by Daniel Gettinger

For over a year I have pleaded (some may call it whining) for the Padres to trade Kevin Kouzmanoff.  As Ben posted earlier, the Padres have finally done so.  In return for Kouzmanoff and Eric Sogard, the Padres will receive outfielders Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham.  This is a great trade for the Padres.

First lets look at what the Padres are giving up.

The As are acquiring Kouzmanoff’s three arbitration seasons.  Kouz has been remarkably consistent as a Padre, posting WARs of 2.7, 2.8, and 2.7.  Both with the glove and the bat, Kouz is average for his position. At 28 years old, the A’s can probably expect Kouzmanoff to continue to post WAR’s between 2.5 and 3.0 for the next three seasons.

Using a dollar per win value of $4MM, and the standard 40%, 60%, 80% expected arbitration award, Kouzmanoff is expected to get paid between $21MM and $25MM while producing $31MM and $37MM worth of value.  That’s $10MM-$12MM of surplus value (not including any free agent compensation the A’s may eventually receive) over the three years.

Eric Sogard is a soon to be 24 year old second baseman who walks a lot, but like most second baseman does not have much power.  John Sickels rates Sogard as the Padres 20th best prosect and gives him a C+ grade, writing: “Gets on base, not punchless, defense is so-so but I like the bat enough to keep give him this grade.”

According to Victor Wang’s research on prospect value, a C hitter older than 23 years is expected to provide $0.5MM of surplus value.  In total, the Padres are surrendering something between $10MM and $13MM of value.

So, what are the Padres getting in return?

The Padres will control Hairston for his final two years of arbitration.  The projection systems peg Hairston as an average outfielder with the bat.  Overall for his career, Hairston has been an average, albeit versatile fielder.  His biggest problem has been staying in the lineup.  He has never played more than 116 games in any season.

The past three years, Hairston has been a 1.8, 1.8, and 1.4 WAR player.  He might be slightly better than that, but for the sake of being conservative, lets say he will be between a 1.5 and 2.0 WAR player over the next two seasons.  In a vacuum, that equates to between $2.5MM and $3.5MM in surplus value.

Sickels rated Aaron Cunningham the A’s third best prospect entering the 2009 season (due to a brief appearance in the majors this season, he was ineligible for this year’s list.)  Sickels gave Cunningham a B grade writing: “A solid all-around player. Doesn’t have the ceiling of some of these other guys, but a surer bet to reach his.”  Baseball America rated Cunningham baseball’s 55th best prospect entering last season.

According to Wang’s research, a hitter ranked between 51 and 75 on Baseball America’s rankings is worth $14.2MM.  In total, the Padres are receiving about $17MM of value in return for $10MM-$13MM of value.

However, things get even better.  The Padres traded from an area of surplus for talent in an area of need.

With Chase Headley on the roster, the Padres had two third baseman, but were forcing one (Headley) to masquerade as a left-fielder.  Not surprisingly, Headley’s fielding was a major liability and zapped much of his value.  In the minors, Headley was considered an average fielding third baseman, and in the majors Headley has shown to be no worse than an average hitter.  In replacing Kouz with Headley at third, the Padres essentially break even.

Replacing Headley with Hairston in the outfield, however is an upgrade.  Hairston provides similar value with the bat, but is a much better (think 15-20 runs better) fielder than Headley, and given his ability to play CF, more versatile.

Kouz for Hairston alone, while not necessarily a great deal from a traditional surplus value calculation perspective would probably have been a break-even proposition for the Padres due to their surplus of third baseman.  Also adding a solid prospect like Cunningham ensures that the team received more than fair compensation for Kouzmanoff, and makes this deal a serious win for the Padres.