A’s Trade Drew Pomeranz to Padres for Yonder Alonso

With the non-tender deadline approaching on Wednesday, deals for arbitration-eligible players were going to be much more likely than the big free-agent contract we saw the Boston Red Sox hand David Price on Tuesday. Teams, especially small-market teams like the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, have a tendency to move around players whose production on the field is becoming less valuable relative to the increasing expense (due to arbitration) of employing those players. The A’s and Padres completed a four-player deal on Wednesday. Not surprisingly, three of the four players were arbitration-eligible. The Padres will receive starter-turned-reliever Drew Pomeranz and minor-leaguer Jose Torres while the A’s will receive first baseman Yonder Alonso and lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

The motivations for both clubs are fairly transparent. Last season, the Padres attempted an experiment that involved putting Wil Myers in center field and putting Matt Kemp and Justin Upton alongside him. The experiment did not go well. Myers, who had been a right fielder, was ill-equipped to handle center field. Placing the poor defense of Matt Kemp next to him did not help matters. The Padres have apparently seen the error of their ways and will not attempt a similar alignment next season. Myers recently said he would prefer to play first base, and this trade will allow him to do so and leave the Padres open to pursuing a new center fielder while they spend a few years waiting for Manuel Margot.

In dealing both Alonso and Rzepczynski, the Padres also clear about $5.5 million in projected salary while only taking on $1.3 million for Pomeranz. After clearing the salaries of Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, the Padres have around $80 million committed to next season, including arbitration-eligible players. Even if they take a small step back from their $108 million Opening Day payroll from last season, that still leaves the Padres room to make significant additions to the roster — additions they need to make based on their current position player depth chart.

San Diego Padres Position Player Depth Chart Projections
Derek Norris 414 0.240 0.312 0.390 -1.2 0 2
Wil Myers 595 0.256 0.329 0.432 8.8 0.9 2
Cory Spangenberg 595 0.260 0.308 0.371 -7 -0.1 1.5
Matt Kemp 570 0.268 0.325 0.450 10.6 -8.5 1.4
Jedd Gyorko 515 0.243 0.302 0.407 -1.3 -5.3 1.4
Yangervis Solarte 581 0.261 0.317 0.383 -2 -4.1 1.2
Travis Jankowski 525 0.259 0.313 0.348 -8.4 -2.3 0.9
Brett Wallace 230 0.248 0.307 0.403 -0.6 -1.2 0.4
Austin Hedges 256 0.218 0.265 0.326 -10.7 0.4 0.3
Jose Pirela 126 0.261 0.308 0.376 -1.2 -0.9 0.2
Alex Dickerson 203 0.250 0.301 0.393 -1.7 -0.4 0.2
Rymer Liriano 327 0.234 0.302 0.357 -5.4 -0.3 0.2
Melvin Upton 525 0.213 0.288 0.349 -13.5 1.7 0.2
Alexi Amarista 350 0.231 0.284 0.332 -12.1 -1.4 0.1
Manuel Margot 14 0.242 0.287 0.353 -0.4 0 0
Jose Rondon 14 0.242 0.281 0.318 -0.5 0 0
Total 5840 0.247 0.307 0.383 -46.5 -21.3 12.1

With Justin Upton gone, the Padres do not have a single hitter currently projected for a WAR greater than two at this time. While things do look better for the Padres on the pitching side, their position players look mostly abysmal. The Padres’ return in the deal, Drew Pomeranz, should help — either in the rotation or in the bullpen — while Jose Torres is a 22-year-old left-handed reliever who pitched well last season, mostly in Low-A ball after his development as a starter faltered.

Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick in the amateur draft back in 2010 by Cleveland, was a part of the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies to Cleveland, and was then later traded to the A’s in the move that sent Brett Anderson to Colorado. He’s split time between the bullpen and rotation since coming to Oakland before the 2014 season, and has performed reasonably well. Over 19 starts, he has pitched 97 innings with a solid 3.53 ERA and decent 3.91 FIP and a 21.4% strikeout rate. He has made 54 relief appearances the last two seasons with his strikeout rate jumping to 25.8% to go along with a 2.33 ERA and 3.32 FIP. Pomeranz did have “minimally invasive” arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder after he was shut down late in the season, so the potential for a solid outcome is tempered somewhat with the injury concerns.

The A’s end of the deal might seem curious, as they surrendered the cheaper, potentially more valuable player along with a potential reliever, but this move should help the A’s with their payroll as well. Last season, Oakland brought in Ike Davis as a potential left side of a platoon at first base. Davis never got going, hitting .229/.301/.350 in 239 plate appearances before missing the end of the season with a torn hip labrum that required surgery. Davis was likely to make nearly $4 million in arbitration if he had been tendered a contract.

Yonder Alonso, like Davis, is also left-handed, and will make a little over half of what Davis was set to earn. Since joining the Padres before the 2012 season, Alonso has been a roughly average first baseman with the glove and a slightly above average bat. Last season in 402 plate appearances, he hit .282/.361/.381 with a 111 wRC+, taking walks and rarely striking out. Most of his plate appearances the past few years have been against right-handed pitching, and that is likely to continue in Oakland.

Rzepczynski is a fungible left-handed reliever who was about to make a bit more money than the Padres were willing to pay. In 345.1 big league innings since his 2009 debut with Toronto, Rzpecynski has a recorded a 3.96 ERA, 3.80 FIP and 2.5 WARs. He had a bloated 5.66 ERA last season covering 35 innings of 72 appearances, but his 3.36 FIP was solid. He does have a bit of a platoon split making him a bit of a LOOGY over the past couple years.

After adding Jed Lowrie and making these moves, the A’s have still committed just $60-$65 million in salaries for next season including arbitration-eligible players. Last season, the team’s Opening Day payroll was a bit north of $80 million so presumably the A’s still have room to address other weaknesses. With Billy Burns in center field and Coco Crisp in left, the outfield could likely use a bit of help. The rotation might benefit from an additional arm even with the addition of Rich Hill as the rotation has a few question marks.

Oakland A’s Starting Pitching Depth Charts Projections
Sonny Gray 210 7.5 2.8 3.69 3.62 3.5
Rich Hill 181 8.8 4.1 3.98 4.00 2.2
Jesse Hahn 163 7.0 2.9 3.97 3.88 2.2
Kendall Graveman 128 5.7 2.8 4.44 4.36 1.0
Sean Nolin 122 6.2 3.5 4.60 4.64 0.6
Chris Bassitt 75 7.2 3.2 4.05 4.14 0.8
Aaron Brooks 45 5.6 2.1 4.37 4.37 0.3
Felix Doubront 38 7.3 3.2 4.03 4.09 0.4
Jarrod Parker 9 6.3 2.6 4.35 4.36 0.1
Total 972 7.1 3.2 4.08 4.06 11.1

All in all, this is a relatively minor move involving some names that might have been bigger in the past (except for Rzepczynski — his name is still big). Yonder Alonso and Drew Pomeranz are both decent major league players and they fit a bit better at their payroll numbers on their new teams. The Padres get a a solid reliever with some potential to be a starter, while the A’s get an above-average hitter still on the right side of 30 at a lower cost than their current first baseman. One side might get the better end when it comes to results, but right now, the deal seems pretty fair.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Larry Bernandez
Larry Bernandez

I still think the idea of trading for Bumgarner, and using him as a 1B 4/5 of the time would work better.