San Diego– A.J. Preller is at it again, this time trading away the elite talent he acquired for his own prospects last season for replacement prospects, freeing up salary to either sign some of this years marquee free agents, or sign several players to allow for more depth within the organization.
The Padres dealt from a position of strength, trading both their set-up man and closer in consecutive days.
Thursday, November 12th
Joaquin Benoit was shipped to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday in exchange for prospects Enyel De Los Santos (Class A LHP) and Nelson Ward (Class A INF).
Benoit, considered one of the top relievers in the majors for the last several years despite being 38 years old, posted a 2.34 ERA in 65 innings with 63 strikeouts in 2015. Over the last six seasons, the last two with San Diego, Benoit has a 2.35 ERA with 422 strikeouts in 379 innings. He has played parts of the last 13 seasons with Texas, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and San Diego.
Envel De Los Santos, 19, had a nice first season in professional baseball for the Mariners rookie team and Class A Everett (Washington). over the course of 13 combined starts De Los Santos posted a 3.47 ERA to go along with 71 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Nelson Ward, 23, a 12th round pick in 2014, split time between Class A Clinton and Class A Bakersfield in 2015. over 122 games Ward hit .278/.365/.436 with 19 doubles, 13 triples, nine home runs, and 13 stolen bases.
Benoit will improve a bullpen for Seattle that ranked 19th in the majors in runs allowed and tied for 22nd in save percentage.
Friday, November 13th
The Padres arguably got back what they traded away last year and then some in a trade that saw All Star closer Craig Kimbrel head east to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for four top prospects in the Sox organization that includes RHP Logan Allen, OF Manuel Margot, INF Javier Guerra and INF Carlos Asuaje.
Kimbrel has been one of the games top closers the last five seasons compiling 225 saves and a career ERA of just 1.63. Kimbrel was acquired the day before Opening Day 2015 along with Melvin Upton Jr. from Atlanta for Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin, and prospects. Kimbrel had a “down” year with the Padres posting a 2.58 ERA with 39 saves in 43 opportunities. Most of his bad appearances came in non save situations.
Kimbrel is owed $37 million dollars over the next three seasons, including a 2018 team option at $13 million with a $1 million buyout. Kimbrel is owed $11 million for the 2016 season.
Shortstop Javier Guerra was one of the key pieces in trading for Kimbrel as he instantly becomes the Padres number one prospect. Guerra was considered the 5th overall prospect in the Red Sox organization.
Guerra boasts an average bat with slightly above average power, finishing 2015 with 15 home runs while hitting .279/.329/.449 at just 19 years old. He has below average speed with plus defense and an arm that could be considered elite. He was signed by the Red Sox out of Panama, having shown advanced instincts and defense for a young prospect. His 15 home runs took scouts by surprise as he was known more for his defensive skills than his bat. Guerra seems fluid in the field making most plays look easy and shows considerable field awareness by making spectacular plays.
Javier Guerra’s combinations of above average defense and the potential to hit 15 or more home runs gives him a particularly high ceiling, although his strikeout rate is of slight concern as he struck out a combined 23.5% (33.8% against lefties). If he can improve his plate discipline he projects to be a top MLB shortstop.
Manuel Margot was another big piece in the trade for Kimbrel. He was ranked as the number 7 overall prospect in the Red Sox system. Margot has an average bat with plus speed and plus defensive ability. In 110 games in 2015 he hit .276/.324/.419 with six home runs and 39 stolen bases. His manager with Salem, Carlos Febles, said Margot reminded him of former teammate Carlos Beltran. His defensive skills seem ready for the major league level in center field as of now, but most scouts think he could benefit from a lengthier time in Triple A to learn how to handle pitchers attacking him with advanced mixes of pitches.
Logan Allen comes over to San Diego as a LHP that has drawn comparisons to Jon Lester. His fastball runs in the low 90’s with an above average changeup and curveball. Allen was the Red Sox 7th ranked prospect overall and 4th best starting pitching prospect.
Carlos Aguaje showed promise in 2014 hitting .310/.393/.533 between Single A Greenville and High A Salem. 2015 was a different story as he struggled at Double A Portland posting a .251/.334/.374 line with eight home runs and 38 extra base hits in 110 games. He struggled most agains lefties, hitting just .216. He’s played second base, left field, third base, and shortstop so he projects as utility man at the major league level.
Preller sent a pair of prospects and a draft pick to Atlanta in the deal that netted him Kimbrel on the eve of the 2015 MLB season, but his return on investment might be better than what he gave up in the first place.
“If he came here and performed like he’s really always performed,” said Preller, “if we got to a point in the next few years that we wanted to turn the asset around we were going to be able to recoup a lot of value and put the organization in a better spot.”
The Padres freed up close to $20 million by dealing both Kimbrel and Benoit. While trades involving James Shields, Tyson Ross, or Andrew Cashner are still possible to free up more money to help improve the roster and continue to put the Padres closer to their goal of the first World Series title in team history.
Follow Jake Harman on Twitter for more news surrounding the San Diego Padres, San Diego Chargers, SDSU football and baseball.
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