We often talk about players who may make nice trade bait come July. We’ve done it twice in the recent weeks on this very site (Huston Street, Carlos Quentin). Yet, we don’t always talk about the untouchables. We don’t focus on who the Padres should avoid trading at all costs. There are those player so integral to the rebuilding process, trading them away for any number of highly-touted prospects would still hinder the organization. We don’t discuss these things, because – quite frankly – the organization doesn’t care.
I’m not one who believes the Anthony Rizzo trade was a bad one, but I know there is an entire legion of Padres fans who feel trading away their top prospect was a big mistake no matter who the Padres thought they had in Yonder Alonso. Regardless of my views, the Rizzo trade is an example of what most teams in the rebuilding process DO NOT do and what the SHOULD NOT do. With that trade in mind, and the Mat Latos trade – another hotly contested trade by Padres fans – in mind, let’s focus on the current untouchables in the organization.
*For the sake of the piece, I will only focus on players who have not been signed to long-term extensions.
As much as people like to joke about Headley being labeled the Padres’ “star,” the fact is, he has been their best player over the last three years. He’s never going to have huge power numbers. For one, he’s a switch hitter. Two, well, you know two (PETCO). What he will do is play solid defense at third, his for a decent average, get on base, and lace doubles throughout the park.
Look at Headley’s numbers over the last three years. No other Padres player has accumulated more Wins Above Replacement. Healdey has been worth 6.6 WAR over the last three years. No one else on the team has been kept around long enough to eclipse that, and those who have been mainstays, have not been worth nearly as much.
Beyond WAR, though, Headley’s numbers show a player who has learned how to hit in San Diego. He may not like it, but he has figured it out. Aside from a dip in 2010, Headley has raised his OBP in every year since 2008. And I would argue OBP is more important that batting average. This season, Headley is continuing his upward trend. His OPS+ is currently 12 points higher than last year at 132 (although I understand it’s still early).
As much as the team seems confident in the players they have to replace Headley, and as much as Headley may cost to extend, he has to be one that the Padres lock up and do not trade. He is literally and figuratively the cornerstone of this team. Call Cameron Maybin the face of the organization, but in all honesty, it should be Headley.
I can almost see the eyes rolling now. I can hear the cynicism. ”Alonso is terrible at defense.” ”Alonso can’t hit
home runs.” ”Alonso is slow.” I know the arguments, and I also know that he has not had nearly enough time to be evaluated fully on the Major League level, but he should be untouchable right now. This is not to say he deserves a contract extension just yet. Let’s see how this season goes and how the start to next season goes, then we can talk contracts. For now, I will simply suggest that Alonso should not be available on the trade market no matter the haul the Padres may get.
Alonso’s career average K% (including the minors) is 19.9%. In his limited time with the Reds last season Alonso struck out 21.4%. So far this season, he has been able to reduce his K% to just 15.1%. He’s already had more plate appearances for San Diego than he did for Cincinnati, so I’m inclined to put more value on the numbers as a Padre. His power number, as expected, are lower – .396 SLG this year compared with .545 last year. However, he is still proving to be a valuable player. His wRC+ are 120 as of now.
Alonso has shown in the last couple weeks that he can get hot. He will need to show that he can sustain it to win over most fans. In addition, his glove will need to improve. But the defense seems to be more a product of everyone around him rather than his own bad ball-handling skills. He’s never been a great defender, but he hasn’t been as bad as he’s shown so far this year. Unless the Padres get a ridiculous offer for him, Alonso needs to be a building block and as far away from the trading block as possible.
Here’s where the list will surely get criticized. Setting aside the fact that Wieland is now heading to the disabled list like every other Padres pitcher, in my book, Wieland is better than what he’s shown so far. And that’s saying something considering the few dominating performances he’s had mixed in with the poor ones. His ERA is not indicative of where he will finish the year. In fact, he’s already fared better in the Majors than he did in his brief time at Triple-A.
Wieland is young, he was called up sooner than the Padres wanted, and he has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s the type of player the Padres can build around and may become one of the best pitchers on the staff. The reason he needs to be untouchable though is not necessarily because of what he’s done so far, but what he can do given some time.
With the right circumstances around him, Wieland can gain the confidence to be a long-time starter for the Padres. He doesn’t walk many batters, strikes out enough batters, and if he can reduce his HR/FB percentage, he will get even better. Wieland is another player like Alonso where a contract extension is not necessary, but developmental time on the big league staff is. Trading him away would be a mistake.
There aren’t many other players who have shown enough to be considered completely untouchable in the Padres organization. Jedd Gyorko was highly though of, but he has struggled this year. Casey Kelly‘s elbow injury is troubling. Andy Parrino is hot and cold. Anthony Bass may be better suited for the bullpen. These are are developing story lines. The Padres have a great farm system, but until these player reach the Major League club, it would be impossible to deem them untouchable.