Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Media news

Cox will lay off most of the people at Channel 4 who produce the station's Padres coverage, the North County Times reports

Tough decisions also are being made within the North County Times.

Breaking form, the newspaper didn't staff this week's Padres-Dodgers series in Los Angeles. More glaring, nor did it staff the Chargers game in Phoenix.

The Padres are in last place, but the NCT was there when other bad Padres teams played at Chavez Ravine.

The paper staffed the Chargers' preseason game in Phoenix two years ago. If anything, the Chargers are more newsworthy now. Sports Illustrated pegs them for the Super Bowl, and their quest for a new stadium ranks as San Diego County's top sports story, with no other a close second.

High school athletics is the meat of the NCT's sports coverage. Impressively, the newspaper is devoting 32 pages to its prep football preview, making it a must get for this blog. Chargers beat writer Scott Bair will cover several road games this year. Next year, we might get extra road coverage from Dan Hayes, who is in his fifth year of covering the Padres.

If a newspaper doesn't staff a Padres series or a Chargers game, the loss to fans of those teams is another source of informed reporting. We're down to one newspaper in San Diego that staffs each Padres and Chargers game. That's not the kind of competition anyone should prefer, even the one newspaper.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On deck?

As they honored Trevor Hoffman, the Padres should honor Jerry Coleman.

What a great idea, gang--and it's not ours. A longtime Padres fan passed it along in response to the "who's next" post after Hoffman's 51 was retired.

No. 42 -- Coleman's jersey number with the Yankees -- has been retired by every ballclub to honor Jackie Robinson.

That's good because it's the gold star that is synonymous with Coleman.

Invite the baseball world to Petco Park for a Jerry Coleman Day next season, then hang a star near the retired numbers. Along with it, name a military section after the Colonel and class up the media area by calling it the Jerry Coleman Press Box.

A pregame ceremony like the "This is your life" event for Hoffman would be the clincher. Just make sure Yogi Berra is there.

Let's not use the "r" word, lest we provoke the former Marine, who says he feels like he is missing out when he's not working. The Colonel is up at 5:30 every morning for his walk in La Jolla.

As his first year of not traveling with the Padres comes to an end, he's not missing the airplane rides and hotel stays, however.

"I've been running as fast as I can for 70 years," he told me this summer. "I'll be 87 in September."

Two weeks hence, he'll likely be calling Padres games in San Francisco, his old hometown. If only a Star Trek machine could beam him to and from all the road ballparks, allowing him to see the games. Otherwise, you're just viewing them.

"Watching it on television you don't get the same feel," said Coleman, the radio voice of the Padres for the last 39 years, including 31 seasons with Ted Leitner. "When you're into this business of watching every game, you see things that you would never see otherwise."

From the private box the Padres reserved for him, he keeps score of the some 55 home games that he doesn't call.

"These people have been beyond belief nice to me -- Tom Garfinkel, Jeff Moorad," he said.

"What can I say? You find me somebody older than me in baseball, I'd like to know who he is. Even the commissioner can't match me," he said, laughing. "A lot of these kids that are playing weren't even born when I quit in '57."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who's next?

Now that Trevor Hoffman has been feted, who's next to have his jersey number retired?

I put it to the Twitter community. Their replies:

Chaz: I don't think that player is on the roster. Remains to been seen if this front office will give long-term deals to starting pitchers.

DMC2: I go with either Ken Caminiti or Steve Finley.

BParker: Rob Johnson should have his number retired for Mendoza Line excellence.

Bodie: Austin Hedges in 2036.

Jeff: Good question. The only one I can come up with is Cameron Maybin.

sdnick: Maybin? (ChaseHeadley?

copperblue99: Not Adrian Gonzalez.

Duane: If Garvey's is retired, you would think it's possible Adrian's might.

Friday, August 26, 2011

76-49

A year ago today, Martians landed on Earth and asked who goofed with the baseball standings. (Martians know little about baseball, but being green, they understand money.)  On top of the National League was a team whose payroll was at the bottom. (Actually, second from last, but even Martians don't think the Pirates a big league club.)

The Strategic Thinkers at 19 Tony Gwynn Drive also gazed in wonder at the 76-49 record listed next to their Padres. Not since 1998, when smoke and mirrors weren't needed, had the club risen 27 games above .500.

This 76-49, it fairly shimmered.

