When the Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees in the 2009 ALDS, it was the biggest accounting upset in MLB playoff history. The Rangers had the 26th highest payroll in baseball at just over $55 million and the Yankees had a payroll of just about $207 million.
The 2009 San Diego Padres with the second lowest payroll last year of just about $38, million (Pittsburgh Pirates $35 million) had the same record as the Rangers (90-72). By all accounts they had a wonderful year in 2009, missing the playoffs on the final day of the season. Given they were beat out by the eventual Worlds Champion San Francisco Giants; the Padres certainly have reason to hold their heads up high.
Padres GM, Jed Hoyer, must be kicking himself over the ten game losing streak the Friars endured going down the stretch. Had it been just an 8 game losing streak they would have at least forced a playoff, just a seven game losing streak and they would have won the NL West. Once you're in the tournament, as we all saw with the Giants, anything can happen. A pitcher or two gets hot, some timely hitting by just about anyone on your roster and wa-la, you are Worlds Champions.
The Padres lead the major leagues in pitching nearly all of last year. They were over taken by the Giants literally in the final days of the season as they finished with a 3.39 ERA (Giants end up with a 3.36.) That said, having the second best pitching in all of baseball is nothing to be ashamed of and it's certainly an ingredient of a winning formula, but you have to have some hitting to win. Even if your pitchers throw a shut out, you can't win unless you score.
That brings us to Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres recently exercised their option on the franchises sole offensive threat. It's no coincidence that other than Albert Pujols, there was no hitter more pitched around or intentionally walked this past year. Pujols was intentionally walked 38 times in 2010, Gonzalez, 35. In 2009, Gonzalez led all of major league baseball with 119 walks. When you think about it, it's amazing that the National League teams didn't pull a Barry Bonds and just walk him every 3rd plate appearance like in 2004 when Bonds walked 232 times. While at first glance that suggestion may seem extreme, actually what was the argument for pitching to him any time there was a base open? Exactly who behind him was going to drive him in? He wasn't going to steal a base, so if the guy hitting behind him didn't hit a triple, the Padres would have needed a minimum of or two hits to bring him in.
Gonzalez just had shoulder surgery and won't swing a bat for four-to-five months meaning he will be limited throughout spring training as he recovers from the surgery, but the 28 year old will be ready to go when the season opens. The Padres know however that there is no way they will be able to sign him beyond this season. Do the Padres think that they can win the World Series next year? Are they going to try and do that and then let him walk, getting nothing in return?
Look at what the Washington Nationals did. They could have traded Adam Dunn and gotten some decent prospects for him, but they chose to play hardball and demand only the most elite prospects. Dunn played out his contract and will now likely sign with the White Sox, the team that was willing to give up prospects for him just 3 months ago. Do the Padres aspire to be the Washington Nationals? Apparently, Gonzalez' agent John Boggs doesn't think so.
"I don't ever want to speak for ownership because I have no knowledge of what they have and what they don't," Boggs said. "But the feeling we're getting is more than likely the Padres are going to have to trade Adrian Gonzalez because they can't afford him."
There's been talk of trading Gonzalez for the past two years as everyone knew this time was coming. The earlier the Padres move him, the more they will get from him. If someone can get a full 2011 season out of him they will certainly give up more than if they get him at the trading deadline.
Given that he's not able to pass a physical at the moment, don't expect a blockbuster deal just yet; but as the spring ground thaws and pitchers and catchers report, Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Paul Konerko and any other free agent of note will be signed by then and expect Adrian Gonzalez to be the talk of baseball. So where will Gonzalez end up?
Adrian Gonzalez to the Mets
Given the connection that new New York Mets GM, Sandy Alderson, and his Special Assistant, Paul DePodesta, have with the Padres, don't be surprised to see Adrian Gonzalez dealt to the Mets for Ike Davis, and either Jenrry Mejia or Bobby Parnell. Alderson needs to do something to jump start the fan base and bringing the slugger to New York would be just the trick. With Mark Teixeira at first base across town, this is one of the few times that they Mets don't have to try to "out do" the Yankees in prospects money to bring in a stud player. If you're a Mets fan and you want to get really excited, believe it or not, the Mets might even get the Padres to take Oliver Perez if the pay the bulk of his salary as that's where Perez got his start and the low pressure environment may actually give the enigmatic (I'm being politically correct) lefty a chance to succeed. Sorry Mets fans, they won't take Castillo too...
There is plenty of room for the Mets to sign Adrian Gonzalez to a long term deal as in 2012 as the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez will all come off the books. K-Rod does have a vesting option for 2012 if he finishes at least 55 games next year, but that's not happening.
Things may actually be looking up for the second team in New York. The Mets now have a change in their regime. Before Thanksgiving we'll find out who the next Mets manager is. The finalists are all current employees of the team: scout Bob Melvin, minor league field coordinator Terry Collins, third base coach Chip Hale, and Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones manager Wally Backman, who played second base for the team from 1980 to 1988. And in the spring of 2011, assuming he's healthy, look for the Mets to trade for Adrian Gonzalez and sign him to a long term contract.- Mike Cardano
Mike is the founder of Around the Horn Baseball & Xtra Point Football.
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