by Daniel Gettinger

Yesterday (5 July 2009), the Padres traded Scott Hairston to the Oakland Athletics for minor league relievers Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano, as well as a player to be named later.  Because Kevin Towers suggested the PTBNL “could be the key element of the trade for the Padres,” and at least one of the possible PTBNL supposedly has some major league experience, there are rumblings that the PTBNL will either be Sean Gallagher or Dana Eveland.

If the player to be named turns out to be Gallagher, I love the deal.  If it is Eveland, I don’t love it or hate it. If the PTBNL is somebody entirely different, then I will reserve judgement until the deal is completed.

Because teams make trade decisions at the margin, that is, they look to the future rather than the past, lets first take a stab at Hairston’s future worth to the A’s.

Hairston is pretty good.  When he plays.  All too often Hairston is injured or sitting out because he does not hit righties very well.  He is not a guy that can be expected to give you 600 quality plate appearances, but Dave Cameron thinks Hairston is worth 2-3 WAR per season, and I think that’s about right.  Last season in 326 PA, Hairston was 1.8 wins above replacement.  This season, he is already at 2.2 WAR in 197 PA, but is probably hitting a bit over his head.  Hairston is not eligible for free agency until after 2011, so yeah he is pretty valuable.

From what I have read, Webb is a bullpen arm, and Italiano, although currently starting in single-A, is probably destined for the pen as well.  Neither are top prospects, and neither have fabulous minor league stats.  It will be nice if one or both turns out to be productive members of the Padres’ bullpen for a few years, but I am not counting on either of them to do much in the majors.

If Sean Gallagher is part of the deal, I will be ecstatic.  Last season, he played for both the Cubs and the A’s, and compiled 1.4 WAR in 115 innings.  His average fastball sits around 92 mph, and he also throws a decent slider, cutter, and change.  His minor league record is very solid, as he has struck out a lot of players, without walking many or giving up many homeruns.  At only 23 years old, and with only a little over 1 year of major league service time, Gallagher alone would be a great return for Hairston.

I am less thrilled with the prospect of receiving Dana Eveland.  Throughout his professional career (minors and pros), Eveland has walked too many batters while striking out too few.  Last year, Eveland threw 168 innings in the big leagues, and had a very respectable 4.09 FIP, but his 4.13 BB/9 that season stands out as a bit of a red flag.  In addition, his 2008 0.54 HR/9 seems a bit lower than he can sustain, and his stuff (88-90 mph fastball) is not overwhelming.

Eveland will probably be an adequate back of the rotation starter, but I do not see a lot of upside.  Like Gallagher, Eveland only has a little over a year of major league service time, so he would provide solid value to the Padres.  Combined with the full 6 years of team control the Padres will have with Webb and Italiano, this would probably be a fair, albeit non-impact type of trade.

Of course, the player to be named could be someone entirely different.  If it is, I would expect the player to project somewhere between Eveland and Gallagher.  We’ll have to wait and see.

As it is, I don’t mind the trade.  Hairston will be decent and relatively cheap for the next few years, but the Padres are acquiring 3 players with zero to minimal major league service time.  Two of those players (Webb and the player to be named) are probably close to major league ready.  If the PTBNL turns out to be Gallagher, the Padres will have gotten an amazing deal.  I truly believe Gallagher will be more valuable to the Padres over the next 4-5 years than Hairston will be over the next 2.  If the player to be named is someone like Dana Eveleland, then the Padres will need to hope one of the two relievers positively contributes in the majors.  If that happens, there is no reason the trade cannot be at least a wash, even offering a bit of upside.  In either case, the trade is not, as Dave Cameron suggests, an “Easy win for Oakland.”