In humble awe, a baseball exec with the Padres tapped out a text message to a fellow exec -- 76-49, it read. The man didn't dare add a word. Or LOL. Certainly not a : )

Ahead of the Giants by 6.5 games when they woke up a year ago today, the Padres would face the lowly Garden Snakes in San Diego.

They would lose 11-5.

Lost the next nine games, too.

Duly oxygenated, the Giants won 21 of their final 34 games to claim the NL West. 

The Garden Snakes since have grown their rattles back and now lead the West. The Padres (60-71) will face them tonight, a world apart from a year ago today.






Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don't blink

It takes several years to evaluate a draft class in baseball. Where's the fun in that? We're in the immediacy business here. Besides, thin-slicing has its uses where the Padres and the draft are concerned. If Malcolm Gladwell decides to write a sequel to Blink,  he ought to include a chapter on high-profile draft picks of the Padres from 1995-2004. Snap judgments turned out to be right judgments in the aftermath of Signing Day, often to the Padres' dismay.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What is Will Venable?

If ever there was a time for the Padres to suffer Will Venable's whiffs, dribblers and popouts against lefties, this month looked like that time.

The Padres saw it differently.

Manager Bud Black gave Venable only five plate appearances against lefties, even with righty Chris Denorfia unavailable to play right field. And the trend likely will continue, Black told this blog today.

"With Will," Black said by phone from San Francisco, "he'd really have to be hitting the ball well off right-handers for us to say, 'We're going to keep you playing your total game.' "

Bell development

Would the Padres be upset if Heath Bell accepted arbitration this offseason, which would deny them two compensatory draft picks in 2012? No, a Padres official told this blog, because a one-year deal for the All-Star closer wouldn't be such a bad thing for the club. Although Bell's arbitration-enhanced salary likely would be budget unfriendly, the Padres wouldn't have to pay all of it if they traded Bell in 2012, the official said.

Does that sound attractive to you? Not me, either. But it probably doesn't sound so hot to Bell, either.

Meantime, word comes today that the Giants have won a waiver claim on Bell. The Padres still can retain the Loveable Kook and seem likely to do so. It appears the Giants were trying to block Bell from going to either the Diamondbacks or Phillies. (Coincidentally, it was about this time last year that the Giants put in a claim on Cody Ross to keep him from going to the Padres. See the post two below this one for more details about how that played out.) For what it's worth, the Giants inquired about Bell a month ago while they were at Petco Park. Maybe it was just out of curiosity. One also wonders whether they had concerns then about closer Brian Wilson, who recently was derailed by an arm ailment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Newsstand

Corey Brock of MLB.com had the jarring news that prospect Drew Cumberland was forced to give up his playing career. The Padres aren't sharing their base-stealing secrets, reported Dan Hayes of the North County Times.

Cody Ross, Padres, Giants

A year ago today, with the Padres first in the National League West and five games ahead of the Giants, a small news item trucked across the sports tickers and into the tiny print of newspapers.

Perhaps you recall it:

Marlins OF Cody Ross awarded to Giants through waiver claim.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No. 51 retired

Trevor Hoffman said his Padres retirement ceremony today was full of surprises, none bigger than the video clip of his late father, Ed Hoffman, singing the national anthem at Fenway Park in 1981.

Trevor stood behind pitcher's mound at Petco Park. With him were his wife, his three sons, his two brothers and his mother.

Shown on the scoreboard was Ed Hoffman, who died in 1995. Also in the clip was one of Trevor's brother's, Glenn Hoffman, then a Red Sox shortstop.

"I couldn't see," Trevor said of the tears.

Ed Hoffman, a former Marine, worked at Anaheim Stadium, where he sometimes sang the anthem. He was known as the singing usher.

Trevor credits his father's baseball tutelage for his longevity as a pitcher.

At today's ceremony, the first surprise for the all-time save leader came when his wife and three sons awaited in the home bullpen and walked with him to the mound as Hell Bells played, allowing them to experience Trevor Time. "To be able to share that moment that I got to enjoy..." Hoffman said, again welling up.

Nor did Hoffman expect the Padres to give him a Cadillac convertible, 1958 vintage, with SD 51 on the license plate. As Hoffman got behind the wheel, AC/DC's "Back in Black" was on the stadium PA.

