I suppose it’s possible that the player yet to be named was a draft pick from 2011 that isn’t eligible to be traded, but otherwise the deal appears to be a straight salary dump, with the Padres picking up the remainder of Street’s contract which includes a $7.5 million salary in 2012, plus a $9 million mutual option in 2013 (with a $500,000 buyout).
There are two ways of looking at this deal: 1) The Padres got better by not re-signing Heath Bell, reaping a compensatory draft pick and acquiring Street, but 2) San Diego just acquired a reliever who will be their team’s highest paid player next year. Why?
I suppose there’s something to be said for the mid season trade value of a relief pitcher, but the new collective bargaining agreement effectively eliminates the insurance that non-competitive teams previously enjoyed when they picked up a relief pitcher and could rely on a supplemental draft pick the next season at worse.
That’s not to discredit Street, whose availability I’m surprised didn’t create more buzz this off season. As I wrote earlier this week, Street allowed something close to one home run per nine innings in every year of his career prior to this past season, when he posted a below average 1.59 HR/9 rate in 2011.
That would be far more concerning if we didn’t also see his HR/FB basically double from his career rate coming into this past season. Street actually saw his fly ball rate decrease overall in 2011, but a larger percentage of those fly balls went for home runs. There’s an element of luck involved in this as there’s little difference between deep fly balls getting caught at the warning track and sailing over the fence. Of all the relievers to throw at least 50 innings last season, Street’s HR/FB ratio was the fourth largest in the league. Typically, pitchers with homerun rates much higher or lower than league average, or even their career average, will normally regress back toward those numbers in the future.
Much more important than worrying about the number of home runs he gave up with such a high HR/FB ratio, is that Street had the fourth lowest walk rate in the league last season. He accomplished this despite throwing a below average 42.6% of his pitches in the zone thanks to an impressive swinging strike rate of 13.1% (the league average last season was 8.6%). Meanwhile, the velocity on his fastball, slider and change up were close to his career averages despite a mid-season injury.
Last year, Street did a great job of using his fastball to set up his swing and miss slider against righties and change up versus lefties. Although left handed batters performed better against Street last year than in previous seasons, it’s worth noting that Street might benefit by trying his slider more often against lefties, something he did in 2010 to great effect.
Of course, that could all be moot because pitching to left handed batters in Petco Park is one of the easiest things in baseball to do, answering the two concerns that you might have with Street if you believe that the sudden increase in home runs wasn’t random or that he can’t improve against left handed batters.
Like most pitchers, he’s a perfect fit for San Diego.
For the Rockies, they dump salary and will now pursue a deal with local boy Brad Lidge, according to Ken Rosenthal. I’m sure that will work out well for them.