Should the Padres trade Kevin Kouzmanoff?

Overshadowed by the Adrian Gonzalez Trade Rumor Saga, the Padres have some other key decisions to make this offseason, like what to do with Kevin Kouzmanoff and Heath Bell. Kouzmanoff has quietly gone about his business, and posted three consecutive solid years, averaging just over 2.5 WAR per season (via FanGraphs).

His offense hasn’t taken off as expected, but at the same time he’s improved his defense. He has very much defined himself as an average to slightly above average player. Fortunately for the Padres, Kouz is under control for the next three years (arbitration eligible), making him relatively valuable.

If we do a quick-and-dirty projection, and run some numbers, we can get an estimate of his surplus value:

Kouz Proj. WAR FA Salary Proj. Salary Surplus Value
2010 2.5 $12m $5m $7m
2011 2.5 $13m $8m $5m
2012 2 $11.5m $9m $2.5m
Total 7 $36.5m $22m $14.5m

 

I’m assuming free agents make $4.8 million per marginal win, increasing at 10% per year due to inflation, and that a arb-eligible player makes 40% of his free agent value in his first year of arbitration., 60% in his second, and 80% in his third (all this based on Tangotiger’s work).

So, Kouzmanoff is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-15 million, in my rough estimation. Obviously, that could go up or down depending on your projection over the next three years, or what salary figures you use. We’re just getting a baseline here. Anyway, he clearly has some value, and could fill in a third base hole for a lot of teams. The question remains, though, and that is still: should the Padres look to trade him?

I think the answer is yes, and it is largely due to factors not really about Kouzmanoff. First, the Padres have Chase Headley ready to take over at third. Headley is younger than Kouzmanoff, he’s under control for an extra year, and he’s arguably just as good. Looking at the CHONE projections, for instance, Headley is projected at +6 offensive runs, while Kouzmanoff comes in at –2. Now, it is certainly a question mark whether Headley will put those numbers up for a full season, and if his fielding can compare with Kouz’s, but overall he’s a comparable player. By trading Kouz, the Padres can bring Headley back to his normal position at third, and go fill in the outfield with someone better suited to play there.

A second reason to trade Kouzmanoff is the Padres current prospects for the next few years. They really aren’t expected to compete, so a slight – or even significant – downgrade at third is not really going to matter all that much. It might give them 75 wins rather than 77, but it likely isn’t going to cost a playoff berth. The Pads can trade Kouz to a team on the playoff bubble – hopefully enticing them to overpay for his services – and make the most out of their situation. Basically, Kouzmanoff fits better on a playoff contender, and prospects are better suited for the Padres right now, as they will hopefully be ready to contribute when the Pads begin to seriously compete again.

The interesting thing here is that we could very well be having this discussion next year, surrounding Chase Headley and his potential replacements in guys like Logan Forsythe and James Darnell. The idea for the Padres here is to not worry about maximizing their expected win total in the coming season, but rather to put together a group of players that will be ready to make a run in a few years.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. “Headley is younger than Kouzmanoff, he’s under control for an extra year, and he’s arguably just as good. Looking at the CHONE projections”

    Read that as “arguably just as good looking”.

  2. Posted by Myron on November 17, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    No way! I think Kouzmanoff has the biggest girl following at GLB.

  3. Word is Clayton Richard is quite the hunk.

  4. Posted by Loren on November 18, 2009 at 2:06 am

    I think most people agree that Kouz should be going but the questions are where should he be going and what would we get back for him? Off the top of my head I’m thinking the Twins, the Reds, the Athletics perhaps, the Phillies? But what are we looking for in return?

    Also re: Forsythe and Darnell, I don’t know if they are really going to stay at that position. Darnell hits like crazy but he makes WAY too many errors at the lower levels. Forsythe is good with the glove but can’t hit for power. Reminds me too much of Sean Burroughs.

  5. @ Loren

    Yes, but which is better looking?

  6. Posted by Tom Waits on November 18, 2009 at 11:52 am

    @Loren

    There was talk of both Darnell and Forsythe moving off 3b before they were drafted; Darnell to a corner OF spot, Forsythe to 2b or C. Darnell supposedly SHOULD be better defensively at 3b than he is. As Kevin Goldstein says, his tools suggest that he’d defend better than he does.

    The issue is probably more art than science — if Jayson Werth or Carlos Delgado could have stayed at catcher, they’d have been far more valuable, but if you wait too long, you get Sean Burroughs doing The Robot at second base. Figuring out when to make the switch isn’t easy.

    I’m less interested in a specific return for Kouzmanoff than in a good return. What I mean is, I wouldn’t target only starting pitchers even though that’s the area of greatest need.

  7. Posted by Myron on November 18, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Loren, I agree with Tom generally, that the Padres don’t need to target a certain position. I don’t think the Pads are close enough to competing yet to worry too much about that. For an idea of what type of value the Padres can get back, check this out: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/3/777412/al-west-farm-system-values

    If Kouz is worth $15 million in surplus value, the Padres should get back a top 50-75 hitter (ranked by BA) or basically any top tier pitching prospect. Or if they could go for multiple prospects, they could get a top 76-100 pitcher and a grade B hitter (by Sickels).

    Of course, that is far from set in stone, but it is a good starting point.

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