Also causing him to gulp were the hugs from the wives of three deceased former teammates -- Ken Caminiti, Rod Beck and Mike Darr.

"It was just waves and roller coasters of emotion," Hoffman said. "It just kept crescendo-ing."

Hoffman said several times that "one person doesn't deserve all of this."

Well-wishers, among them several baseball Hall of Famers, walked down a red carpet to hug Hoffman, who stood on pitcher's mound. Among them was Rickey Henderson, wearing a blue plaid suit and still looking fit.

"Trevor was a special ballplayer," said Henderson, a teammate on two Padres teams. "He was the type of player that you looked up to, you wanted to be around him."

Dave Stewart, the former A's ace and the Padres' pitching coach in 1998, when the team won 98 games and won the National League pennant, said Hoffman's consistency set him apart.

"The most impressive thing about Trevor was you knew what you were going to get from him day in and day out -- at the ballpark and as a person," Stewart said. "No offense to Dave Winfield and Randy Jones, but in my opinion Tony Gwynn is on top of the baseball personalities to come through this city, and Trevor is right behind him."

After a 10-second countdown, Hoffman's No. 51 was revealed on top of the batters' eye alongside the 19 of Tony Gwynn, the 6 of Steve Garvey, the 31 of Dave Winfield, the 35 of Randy Jones and the 42 of Jackie Robinson. Wearing Padres brown, all four of those former Padres were present. 

When Hoffman thanked the fans, the roar lasted about 10 seconds. 
Hoffman called the relationship with Padres fans one of mutual respect.

"A baseball fan is one that appreciates the length of the season and appreciates the perseverance that it takes to get through 162 games," he said. "I was lucky to be a baseball player."



Friday, August 19, 2011

Draft intrigue

This summer, as the Padres tried to strike a dollar deal for Joe Ross, the second of their first-round selections in June, they might have turned two shades of green had they contemplated how easy the Chargers had it.

Ross is the pitcher from Oakland the Padres drafted 25th overall.

Unlike Corey Liuget, the defensive end drafted 18th by the Chargers in April, Ross had a crowbar at his negotiating table. Actually, two crowbars.

The pitcher could opt to go to UCLA, leverage that the Padres respected and grew to respect more as the summer unfolded, given how two Bruins pitchers were enriched by major league clubs.

Liuget, conversely, had gone to his college of choice, Illinois, and couldn't return there to play football.

Major league baseball's toothless signing guidelines for draft picks also empowered Ross's adviser.

In contrast, the pro league that Liuget was drafted into -- the NFL -- had a labor contract that set hard guidelines for a draft pick's compensation. Other than the fourth year of the deal that he negotiated with the Chargers, Liuget's agent, Tony Fleming, told this blog that he didn't have much wiggle room in which to negotiate. Liuget was paid in line with the others drafted near his spot.

Ross's adviser, the player agent Joel Wolfe, gained an edge from big deals for draftees taken high in the first round and low in the second round.

When the signing deadline arrived Monday night, the Padres had inflated their offer to Ross by several hundred thousand dollars. They landed him for $2.75 million and smiled about it -- but they didn't feel good about the late helium.

A coincidence was that the Padres generated some of that helium -- gladly.

The day before the deadline, they reached a $3 million deal with their second-round pick, Austin Hedges, a catcher they rated a first-round talent.

Losing Ross would've hurt, but the Padres would've recouped a pick in the 25 range next June. That wouldn't be a bad consolation prize, even if the pick would be unprotected.

Losing Hedges would've stung far worse. A compensatory pick in the 82 range isn't much of a consolation prize for losing a defensive ace that Padres scouts viewed as a potential star.

The Padres were elated to sign Hedges, but his $3 million pricetag at a draft spot 57 picks later than Ross's helped to inflate the price on Ross.

Another wedge that Ross gained without throwing a pitch this summer was the four-year major league contract that UCLA junior Trevor Bauer got from the Diamondbacks in late July. Arizona drafted Bauer third overall. Three years ago, Bauer hadn't been eligible for the draft. Now, he was getting $4.45 million guaranteed and other goodies thrown in.

Look at my guy, Ross's adviser could say (and did say, according to the Padres). You drafted him 25th. He wants to go to UCLA. Three years from now, he might be in the same spot as Bauer. Better yet, he could climb as high as Gerrit Cole, the UCLA junior taken first overall by the Pirates in June three years after he spurned the Yankees, who had drafted him 30th overall.

