into full swing. What follows is a five point to-do list for the Padres’ trade deadline season.
1. Brad Hand Must Be Traded
Let me just start by saying I have nothing against Brad Hand. I have loved watching him pitch for the last year and a half. Watching him go from a castoff in Miami to one of the best relief pitchers in baseball with the Padres has been perhaps the best Padres storyline over the last two seasons. Seeing him pitch back in Miami at the 2017 All-Star Game as the Padres’ lone All-Star representative made it that much sweeter. With all that being said, Brad Hand is an immensely valuable trade asset at this juncture. Since joining the Padres as a waiver wire claim last April, Hand has thrown 136 and one-third innings with a 2.71 ERA and 2.97 FIP. During that time, Hand has held opposing hitters to a .195/.276/.314 triple slash line and is holding hitters to a wOBA of just .259. Beyond that, Hand has struck out 171 hitters in those 136 and a third innings while walking just 49 batters during that stretch.
Among players with at least 100 innings thrown between the start of last year and today, Hand ranks 14th among all relievers with his .259 wOBA against. Hand also sits in the top 20 in all of baseball by ERA, batting average against, on base percentage against, and slugging percentage against. Add to that a top-20 K/BB rate and top 10 WHIP, and it’s pretty clear that Brad Hand has been one of the most effective relief pitchers in all of baseball. On top of his stats, Hand also comes with a very team-friendly contract, as he is still controlled for two more years of arbitration after this season. Given all of the circumstances surrounding Hand, the Padres would be foolish to not make a move involving the waiver claim left-hander, especially given the volatility of relief assets.
The Padres are rightfully asking for a massive return for Hand this summer, but they should not hold on to him if the perfect price is not met. Sure, both Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller returned substantial packages, with the Yankees getting a high-end top-100 prospect in each deal. But with that being said, Hand lacks both the track record, and status, that either of those guys had. Even so, Padres general manager A.J. Preller is smart to ask for a package of that magnitude. The more likely scenario is the Padres getting a back-end top-100 prospect in the 50-100 range. For a relief pitcher claimed off waivers just last year, that would be a heck of a return. If that offer, or an offer similar to it, is on the table for A.J. Preller, there should be no hesitation in taking the deal.
2. Gauge Interest in Rental Pitchers
Once the Padres do pull the trigger on the long-rumored Brad Hand trade, the next step on the to-do list should be gauging interest in the Padres trio of half-season rental pitchers: Trevor Cahill, Jhoulys Chacin, and Clayton Richard. The way I listed those pitchers is akin to what their relative values appear to be on the trade market. All three were signed this off-season in an effort to not only fill out the Padres’ 2017 rotation, but also provide potential ammunition for some trade deadline dealing, as was the case with Drew Pomeranz last year. There was never any real likelihood that the Padres were going to cash in the same way they did with Pomeranz, but the possibility was at least there. Based on the half-season results from this trio, Hand is probably the best option for that kind of blockbuster trade at this year’s deadline.
At this point, Trevor Cahill is probably the most valuable of the three pitchers, despite having only thrown just over 50 innings due to injury this season. However, even though he has pitched less than half the innings of both Chacin and Richard, Cahill has been nearly as valuable as both in terms of fWAR. When Cahill has been on the mound this year, he has excelled, as his 3.38 ERA and 3.50 FIP show. Cahill has also lived up to his K-Hill nickname with a strikeout rate just shy of 30 percent, on top of a walk rate that has stayed under 10 percent. Given his success as a starter this year, and his success as a relief option with the Cubs last year, the Padres have some options in how they want to market Cahill, which could increase his value on the trade market. Regardless of how they market him, he is clearly the most valuable out of the trio of starting pitchers the Padres have to market. There’s no top-100 prospect coming back in a trade of Cahill, but the Padres could certainly get an interesting lower B or upper C level prospect in return for Cahill.
In terms of the other two pitchers, they have had very similar seasons, as both have ERAs and FIPs in the fours and fWARs just over one. Chacin strikes out more hitters than Richard does, but Richard makes up for that by walking fewer hitters and getting more frequent ground balls. Given the four-year age gap between Richard (33) and Chacin (29), teams may be more willing to bet on Chacin’s upside than Richard’s, which is part of the reason the Padres were so interested in Chacin in the first place. However, teams may have some red flags with regard to Chacin, as his home-road splits this year have been downright puzzling, as demonstrated by his 1.68 home ERA and 7.95 road ERA. Given that an acquiring team won’t play all their games at Petco, this may scare off some suitors. Either way, both Richard and Chacin could be depth pick-ups for playoff teams, and the Padres should be able to pick up lottery ticket-type players for both.
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