In what continues to be a very interesting off-season, the San Diego Padres have added 1B/3B Jorge Cantu for $885,000 (plus incentives).
Cantu has been sort of an enigma throughout his career, switching between a useful starter and an offensive liability.
He started his career off well with the Tampa Bay Rays, hitting nearly .300 with good power in his first two seasons while playing second base (where he was never a strong defender). He then followed with two seasons where he hit near .250 with less power.
In 2008, a switch to the Florida Marlins and the National League seemed to revitalize Cantu, as he followed with back-to-back solid years, hitting .283./.336/.462 combined, while flipping between first and third for Florida. Last season he again reverted back to his struggles with Florida and Texas, as his average dropped back into the .250s.
Cantu’s ups and downs lie mostly with his batting average. When he’s up around .280 or higher, he’s a solid player. When he’s in the .250s, he has almost no value whatsoever, considering he’s not a defensive specialist by any means.
You might imagine that Cantu’s BABiP is the cause for the peaks and valleys with his batting average, but it’s actually his strikeout rates.
His BABiP has been very stable throughout his career, hovering around the .300 mark. His K-rate, however, has been much more volatile, dipping down to 15% or so in his good years and bouncing to the low-to-mid 20s in the bad ones.
Cantu may be counted on to face lefties while replacing Brad Hawpe at first, but it should be noted that he doesn’t have much of a platoon split (.764 OPS vs. RHP, .773 OPS vs. LHP). Hawpe actually has a comparable OPS vs. lefties at .760, though that is Coors-aided. Small samples noted with each, especially versus left-handers.
For under a million bucks, Cantu offers enough upside to be worth the money, and he should provide good depth for the Padres. Jed Hoyer continues to patch together a very nice looking ballclub, despite the loss of its best player.