by Myron Logan

Note: After I wrote this, two of my colleagues at Friar Forecast, Ben and Daniel, penned their takes on the trade. Parts of my analysis is eerily similar to Daniel’s, though are conclusions are not exactly the same.

The Padres have apparently traded Kevin Kouzmanoff and second base prospect Eric Sogard to the Oakland A’s for OF prospect Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston. The deal is not official, and I’ll update this post if there are any changes.

Let’s run it down, player by player:

Kevin Kouzmanoff, according to the FanGraphs metrics, has been remarkably consistent in his three years in San Diego. His wOBA ranged between .339 (non park-adjusted) in 2007 and .312 last year. His fielding, by UZR, went from about average in his first two seasons, to +7.5 last year. Overall, his WAR totals ranged from 2.7 to – wait for it – 2.8. He certainly projects to be in the 2-2.5 range next season, and he’s under A’s control through 2012. Repeating an analysis I did earlier this off-season, here’s a quick-and-dirty expected value chart for Kouz:

Kouzmanoff Proj. WAR FA Salary Proj. Salary Surplus Value
2010 2.5 $12m $5m $7m
2011 2.5 $13m $8m $5m
2012 2 $11.5m $9m $2.5m
Total 7 $36.5m $22m $14.5m

Depending on what numbers you use, Kouz is projected to be worth around $14-15 million in surplus value over the length of his contract. Kouzmanoff’s departure, however, does not leave the gaping hole that one might expect, as Chase Headley can now leave the unfamiliar terrain in the outfield and return to his natural position at third (not to mention, the Padres have a number of solid third base prospects should Headley not live up to the hype).

Eric Sogard, the second base prospect leaving the Padres organization, was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft. Baseball America 2009 ranked Sogard as the 17th best Pads prospect, comparing him to Todd Walker due to his solid offensive skills but questionable glove. Sogard followed with a nice double-A debut, hitting .293/.370/.400. CHONE projects him at nearly 1 WAR next season.

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The Padres reacquire Scott Hairston, who spent parts of the last three seasons in San Diego. Hairston started hot last year, hitting .299/.358/.533 (.390 wOBA) in 216 PAs with the Padres, but struggled mightily upon his arrival in Oakland, hitting .236/.262/.391 (.279 wOBA) down the stretch. Overall, though, he has been a consistent performer, with WAR values of 1.4, 1.8, and 1.8 over the last three years, respectively.

If you project those years out (to 600 PAs), which is not advisable for many reasons, those values look more like: 2.9, 3, and 2.3. It is not advisable, of course, because Hairston has played against a disproportional amount of lefties/good matchups, being largely a platoon player, but it does help to show just how productive he has been while on the field.

If we conservatively project Hairston at 1.5 WAR next year, and 1.3 in 2011, then he should be worth about $14 million on the open market, over the next two seasons (both under Padres control). If we estimate that he will make $10 million over those two seasons, then his surplus value is only about $4 million, $10 million or so less than Kouzmanoff’s.

The Padres also acquire outfield prospect Aaron Cunningham, who was ranked fourth in the A’s system by Baseball America 2009, where they said he has “tools (that) are average or better across the board, but doesn’t have an outstanding tool that points to star potential.” Cunningham hit well in triple-A last year as a 23 year old, putting up a .302/.379/.479 line in Sacramento, and his overall minor league OPS sits at .875 (in over 2000 PAs). His short major league performance has not been impressive, as he has put up a .272 wOBA, splitting 144 plate appearances between 2008 and 2009. CHONE projects him similarly to Sogard, at just under a win next season.

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It appears to me, on this initial look, that the A’s probably improve their team more in the short-term, and also gain an extra year of control with Kouzmanoff versus Hairston, which is important. The Padres seem to be banking on two things in this deal: one, that Headley and company can fill in adequately at third, at worst minimizing the loss of Kouzmanoff, and at best equaling or bettering his performance at a cheaper price. And two, that swapping Eric Sogard for Aaron Cunningham will cut into that ~$10 million surplus the A’s gained with the Kouz-Hairston exchange.

I do not really have a problem with the deal, as I do not think either Kouzmanoff or Hairston are the type of players a rebuilding organization needs. Kouzmanoff, a solid player, obviously, will likely begin a gradual decline, and simultaneously see yearly pay increases. The Padres have cheaper options at third. Hairston, who could probably be a serviceable everyday starter, if given the opportunity, is in a similar situation – he is a nice spare part on a contender, but does not do a whole lot for a mid-70s win team. In fact, I would not be surprised if Hairston is again traded at some point, depending on how the season takes shape.

I guess my only reservation with the deal is that San Diego used one of their valuable chips in part to bring in Scott Hairston. I like Hairston as a player, but – again – I prefer him on a contender. I would have rather seen the Padres use Kouzmanoff to bring in a couple of prospects, even near major league ready ones like Cunningham, rather than just one prospect and a 30 year old (plus, they also lose a decent prospect in Sogard).

As mentioned, Hairston can still be shipped off for another prospect or two later this season if things fall apart, and if he reestablishes his value, so either way I do not dislike the trade.Two smart teams doing business; sometimes it is tough to find a clear winner.

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