Scott Hairston’s FanGraphs’ Legend Just Keeps Growing

You know, if teams would stop making transactions involving Scott Hairston, maybe we wouldn’t do so many posts about him…

Hairston, who knows the way from San Diego-to-Oakland-and-back quite well, recently settled with the Padres for $2.45 million dollars, avoiding arbitration. Hairston was traded by the Padres to Oakland during the 2009 season, then was traded back to the Padres a few weeks ago along with outfielder Aaron Cunningham. A player in his second year of arbitration is generally expected to get 60 percent of his open market value. Assuming a $3.5 million dollar current market value of a marginal win, Hairston, who will turn 30 in May, is getting paid as if he’s a bit more than a 1 WAR player.

Offensively, Hairston makes up for his below average walk rate and contact skills with good power. CHONE projects Hairston for .254/.315/.448 in San Diego, or two runs above average per 150 games in context-neutral linear weights. Defensively, Hairston has been above average in both center and left according to UZR. I have Hairston as a +2/150 position-neutral outfielder — that is, average as a center fielder, +10/150 on the corners.

Per 150 games Hairston projects as a 2.4 WAR player (+2 offense +2 fielding +20 replacement). However, Hairston has had problems staying healthy, never having played more than the 116 games he appeared in during 2009. The Fans notice this, and project him for 115 games in 2009. At that rate, he’s about a 1.8 WAR player. So this is a good deal for the Padres, depending on how they use him.

Hairston is a useful player at a price the rebuilding Padres can afford. Yet one wonders how long he’ll be in San Diego. The Padres are clearly at the beginning of a rebuilding process. At 30, Hairston is likely declining. Moreover, the Padres have a group of younger outfielders with more upside and years of team control: Tony Gwynn (27), Kyle Blanks (23), and Cunningham (24). (Will Venable (27) and Chad Huffman (25) might be in the conversation, but I’ll leave that to the prospect mavens.) Having Hairston around as a 4th OF or insurance in case, e.g., Cunningham isn’t ready, isn’t a terrible idea, but it’s not as if that is going to be the difference between the Padres and the playoffs this year. With his team-friendly contract, Hairston has more value to San Diego is a trade chip who wouldn’t be missed by the Padres (other than maybe his brother Jerry) as the Padres look ahead.

Hairston’s handedness also makes a difference. It’s easy to see a number of teams who could use a right-handed-hitting outfielder. I don’t want to exaggerate platoon issues, but teams with designs on contention such as the Yankees, Mariners, and A’s have been (or should be) looking for a right-handed bat for the outfield. Of course, the Yankees and Mariners have sort of addressed those needs with Randy Winn (although he’s a switch-hitter) and Ryan Garko (although he’s a 1B/DH). The A’s, of course, traded Hairston in the first place to address their hole at third base (in many ways, Kevin Kouzmanoff is a third base version of Hairston). Those are just a few examples. Given the distribution of handedness among outfielder/infielders, along with Hairston’s abilities and contact, it’s not hard to see him being part of a trade that helps both a trade partner’s present and the Padres’ future.

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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12 years ago

*Shrek Hairston’s Fangraph Legend Just Keeps Growing