They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me
I can’t help it if I’m lucky – Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind
I can’t help it if I’m not feeling a little lucky these days. I’m like a kid with a huge tree in the living room and lots of presents underneath, each one with my name on it. It’s Hot Stove season and already the gifts are coming in.
Think of it. We plucked Jabari Blash via the Rule 5 draft out of the Seattle system a few years back and when he didn’t stick we returned him to sender. Then we sent a never-was to Seattle and got him back and stashed him in El Paso. He ended up getting a few at bats for us this year at the major league level but despite the prodigious power, he simply can’t catch up to a major league fastball. Either his swing is too long or he is too long or he’s too long in the tooth or he’s too long from home in the Caribbean, but for whatever reason, he can’t catch up to the heat. If we were in Vegas, we’d all lay a 10-spot at 4-5 odds that he never will be able to.
What do we – and by “we”, I mean A.J. Preller, General Manager of the Padres – do with Blash? Through the sheer magic of the Christmas Holiday season, we ship him off to the Bronx Yankees for a pitcher with a huge upside and one-year worth of our old friend, Chase Headley, at $13 mil. I was good in math in school but by what transitive property did that happen? The pitcher, 26-year old Bryan Mitchell, reaches 97-98 on the gun, has a high spin rate (technical talk meaning sabermetric scouts love his potential) and a big curve. Where have we heard that before? Darren Balsley, the magical pitching coach-elf in Santa’s Padres shop should eat him alive.
Still, there’s no guarantee Mitchell will amount to anything. That leaves us with Headley. At $13 million, it’s no small price for a one-year rental and we already have enough third basemen to fill Noah’s arc with. But already, as the rumor mill tells us, there is heavy interest in Headley, particularly from the Angels. The gifts keep on giving. The Angels don’t have much in the way of a farm system but they’re in a win now mode and might just give something up at a reduced price (meaning we’ll keep a little salary on the books). Either way, Headley had a .352 on base percentage last year. While third basemen generally need some power and Chase has little of that, his OBP would instantly rank one of the highest on the team’s. And we had the lowest OBP in the whole league last year. A year of that would not be a bad thing, especially since we almost certainly will trade one of our other third basemen, the beloved Yangervis Solarte and/or Cory Spangenberg, or both. Things are looking up.
The point I’m digressing from is this. If we can pluck Jabari Blash-toff out of the Seattle system at no cost and turn him into a high-upside 26-year-old arm and a year of a .352 OBP third baseman who we might turn around and trade for another more serious prospect, what else can we do? BECAUSE THE SKY’S THE LIMIT!!!! That’s what the Taco Train is all about. We play in the toughest division in baseball and one of the reasons that is so is because the Padres are in it. We’re nobody pushovers and we’re coming, we’re coming hard. A.J. Preller is like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, an idiot-savant counting cards while the rest of baseball is counting data. Did you see him on MLB Network the other day with “Mad Dog” Russo? He looks like he hasn’t combed his hair in a month. Just shuffling along, ambling this way and that, like Columbo (old network TV reference), holding his microphone like it’s too heavy and he can barely bring it to his mouth. “Don’t mind me,” his manner screams out, “I’m just picking your pocket as we speak.”
Anyway, I know the Padre world is divided on the pursuit of Eric Hosmer and I’m admittedly on the fence on that one. I love the player, but at what price? And in general, there’s so much work to be done. But for me it’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting by my tree. My parents let me open my first gift. They let me trade in my old pair of shorts for two pair of nice new jeans. Wow, my parents are pretty cool. Now I can’t wait until morning. What will Santa Preller bring me this time? I know one thing: it’ll be a marvelous surprise, and I’ll soon be able to put it on the Taco Train for safekeeping.