There is no risk in ripping the San Diego Padres. They’re a franchise bobbing in a vast sea of Dodger blue and Angels red, fighting for their sliver of market share with an underwhelming roster. I wouldn’t say their fanbase is disengaged but ripping the Padres doesn’t make many waves.
That goes double when the topic at hand is a cheap pre-arbitration contract for an unsexy player. There is nothing really to gain. But the deal is worth mentioning, because it says a lot about the future.
Details on the #Padres deal with Gyorko: $2m (2015), $4m (2016), $6m (2017), $9m (2018), $13m (2019). $13m club option, $1m buyout in 2020.
— Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) April 14, 2014
The deal in question is Jedd Gyorko’s six-year contract with the Pads, signed earlier this week. The deal contains a $13 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout. Is there any need to get worked up about a deal that doesn’t even begin until 2015 and is only worth $35 million total.
The biggest question is why? Why did the Padres bother with this deal for this player?
It isn’t that Gyorko doesn’t have his worthwhile traits. He showed some power in 2013 (his age-24 season), his first full yearin the big leagues. His 23 home runs set a record for Padre second basemen – that’s good!
But Gyorko also struck out a ton and barely walks. He isn’t much of a base runner and his defense is fine? His defense isn’t so great as to jump off the page, making him a no-brainer for a long-term deal.
Compare Jedd Gyorko to Danny Espinosa. The Nationals second baseman can also play some short stop in a pinch and is a decent base stealer. His bat contains some pop as well, pounding 21 home runs in 2011, his age-24 season. After another decent year in 2012, Espinosa fell off the map in 2013, spending most of the year in the minor leagues. The Nats were more than happy to replace his production with Anthony Rendon, a highly touted prospect they fast-tracked to the big leagues.
This bears mentioning only because Espinosa and Gyorko are basically the same guy. Most folks would probably prefer Espinosa before his drop-off, fueled by injury as it might be. League-average players are valuable but Gyorko mostly scrapes the bottom end of this inglorious tier of baseball life.
If we search for recent second basemen who combine a below-average walk rate with an inflated strikeout rate and a modicum of power before age 26, our result is a mixed bag to say the least. Alfonso Soriano is an intriguing name, Omar Infante carved out a longish, mediocreish career, though he met our criteria only at a young age.
Soriano isn’t a fair comparison because he was and is twice the hitter of Gyorko, putting up enormous power numbers relative to Gyorko even when corrected for ballpark. If we bring the minimum age up It’s just Espinosa (a converted shortstop) and Soriano (a legit slugger moved to the outfield in short order.)
With Chase Headley due to depart San Diego as a free agent (or trade chip before that happens), third base is a likely fit for Gyorko, who played the hot corner extensively in the minor leagues. But maybe this player isn’t one worthy of a six year commitment?
The terms are friendly enough using today’s math. Do the Padres believe salaries will escalate so quickly in concert with Gyorko improving his ability to put the bat on the ball? Is the arbitration process really so arduous that Jedd Gyorko merits avoiding it at all costs?
Perhaps history will prove the Padres prescient in their ability to foresee not only the baseball market but the breakout abilities of a low ceiling version of Dan Uggla. A decision they could easily make after getting more information on their player, though they clearly don’t need or want it.
The Padres did the safe thing, you might be surprised to learn. They signed a low risk player to a very low risk contract. At no point in this deal will it be difficult to replace or upgrade on Gyorko, should the Padres feel so inclined.
They will not feel so inclined. They’re the Padres. Safe is good. Cost certainty is ideal. Positional flexibility is nice as it keeps costs down and expectations low. The Padres way. Believe in the beige, it will never steer you wrong.