The same day the Padres announced the signing of three high school players drafted from 25th to 82nd -- a spree that cost about $6.5 million and raised their outlay on this year's draft to $11 million, a club record --  a longtime hawk on draft spending was at Petco Park.

Sandy Alderson worked in the commissioner's office in the seven years before he became CEO of the Padres in May 2005. As such, he often scolded executives of clubs who had blown past the "slot" recommendations of Bud Selig.

"I think some of the things have gone over the top," Alderson, who became CEO of the Mets last year, told this blog this week.

Spending on draft picks by the 30 clubs "obliterated" the previous mark, reported Jim Callis of Baseball America. "Like a chemically enhanced Barry Bonds, major league teams crushed record after record at the Aug. 15 deadline for signing 2011 draft picks," Callis wrote.

MLB's management team and the players' union have laid groundwork for a new labor pact widely expected to get done this offseason without a labor stoppage.

Alderson, who is among the potential candidates to succeed Selig in a few years, said he was not part of those negotiations. He didn't say whether he wants NFL-like hard slotting for baseball's draftees.

"But," he said, "a lot of money was spent."

As the marketplace has spoken with increasing volume in recent years, it appears that teams such as the Red Sox got the jump years ago on the other teams, among them the Padres, Angels and Dodgers, that were less willing to invite Selig's wrath by busting slot recommendations.

Alderson framed it more as a matter of ethics than smarter investment.

"I wouldn't say they were ahead of the curve," he said of the early slot-busters, "but I think more and more clubs began to realize that they were being taken advantage of by those clubs that didn't adhere to the guidelines or felt different 'philosophically'.

"To me, it was a matter of taking advantage of the clubs who were more compliant with the commissioner's point of view," Alderson said.

"(But) at some point," he said, "the other clubs wake up and say, 'Why should I allow the other clubs to take advantage of us in a situation where it creates a competitive disadvantage?' "

The Red Sox' willingness to bust slot furthered the careers of two prominent members of this Padres baseball operations staff -- Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod -- and those of former Padres execs Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein, who joined the Sox about 10 years ago. Now Boston is gunning for its third World Series title in eight years with help from Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres' slugger traded last December for three prospects. Among those prospects was Casey Kelly, who signed for well-above slot after Boston drafted him in 2008.


The opportunity cost of not busting slot, if such a cost existed, varied from club to club and case by case. The scouting-strong Dodgers, for example, drafted and signed future stars such as Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw without angering the commissioner's office. But friends of Dodgers scouting chief Logan White, a former West Coast scouting supervisor for the Padres, wonder what he could've done if he had been allowed to bust slot as often as, say, the Red Sox.

The Dodgers of Frank McCourt are bobbing in red ink, making it a moot point now.

In contrast to the Padres this summer, the Dodgers played it safe in the draft. On behalf of the Dodgers' first selection, Scott Boras readily agreed to slot or close to it, which Boras does only if his leverage is close to nil (he did the same with Allan Dykstra, the failed first-round pick of the Padres in 2008 who wasn't on the top-75 of at least two other teams' draft boards.)

As Hoyer and McLeod no doubt exhaled in relief but not surprise, the cash-strapped Dodgers twice passed on Hedges, a consensus first-round talent who grew up in Orange County rooting for them.

Boras, who advised Hedges in negotiations with the Padres, was at Petco Park on Thursday for the teenage catcher's introduction to the San Diego media. At the end of the news conference, Boras was asked whether the MLB draft needed fixing.

"The scouting industry is probably one of the greatest strengths of major league baseball," he said. "I always think that if we have two drafts -- a college draft and a high school draft -- and I think we lessen the rounds of the draft, particularly with high school (players), you'd let these men be able to give greater focus on the selection of players. I think the efficiency of selections and the spending would go up if we did that."

But Boras wouldn't stop there.

"I'd like to remove the draft," he said. "Make everyone free agents."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Serious changes"

Will Venable's 400-foot drive caught by the Mets' Jason Pridie at Petco National Park on Wednesday would've gone for a home run if one Mets official had gotten his way.

"My point of view was the fences needed to be changed," Mets CEO Sandy Alderson told this blog 90 minutes before Pridie gloved Venable's blast against the right-center wall. "The park needed to be more hitter/pitcher neutral than it was."

