Monday, September 22, 2014

The Awful Padres Trade No One Talks About

Do you remember the last time the Padres were buyers at the trade deadline? If not, it is a completely forgivable offense, since it was in 2010. Back then, the Padres had Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup and Mat Latos in the rotation. David Eckstein was the scrappy veteran second baseman and Tony Gwynn Jr. was patrolling center field.

Those scrappy Padres had a paltry payroll of $37 million, but were the best team in the National League for most of the season. Those 2010 Padres, much like today's current squad, were desperate for offense. They pulled off a couple of deals to boost an anemic offense.

First, they traded highly regarded pitching prospect Wynn Pelzer to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for shortstop Miguel Tejada. Pelzer was the Padres #7 prospect at the time of the trade (according to Baseball America) and was projected to be the Padres closer of the future.

The next day the Padres shipped out minor league pitchers Nick Greenwood and Corey Kluber in a three-team deal. The Padres received power-hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick in return. Jake Westbrook ended up in St. Louis. Oh, and yes, that Corey Kluber ended up in Cleveland.

Ludwick did next to nothing in San Diego, as the team missed the playoffs in 2010, in part because of a 10-game losing streak towards the end of the year. Naturally, the Padres were awful in 2011, and Ludwick was moved to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

At the time of the trade, Kluber was not considered a top prospect. He was the Padres fourth round pick in 2007, taken in the same draft as Cory Luebke and the aforementioned Pelzer. Kluber was merely a guy in the Padres system.

In Kluber's first full season of pro ball, he threw 141.1 innings, pitching to a 4.90 ERA in Single-A, doing work for both the Storm and Tincaps. He did show the ability to miss bats, but not the ability to impress the scouting brass of the Padres system.

In 2010, when Kluber was traded, he was throwing very well for Double-A San Antonio. He had a 6-6 record, with a 3.45 ERA. After the trade, Kluber advanced to Triple-A with Cleveland, but didn't show the type of abilities to believe the Padres made a terrible move.

Then, as an article in Sports Illustrated chronicled, Kluber stopped throwing his four-seam fastball. Kluber had difficulty locating the pitch, and his results suffered because of his lack of command. Kluber had the ability to command his two-seamer, and it danced all over the strike zone. His ability to command his nasty sinker led to his rise to stardom.

This year, Kluber might be the best pitcher in baseball, not named Clayton Kershaw. Kluber leads the American League in strikeouts, is 2nd in innings and wins. Kluber might be the leading candidate for Cy Young Award in the American League. Perhaps it was a tweak to have Kluber throw his two-seamer more often. Maybe the Indians coaching staff was able to make adjustments to Kluber's delivery that allowed him to maximize his abilities.

From the Padres perspective, the team traded a decent pitching prospect for a bat they thought would protect star slugger Adrian Gonzalez in a pennant race. It didn't work out.

The trade has left Friar fans to dream of a rotation of Cashner, Kluber, Ross and Kennedy. One could argue that that pitching staff might be one of the finest in baseball. Even with the anemic offense the Padres feature, the team would likely be more competitive and fun to watch.

For what it is worth, Pelzer never pitched in the bug leagues, and played the 2014 season in the independent Atlantic League with the Camden Riversharks. Nick Greenwood, the other pitcher the Padres traded, has reached the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jake Westbrook has retired, Ludwick is in Cincinnati. The Indians won this deal quite handily.

That is the beauty of baseball. Sometimes you never know those prospects you give up in trades. Sometimes you trade a Wynn Pelzer. Other times its a Corey Kluber. The Indians scouting department and minor league coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for developing Kluber into the beast he is today.

Many Padres fans always remember the awful trades the team has made over the years. Moving Adrian Gonzalez, Roberto Alomar, Jake Peavy and Fred McGriff among many others. I loathe the day that a young, nasty, controllable ace like Corey Kluber was dealt away for an unproductive outfielder. It is indeed, the awful trade no one talks about.

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