Then after shaking off the drowsiness of Spring, baseball fans produced a collective “meh.”
This was followed by someone pointing out that the Padres had a good young catcher in Yasmani Grandal in their system. Cue: Outrage over a prospect maybe possibly being overlooked.
Then, a bright mind mentioned the fact that locking a player up to a contract does not negate the possibility of them being traded, and actually, an extremely team friendly contract might just make such a future trade even more of a likelihood.
And for a brief moment all was understood and little was worried about.
Unfortunately, Grandal had to ruin the detente between reason and unnecessary outrage by talking to a reporter. He said the following:
It doesn’t matter if somebody got a deal or not. You never know what could happen. They could get traded or you could get traded. I’m not only playing for one organization. I’m playing for the 29 others that are out there. That’s one way I see it, and if it’s not meant to be it’s not meant to be. If I don’t make it to the big leagues with this club I can make it with any other team.
Reminder: These words were uttered by a 23 year old with a whopping 190 plate appearances above Single A. The contract he’s referring to is one that will guarantee Hundley a far from unmovable $9 million over the next three seasons, and give the team the favourable option of keeping Hundley around if they so choose for $5 million in his first year of free agent eligibility.
Hundley, playing in only 82 games last season, put up the following replacement comparison numbers:
- FanGraphs: 3.5 fWAR
- Baseball Reference: 3.4 rWAR
- Baseball Prospectus: 3.2 WARP
Anyway you slice it, he was better than a three win player in a half season of work as a 27 year old. He’s unlikely to repeat a year like that, given his low walk/high strike out rate combined with a high HR/FB rate and increased BABIP that doesn’t appear to have changed from any difference in his approach at the plate. However, Hundley’s deal with the Padres doesn’t expect him to put up the results that he did in 2011.
If Hundley does somehow maintain his numbers from this past season into this year and beyond, he’s a trade chip. If he doesn’t, he’s a back up, and not even a dramatically overpaid one at that.
The worst case scenario here according to those up in arms is that Hundley will play well, stay on the team and block Grandal from playing in the big leagues. Again, the prospect that they’re talking about blocking is 23 years old. What’s the rush to get him here?
Only 23 catchers in all of baseball history have managed to put up a total of five wins above replacement or more over the course of their first three years in the league. Between the ages of 23 and 25, which is how old Grandal will be over the guaranteed part of Hundley’s contract, a mere 56 catchers in all of baseball history put up the same amount of wins above replacement over that three year period as Hundley did in last season alone.
Under any scenario that ends up playing out, not including serious injury, the contract given to Hundley will end up working out for the Padres. Grandal’s inexplicably ridiculous comments are made even more silly be the fact that we’re discussing players posted to a position at which wear and tear never allow to play an entire season.
There should be plenty of plate appearances to go around. And even if there aren’t, the money being spent here is well worth the possibilities that Hundley ends up offering value from it, in either the form of a trade or actual play on the field.