Alderson had brought in the right-center fence after his first season as Padres CEO -- from 411 feet to 400 feet -- and later decided a bigger change was needed.

He never got the chance, losing his job when Jeff Moorad agreed to buy the Padres in March 2009 and took over as CEO.

"We were looking at it, yeah," Alderson said Wednesday afternoon, from outside Petco's visiting clubhouse. "We were looking at more serious changes than our first round of changes."

General manager Kevin Towers and others in baseball operations hadn't weighed in on the plan, however. "I can't say that we had gotten to the point where everyone was in agreement," Alderson said. "I don't know what Kevin's point of view would have been."

Alderson has said many times that in a baseball sense, a club is better off if its ballpark plays close to neutral. He didn't mind that Petco favored pitchers, but it was doing so in an extreme sense.

He also said that fans like to see the balls go over fences.

The Padres were losing fans in droves entering 2009. A drop in total ticket sales between 2007 and 2009, no doubt influenced by on-field dips and the Great Recession, amounted to about $30 million. The club's season ticket base was down to about 8,500, a Petco Park low that represented a withering 65 percent drop from the 20,000-plus season tickets when the park opened in 2004. Over a frosty four-month stretch, failed renewals among season-ticket holders wiped 6,500 plans off the season-ticket base in 2008-09.

The Padres since have made gains in the season tickets sales. And Alderson was watching last year when the team won 90 games, its most since 1998.

"I was happy for them last year," he said. "They had a great season. They did a nice job of putting it all together last year."


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Shoulder economics

Michael Kelly's bonus reduction on Monday recalled Tim Stauffer and 2003, although there are key differences. The Padres were set to pay Stauffer close to $2.5 million after drafting him fourth overall out of the University of Richmond. When Stauffer revealed a shoulder problem, his bonus was reduced to about $750,000.

Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod confirmed this blog's reporting that the Padres were prepared to pay Kelly at least $1 million, then reduced his bonus by at least $250,000 after looking at the MRI results of his right shoulder. McLeod said he felt bad for Kelly and his parents. He described them as impressive people. Kelly's strong intangibles were part of the Padres' decision to draft him 54th and offer him a bonus $280,000 or more above the commissioner office's recommendation for that slot.

Stauffer's bonus reduction was about seven times that of Kelly's, which likely reflects the level of concern raised by each shoulder issue. McLeod said Kelly will have no limitations put on him when he pitches in the instructional league next month. McLeod said the MRI "showed something" in Kelly's shoulder but also said that similar results are common for MRIs on pitchers' shoulders. Kelly, unlike Stauffer, didn't realize there was a shoulder issue.

"It's just a little something that came up (in the MRI)," Kelly said on Tuesday before throwing out a ceremonial pitch at Petco Park. "Nothing to worry about."

The Padres knocked nearly $2 million off Stauffer's bonus because they had reason to think he would need surgery. They opted for rest and strengthening exercises and deferred his pro debut until 2004. By May 2005 he was in the majors, but the righty bounced back and forth between Triple-A Portland and San Diego through 2007. 

Stauffer had surgery on his labrum (shoulder cartilage) and missed the 2008 season. Now, he is having his second good season in a row.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kelly MRI/Bonus

An MRI on the shoulder of pitcher Michael Kelly revealed something that led the Padres to reduce the draft pick's signing bonus by at least $250,000, this blog has learned. Kelly, taken 48th in June, will get $750,000 per the deal agreed to Monday night.

The Padres give MRI exams to draftees in line for a six-figure bonus, said assistant general manager Jason McLeod.

McLeod declined to specify what the MRI showed but said it wasn't atypical for a pitcher. He said the 6-foot-5 righty, who gave up a scholarship to the University of Florida, will pitch in the instructional league, starting in the third week of September.

"He has no restrictions," McLeod said. "He never felt it."









Monday, August 15, 2011

Padres land Hedges

The Padres and catcher Austin Hedges have reached a $3 million deal, this blog has learned.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Misery loves...

As you may have heard or read once or twice, the Padres don't have much to show for their first-round picks in the last two decades-plus. Leave it to the Cubs to share the misery. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune passes along this update on the Cubs' first-round blues:


In the 10 drafts post-Mark Prior, the Cubs haven’t had a single first-round pick establish himself as a big-league fixture. That’s one of the biggest reasons why they have lost so many games since making a free agent-driven run at the World Series in 2007 and ’08.

Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner are the only two first-rounders in that era to reach the big leagues, and the jury is out on both. The other six first-rounders: right-hander Bobby Brownlie, outfielder Ryan Harvey, left-hander Mark Pawelek, third baseman Josh Vitters, center fielder Brett Jackson and right-hander Hayden Simpson. The Cubs didnt have a first-rounder in 2004.
Jackson is going to get to Wrigley Field in 2012, if not before this season is over. He looks like a speed-power player who will be able to hit for enough of an average and be a solid enough fielder to have a long career.
Like Colvin, Vitters, Cashner, Simpson and 2011 first-rounder Javier Baez (who is still unsigned), Jackson was selected by the highly respected Tim Wilken, who did excellent work in Toronto and Tampa Bay. Wilken’s drafts have been slow to bear fruit but a marked improvement over those of his predecessor, John Stockstill.
Wilken isn’t afraid to take risks. He took a big one on Simpson, an under-sized right-hander from Southern Arkansas University, and you hope it was one based on talent, not just signability. The $1,060,000 the Cubs paid the 16th overall pick was $560,000 less than the Rays paid 17th pick Josh Sale, a high school outfielder from Seattle, and the second lowest of the top 30 picks.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Snapshot on draftees

When they drafted him in the second the round, the Padres knew it would be difficult to sign catcher Austin Hedges, the Scott Boras-advised UCLA recruit. Some teams deemed Hedges unsignable, and today comes word to this blog that UCLA believes it will get Hedges. The deadline is Aug. 15. Things can change. Things often do change under the pressure of a deadline. For what it's worth, however, the update this morning was the strongest pro-UCLA report to reach this blog since draft day. Confidence is also growing that pitcher Joe Ross, drafted by the Padres in the first round, will join Hedges in Westwood. Other major league clubs considered Ross the more signable of the two. He'd be pitching to a defensive wizard in Hedges. Before the Padres drafted Hedges, they sent three former major league catchers to evaluate him -- Brad Ausmus, A.J. Hinch and Brent Mayne. It appears they liked what they saw.

These are interesting times for Jeff Moorad, the Padres co-owner, Vice-Chairman and CEO. He is a UCLA man trying to overcome the lure of Westwood. At times, the obstacle is Alcindor-sized, as the Yankees discovered. Pitcher Gerrit Cole, a West Coast Bias subject in May 2010, spurned the Yankees a few years ago as a first-round selection. Cole, three years after enrolling at UCLA, was drafted first overall by the Pirates in June. You don't suppose UCLA pointed that out to Ross, do you? The Padres would get unprotected compensatory picks in the 2012 draft for not signing Hedges and Ross.






Sunday, August 7, 2011

Part of the core?

At some point, the Padres will have to decide whether Chase Headley is part of their long-term plan. Headley, for his part, tells this blog he wants to be a player the Padres can count on, year after year, both in terms of production and leadership. He admired how veterans such as Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein and Matt Stairs comported themselves. The 27-year-old, a former high school valedictorian, wants to set a similar example for many years to come in San Diego.

"I sure hope I get the opporutnity," Headley said last month. "I take a lot of pride in this organization; one, because I was drafted here; two, I was part of a team when I first got called up that lost close to 100 games, but then we turned it around.

"We aren't where we want to be this year," he said, "but I think we have an identity, an understanding of what type of team we want to be. Perfect world, I'd love to be part of that for a long time. Obviously there are a lot of things that have to happen to make that happen."

There's no rush to make a long-term decision on Headley, who is under the team's control for the next three seasons. His salary is on the rise, however, more so than the Padres expected a year ago. Because Headley qualified for "Super Two" arbitration last winter, he had extra leverage at the negotiating table and will so again this offseason. He'll command a big raise on this year's salary of $2.325 million.

With four home runs this year, Headley isn't yet the power hitter the Padres and he expected him to become, but he's on-basing at a .380 clip and has made himself him into a good basestealer. He's better than average defensively. He's come to grips with the realities of Petco National Park, which some hitters never do. He said he expects to show better power in seasons ahead. Yet, he said he's glad that he went less for home runs. (Broken pinky notwithstanding, he's on pace to set a career-high in doubles).

