January 2, 2012
A Petco Precursor?
Back in December 2007, then-Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes traded Quentin to the White Sox for Chris Carter. Now serving as the Padres’ main man, Byrnes has attempted to quench his lineup’s thirst for power by acquiring Quentin in a surprising deal.
There are no questions about it. Quentin brings power and hit-by-pitches by the truckload. His 71 home runs over the last three seasons are the 31st-most in the game, and more than glamorous free-agent outfielder signings Josh Willingham and Michael Cuddyer. Meanwhile, no batter is more accustomed to being struck by pitches over that duration than Quentin. Only Chase Utley, with two fewer beanings in nearly 250 more plate appearances, is within 15 plunkings of Quentin. Everyone else may as well be playing a different game.
Those home runs and hit-by-pitches have fueled Quentin’s .245/.336/.479 line over the last three seasons. That is an above-average line, no doubt, but one that falls shy of Quentin’s 2008. Back then, Quentin hit 36 home runs, drove in 100 runs, and hit .288/.394/.571, all the while looking like a golden feather in Kenny Williams' hat. Alas, failure to meet unrealistic expectations is not the only black mark on Quentin’s record.
Defense and durability are the other weaknesses in Quentin’s game. Unfortunate, since the National League’s rules could further expose Quentin. Defensive metrics go haywire in analyzing Quentin’s 2011 performance, but the long-term consensus is that he is below average. Embarrassment is the least of the Padres’ fears when it comes to Quentin’s defense, as the potential for injury is more worrisome. The injury-prone label is cruel—but appropriate—when a player misses at least three weeks in four of the past five seasons like Quentin has.
Should Quentin succumb to injury—or heck, a late-inning defensive replacement—the Padres can choose his successor from a number of options. Assuming Yonder Alonso opens the season as the club’s first baseman, then that leaves no fewer than seven other corner-outfield options near the top of the Padres’ depth chart. Some of those options are uninspiring, but they are options nonetheless, and that is a good thing. Quentin is eligible for free agency at season’s end, and that, along with the Padres’ unlikely playoff aspirations, means he could be on the move by the trade deadline.
Calling the Padres’ acquisition of Quentin a precursor to another move—either now or later—is a safe bet. But the real action is on how many times Quentin causes Arizona fans to curse him and Byrnes’s name in the interim. – R.J. Anderson