Trades, Trades, Trades.
With less than a week to go before the 2017 trade deadline, serious MLB fans are checking their phones constantly so as not to miss the latest updates. The San Diego Padres have long been expected to be one of the major selling teams on the market this season as they stand far away from contention and completely focused on the future.
Like a whirlwind that blew into town pretty much unannounced, the Padres’ first major trade of the season took place on Monday at about 3:30 PM on the West Coast. It was a six-player deal in which the Padres sent Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter, and Brandon Maurer over to the Kansas City Royals for veteran LHP Travis Wood and two prospects in LHP Matt Strahm and infielder Esteury Ruiz. While some fans have had a hard time stomaching the loss of Brandon Maurer and his elusive potential, the move was clearly made with the future in mind. In regular A.J. Preller fashion, the team brought in another couple of interesting prospects and a shiny new reclamation project (with a salary almost totally paid for by the Royals) for pitching coach Darren Balsley to tinker around with before next season’s trade deadline.
As July 31 draws near, expectations are ramping up towards what many Padres fans would consider the climax of the deadline this season; that, of course, being a Brad Hand trade. There is plenty of speculation to go around about what type of haul that the Padres’ lone all-star might fetch. Such discussions have led most Padres fans to become very familiar with many teams’ top prospects. The next man down on the totem pole is presumably Kirby Yates who has had an outstanding season for the Padres out of the pen but lacks the track record of Hand. He should also be a valuable trade chip for the Padres to shop around. There are a number of teams in contention this season who are need of relief pitching, while those that may not have as immediate of a need surely learned a thing or two about bullpen depth from the 2016 playoffs. Think back to how Kenley Jansen, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman were the stars of the show less than a year ago.
As I was saying, Hand gets a lot of attention, as he should, but I’d like to focus for a minute on another player that the Padres have in their pocket who could also be of some value to teams in need of pitching depth. Clayton Richard is a low-key rental arm who has the ability to reach back and go late into games while inducing ground balls at a high rate. He’s fallen out of the discussion recently due to a few poor starts, but let’s take a closer look at his year to better appraise what he may offer a competitive team.
For me, the most impressive thing about Richard is his ability to go late into games. In 21 starts this season, he has gone at least six innings or more in 12 of them. He’s pitching at least six innings in 57 percent of his starts. He’s pitched eight innings or more in four of those starts and has even notched a complete game. His longevity in games may have something to do with his craftiness and use of ground ball induction. He has a ground ball percentage of 58 on the season. If Richard is the smart ballplayer that I think he is, he may have discovered the perfect way to get consistent outs and save his arm in the process.
He has an ERA of 5.37, which is not so hot, but a FIP of 4.46, which is okay, and an xFIP of 3.97, which is relatively good. His WAR is 1.2, which is decent and would provide value to a contending club capable of stashing a player like Richard on the roster. In his most recent start against the New York Mets on July 24 he didn’t look great, but there were some positive takeaways. He gave up five earned runs on 12 hits, but he did go eight innings, striking out eight and walking only two. Richard had the grit to go late into that game, which may have been intriguing to interested teams.
He was shelled on July 19 against the Colorado Rockies, giving up 10 earned runs on 14 hits and couldn’t make it through four innings. The only possible excuse for such a performance is that he was pitching at Coors. This outing and another on June 30 against the Dodgers during which he surrendered seven earned runs may have contributed to his trip into obscurity at the deadline, whereas earlier in the season he appeared to be a serious trade chip. If not as a starter, Richards’ durability could be valuable as a long-reliever, especially in high-stakes games. Teams should not sleep on the opportunity to snag such a workhorse.
So which teams may be interested and what kind of value would they offer? Three teams initially come to mind.
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