"In a general sense, even baseball has kind of maybe swung back that way a little bit, away from just the straight Monster Ball mentalities," he said. "There's more of a premium on defense. There's more of premium on baserunning and doing the little things to win."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Exec on Bell

Will the Padres trade Heath Bell?

"I see them keeping him," a National League exec from outside the West said today.

In this blog last month, the same man said that if the Padres wanted to trade Bell by the Trade Deadline, they should seek a return close to the value of two compensatory picks in next year's draft, but not necessarily equal in value to those picks. The Padres, meantime, said they need to get value equal to or greater than those two picks.

Today, the exec suggested that the Padres' "asking price was probably too high, which wasn't surprising."

He added, "They were obviously weighing it against two draft picks, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But there's significant cost involved -- Bell's remaining salary, signing bonuses for the (two draftees in 2012), the value of letting another reliever close."

Further, it wasn't certain in July that the Padres would get the two draft picks if they kept Bell. Ploy or not, Bell has said he would accept arbitration if a multi-year deal can't be worked out.

The exec said he is a "bit surprised the Padres weren't more motivated to save money (by moving Bell) given what they are expected to spend in signing bonus money this year" for over-slot draftees. The Strategic Thinkers did save more than $3 million by trading Ryan Ludwick and Mike Adams, and Jed Hoyer has said the club folded into this year's draft budget the $2 million in savings from not signing top pick Karsten Whitson last year.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bell complications

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com makes a good case for why the Padres should trade Heath Bell this month. In sum, it's the least undesirable of a raft of undesirable options. Read the story. Rosenthal games out the scenarios with aplomb. This blog doesn't disagree with Ken's conclusion, but for all the ground Ken covered, there's one option he didn't mention. It's a radical option, and it's one the Padres should consider. If the Padres decide to keep Bell into the offseason, they could make it known to Bell that if they offer him arbitration and he accepts it, they will consider releasing him should an arbitrator sets a salary that would be budget unfriendly. Yes, that would take spine. On top of being an All-Star closer, the Loveable Kook is a fan friendly guy (and one of this blog's favorite talkers of baseball). To many of their fans, the Padres would come off as cold and puny if they released Bell post-arbitration. It is, however, another potential move in the chess match. Sometimes the threat of a move is more effective than the move itself.

In May, this blog saw Bell being in another team's uniform by now. Did the Strategic Thinkers goof by not dealing him? Perhaps. We'll know more later. Leading up to the deadline, many prospective buyers may have doubted that Bell's heart would be in it. Bell loves being a Padre -- what pitcher doesn't? -- and he  wants to stay close to his wife, his four children and his father, who has cancer. The Doogster may want to call Angels GM Tony Reagins. As this blog wrote last month, here's why the Angels could make sense for a Bell trade. But now that it's August, it's a lot more complicated.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Big winners

You don't have to be Tony La Russa smart about baseball to know who the big winners were in the Mike Adams trade. The big winners were the two Rangers pitching prospects obtained by the Padres. Take that to the bank, people. Those two pitchers could do just that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Buyer's market

A pitcher who can keep the ball out of Petco National Park's left-field seats is well on his way to survival in a Padres uniform. Pitchers able to do this one simple thing are abundant, more so relief pitchers. Sounding like a school marm by now on this subject, this blog views relievers as a renewable currency for the Padres. None of this is to say the Padres are certain, or even likely, to soon find a reliever who matches Mike Adams, a setup ace with a lethal cut fastball. Adams did a whole lot more than keep the ball out of the left-field seats. But as we've seen, the Padres can find great value on relievers at the 99 Cents Only store. What a coincidence, then, that on the same day that Adams gets traded, the Padres call up a reliever who cost them how much? About 99 cents. Erik Hamren, the righty promoted from Double-A on Sunday, was signed out of a tryout camp. The price on such moves usually is one dollar. Hamren, 24, "throws 90-94 (mph) and has a swing-and-miss breaking ball," says Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod. Maybe Hamren gets jocked by big league hitters, or can't find the plate. But it shouldn't surprise if he zips along for some time with a low ERA. (For an entire calendar year, Cla Meredith , a minor leaguer thrown into the Mirabellli trade, had an ERA half a run lower than anyone else in the majors.) Maybe Hamren lockers next to fellow reliever Joe Thatcher. The Brewers signed Thatcher out of a tryout camp, and he became a key cog for last year's Padres team that won 90 games.