by Daniel Gettinger

Generally speaking, I like what the Padres have done this winter.  The team has paid cheaply for upgrades at starting pitcher and a few bench slots.  The Padres also got better by trading Kevin Kouzmanoff for Scott Hairston and Aaron Cunningham, allowing Chase Headley to slide over to his natural third-base position and pushing Kyle Blanks to the much less demanding (at least in Petco) left-field slot.

That said, in retrospect, I would have handled the second base position differently.  I would have forgone signing David Eckstein and Yorvit Torrealba.  I would have used the savings to ink Orlando Hudson to a one-year contract.

The Padres will pay David Eckstein $1MM in 2010.  Torrealba will receive $1.25MM.  Although both may be worth slightly more than his salary, neither are different makers.  Orlando Hudson is due to earn $5MM on a one-year contract from the Twins.

According to Websoulsurfer, the Padres current payroll (which includes Eckstein and Torrealba) stands at approximately $38MM.  In December, Padres CEO Jeff Moorad said the Padres 2010 payroll would “start with a four.”  That suggests the Padres currently have at least $2MM to spend on payroll.

The following chart shows the salary and projected WAR for Torrealba and Eckstein, as well as Orlando Hudson.

Player Salary Projected WAR
David Eckstein $1MM 0.3
Yorvit Torrealba $1.25MM 0.5
TOTAL $2.25MM 0.8
Orlando Hudson $5MM 2.5

Had the Padres not signed Eckstein or Torrealba, they would have had $4.25MM to play with ($2.25MM in saved salary plus the $2MM the team currently has to spend).  At that point, spending an extra $0.75MM to sign Hudson may have been approved.

Lets assume the Padres end up spending $40.075MM on their 2010 payroll.  The Padres three primary signings this season-Eckstein, Jerry Hairston and Torrealba-signed for an expected $3.36MM/win.  To reach $40.075MM, the Padres will need to spend an additional $2.075MM.  At $3.36MM/win, the Padres could expect to add 0.62 wins with their leftover funds.  0.62 plus the expected contributions of Eckstein and Torrealba totals 1.42 wins.

If the Padres had instead signed Hudson, their expected WAR would have been 2.5 for the same amount of spending.  Sure the Padres would have been a bit thinner at catcher, but under this calculation I am valuing Dusty Ryan at replacement level and the team still comes out 1.08 wins ahead.

Even if the Padres were unable to sign Hudson, they could have reached out to Felipe Lopez who is still a free agent.  It is unlikely Lopez will sign for more money than Hudson, and he provides similar expected value.  I prefer Hudson because his performance has been more consistent year-to-year than Lopez, but that extra risk is likely to result in a slightly lower salary for Lopez.

By re-signing David Eckstein, the Padres limited their options immensely.  They locked themselves in at second base with a pretty mediocre player.  This prevented the Padres from taking advantage of potential bargains at the position.  As a result, the team ended up spending much of their remaining funds on bench upgrades.  However, if Eckstein was not re-signed, the Padres could have forgone signing Yorvit Torrealba as well as whatever marginal upgrades they end up making with their remaining funds.  In return, they could have signed a quality player like Orlando Hudson (or Felipe Lopez) at a lower rate per win.

Edit: I realize Towers was the GM when Eckstein was signed.  I am not blaming Hoyer. I was merely suggesting that if we could “play” the off-season again, this is what I would do.