The face of the Padres

It is almost undoubtedly Adrian Gonzalez. He’s an offensive force, a solid defender, a cerebral player. He’s cheap and in the prime of his career.

He’s the face of the Padres, the franchise player.

That’s a little bit like being the face of the Bad News Bears (before they got good), though. It is tough to, as a Padres’ fan, make a case for trading Gonzalez. He’s one of the few guys that you’d pay a ticket to see. He’s one of the better hitters in the game, arguably. However, everybody wants to win. While Gonzalez is fun to watch, this team isn’t, even with him on it.

Dealing Gonzalez would almost certainly make the Padres even less fun to watch this season, and likely next season as well. But it would possibly improve their chances of winning down the line – think maybe 2011 and beyond. By dealing Gonzalez, the Padres could add some players that will be under team-control (and cheap) for six years. While Gonzalez is also signed cheaply, he’s only signed through 2011. By then, the Padres may  field a competitive team again, but Gonzalez will be two years older and ready to command some big dollars (and most of his trade value will be evaporated).

The Padres could hold onto him for the next two years+ and treat fans to his excellent play, regardless of the overall performance of the team. Or they could trade him now, with his value sky high, and bring in a few potential franchise-changing players. If that seems like an easy decision, it isn’t.

Say Gonzalez is traded and turns in a Hall-of-Fame-like career in, say, Boston. And the prospects that come to San Diego flame out. Ouch. You’ve traded your best player and have nothing to show for it. There’s also of course a chance that Gonzalez comes back to earth, slowly begins to decline, and the Padres pick up a cost-controlled cornerstone player or two in the trade. There are also another hundred or so scenarios in between those two extremes that may play out.

Trading Gonzalez is likely still a long shot – he’s the face of the franchise — but there’s no reason not to consider it. If the Padres think they can compete next year or even put together a real contender by 2011, it makes some sense to hold onto Adrian. But if this is going to be a lengthy rebuilding process, there’s reason to consider trading the best player on the team (and other guys of value like Heath Bell and Kevin Kouzmanoff).

Gonzalez’s value, on a terrible team, is not being maximized. On a playoff contender, he’s much more valuable, as he adds considerably to the team’s chances of making the playoffs (and how well they perform once they get there). And the Padres, rather than essentially “wasting” some of Gonzalez’s best years, can take a few years to develop the prospects they receive for Adrian, and have them ready for a prolonged run when 2011 or 2012 come around.

Over the next few days, the Padres have some big decisions to make. I’m glad I just get to blog about them.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sdpads1 on July 29, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I think there is an easy solution to it (well easy for a normal Joe Schmo like you or I-not so easy for the front office). Wait until the off-season, start discussing a long term deal with him, see if it’s possible to sign him to one, if it’s not then trade him. His trade value should be around the same since I really don’t see a team wanting to pay to much more for half a season extra. Yes there is the occasional great haul on in season trades but I think the majority of the great deals have come during the off-season. Adrian has a little more value financially to a team like ours though having ties to both San Diego & Mexico. If only he had a personality they could build a whole marketing campaign around him. Also I think it all depends on whether or not they keep Peavy or CY next year. If we have a rotation next year of Peavy, CY, Latos, Gallagher & Coreia/Gaudin/Carillo/Ramos I think they can easily compete next year. Our bullpen should be solid next year too so it will take us back to the great pitching teams that we have had in recent years which all were able to compete year in and year out.

  2. Posted by jay on July 29, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Adrian Gonzalez is one of a handful of players (Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, etc) that are virtually untradeable. The combination of elite player skill set with a long-term below market contract creates a near-impossible matchup situation. Look at how difficult it is to match up for Halladay, then realize Adrian is younger, less expensive, signed long-term, less injury risk as a position player, Gold Glove–his absolute value is measurable but his relative value is off the chart. But it can’t happen because no team can give enough in value without gutting their team.

  3. Posted by Myron on July 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    sdpads, good points. Makes sense. The only reason I’d like trading him now, rather than waiting to the offseason, is because I think he’d have a good bit more value. A team gets two extra months out of him — and those two extra months are “high leverage” months, where Adrian could have a pretty large impact on a team’s playoffs chances.

    jay, thanks for the comment — welcome to the site. I disagree a little bit on Adrian’s value. He is “only” signed through 2011, and while he’s a great player, I don’t think he has the value of a guy like Hanley Ramirez. I see Adrian more in the second tier, in terms of trade value — mostly because he’s only signed through 2011 and he plays first base (plus his fielding is not great, by the numbers … much closer to average than people think).

    Mostly because of those reasons, I don’t give him the “untouchable” label.

  4. Gonzalez value will not change if the Padres hold onto him for the rest of this season or even for all of 2010.

    His contract runs through 2011 so he will still be an incredible bargain to go along with being one of the better power hitting players in the league.

    Fielding metrics for 1B do not take into account how well he catches balls thrown to him, only how well he catches balls HIT to him. He is one of the best at picking balls out of the dirt.

  5. Posted by Myron on July 30, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Web, I can’t see how his trade value won’t drop if the Padres hold onto him for the rest of this season, or especially for all of 2010. In 2010 he makes $4.75 million, and he’ll probably be worth $15-20 million on the free agent market. If the Padres decide to keep him for 2010, they’ll essentially only be trading one year of his production (2011), rather than two years (or 2.33 years if they trade him now). The longer the Padres hold onto him, the more they receive his great production, but the further his trade value drops.

  6. The other thing I think about when talking about Adrian is that teams do not pitch to him (well smart teams dont). With Kouz, Headley, and Blanks starting to hit it might be harder to pitch around Adrian, but put him in the Boston lineup with Elsbury, Pedroia, Big Papi, Bay, etc… and not only are they not pitching around him, but they are more likely to throw him fastballs.
    If the Padres do trade Adrian right now the only team that has a chance is the Red Sox. If the Padres can get Clay Bucholtz, Michael Bowdon, and a couple other prospects, then the Padres just became thee best young rotation in the majors. I think you have to make a trade like that

    And faces change, I wouldnt be surprised to see Latos, Cabrera, and Blanks as the new face of the Padres by mid 2010

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