A.J. Preller has been a busy man at the Orlando Winter Meetings, as he swung two different trades with two teams from the A.L. East.
Preller began by sending Jabari Blash to the Yankees for third baseman Chase Headley, right-handed reliever Bryan Mitchell, and cash considerations, then cleared space on the 40-man roster by trading Ryan Schimpf to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league infielder Deion Tansel. Preller has also kept himself busy with free agents on the market, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo News also reports that the Friars are actively looking for a young, controllable shortstop while also gaining traction with free agent Eric Hosmer on a potential deal.
The big trade of the day struck early in the morning with the Padres re-acquiring former Padre Chase Headley.
The third baseman was drafted in the second round of the 2005 Draft was a mainstay for the Padres from 2007-2014. He was traded to the Yankees in 2014 for current Padres player Yangervis Solarte. Headley saw a positive surge going into the final months of the season which helped him earn a batting line of .273/.352./.406. Headley will join a logjam in the infield, however Preller indicated that he was quickly contacted by general managers who inquired about the likes of Cory Spangenberg and Yangervis Solarte. Headley himself may be on the open market as Preller told Headley to be ready for anything, whether it be a job come season time or a trade to an opposing team. The Padres and Yankees will split Headley’s $1 million assignment bonus.
The lesser known, but seemingly more desired, piece of the deal was righty Bryan Mitchell. Mitchell has been a target for the past three years and, with the Yankees looking to shed payroll to avoid the luxury tax, they packaged him with Headley in order for the Padres to take on the third baseman’s contract while San Diego got the pitcher they wanted. The 26-year-old right-hander possesses a big curveball and decent velocity on his fastball while pitching to a 5.79 ERA along with a 1.68 WHIP and a 3.6 BB/9 and a 4.7 K/9. FIP was somewhat kinder to him as he posted 4.20 FIP in 2017. The Padres view him as a starting pitcher and will give him the chance to earn a rotation spot in spring training, where he will work with Darren Balsley on bettering his mechanics and working out the kinks in his delivery.
To acquire the services of Mitchell and Headley, the Padres traded away former Rule 5 pick Jabari Blash. While he has great power in his right-handed swing, Blash had severe struggles making contact with the ball, batting .200/.323/.336 in parts of two seasons with the Padres and striking out at a rate of 36%. Blash was stuck behind several other outfielders and will now look to get a spot on the 40-man roster for New York, but he will most likely end up at the Triple-A facility for the Yankees.
The Padres also struck a minor deal by trading Ryan Schimpf to the Rays for 23-year-old Deion Tansel in a move to clear a roster spot for the two new players acquired earlier in the day. Schimpf was something of a statistical nightmare, as he carried a .195 batting average as well as 35.5 K%, influenced by the 175 strikeouts he racked up in the 527 plate appearances he had in MLB. On the other hand, Schimpf has a walk rate of 13.7% and backed up his reputation as a power hitter by collecting 14 homers. Schimpf was acquired as a minor league free agent and certainly had some memorable moments, but he’ll be moving on to Tampa Bay in hopes of getting a job bouncing around the infield serving as a utility infielder.
Tansel was drafted by the Rays in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft out of Toledo. He served as an infielder, spending time at second base, shortstop, and third base for the Rays at short season Hudson Valley, collecting a batting line of .277/.336/.403. At 23, he is a bit old for the league and may repeat the season at Tri-City. However, it is more likely to see Tansel start at Fort Wayne given his age and all-around stats. He could serve as a bench bat in the future, however it will take a long time for him to reach the majors and he will have to outdo himself in order to get noticed by the Padres’ front office.
The Padres are also on the lookout for a young shortstop that could be controlled for the near future. The Chicago Cubs could be a matchup as San Diego could be interested in players such as Addison Russell and/or Javier Baez. These players are 23 and 21 respectively, and have experience at shortstop, and have the versatility to bounce around the infield. Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers is another name to keep tabs on, as he is blocked by a plethora of options in Texas and has been linked to the Padres before, thanks to Preller’s history with him.
A short-term solution at shortstop is also an option on the table, as San Diego has shown interest in Freddy Galvis of the Philadelphia Phillies and current free agent Zack Cozart. With Fernando Tatis Jr. as seemingly the shortstop of the future, and Luis Urias capable of handling the position in short bursts, this avenue would make much more sense for the Padres as they still have a logjam at third and second base, and a younger player like Baez would have to fight for playing time once Tatis and Urias eventually make their way to the major league club.
The Padres are also noted by John Heyman as being “strongly in the mix” for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer, a Scott Boras client, would be looking for at least a nine-figure contract with as many as six years. Current first baseman Wil Myers (a former teammate of Hosmer) has said that he would accept a move to the outfield if it meant that the Padres would win more ballgames. Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.498 and smacked 25 home runs in 2017 and is said to be a positive leader in the clubhouse. Such factors may drive the rebuilding Padres to cough up the money to sign him, yet this would mean sacrificing the Padres’ third-highest pick in the MLB First Year Player Draft, which the Padres may be hesitant to do. There are many factors to a potential deal with Hosmer, and the front office will certainly weigh all the factors before coming to a decision.
The Hot Stove has only just begun to heat up with recent trades and signings, and with the Winter Meetings in full swing, you can guarantee that Preller will be standing right above it stoking the fire as he continues to explore trade options and negotiate signings with the ultimate goal in mind; improving his baseball team.