It's the end of the regular season, and while enough axes are flying to chop down a forest, one division's outcome is in doubt.
All the stretch-run races for post-season slots but one are settled on the regular season's final day today, as the Tigers will try to avoid an epic collapse after blowing a three-game lead to the Twins in the last three days to fall into a tie for the American League Central lead. Besides watching the Tigers host the White Sox and the Twins host the Royals in what could be the last game in the Metrodome, the only thing left to ponder is the race for the individual awards:
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Bryan Smith wonders about the draft pick/free agent tradeoff, and considers how the Padres specifically may have fared had they let all three star players walk this winter.
In the end, veterans Giles and Hoffman gave the Padres the "San Diego discount," while Hernandez opted into the richest deal he could find. There are certainly concerns that the Padres let the youngest of the three leave, while investing $43.5 million into two players older than thirty-five. The arguments against these contracts are centered around the fact that the team could have spent its money on younger players, while simply collecting first-round draft picks for their losses.
Historically, however, this would have been the Padres worst move. Not only were Giles and Hoffman two of the best free agents at their respective positions, but also because San Diego has a spotty history at cashing in on draft picks. I went back and looked at the last ten San Diego drafts (prior to 2005, which is simply too recent to judge), in hopes of finding whether Jacque Jones, Bob Wickman, $22.5 million and four draft picks was a better option than the one Kevin Towers took. The findings, to say the least, do not support such a claim.
BP: You've been the Padres GM for nine years, and you got your start in scouting. How have some of the scouting and player evaluation principles in the organization changed over the years? Towers: I think it's cyclical. Between '96 and '98, we drafted younger players; we felt there was time to develop them. Bill Gayton came on board (as the new head of scouting), and we said then that we had to improve the system. We got too high school-happy in the mid-90s--it takes high school players a long time to develop. We also drafted pitching heavily in the early and mid-90s. It got pretty slim when it came to positional prospects after a while. We've switched the emphasis to position players, preferably college ones, where we feel we'll get more of an immediate return. More clubs are now going the college route, doing what Oakland's done, what Toronto's done, what we've done--everybody's starting to jump on the bandwagon. We may end up going back to high school kids after a while. In the next couple of years if we see heavy drafting of college players, we might then be able to land a Cole Hamels. When more and more clubs are doing the same thing, you're going to have less to pick from among college players, so you might be able to get those kinds of pretty good bargains with high school talent. As far as our timing goes, we're going to go with fewer younger players at the big league level, so we may use some college-drafted players and prospects to make trades, as we did this year to get Giles. In that sense, it's more of a Giants philosophy. Hopefully we'll have a run of four or five years where we don't need many new, young players making major contributions, where we're able to keep our core players on field. We could then use the added revenue from the new park more to sign players and use some of our drafted talent to trade for plugging holes.
Baseball Prospectus: When you're looking at the need for young players to learn and develop by getting playing time in the majors, doesn't that also rack up service time for players who may not be ready? As a smaller-revenue team--even with the new park--with a young core, how do you strike a balance with young players in terms of making sure they don't rack up too much service time too quickly vs. giving them a chance to develop at the big league level?
Kevin Towers completed his ninth season as General Manager of the San Diego Padres this year. Since advancing to the World Series in 1998, the Padres have traded or let go of several big names, while investing in the draft and farm system as part of the rebuilding process. The team now looks ahead to a higher revenue stream with the opening of Petco Park for Opening Day 2004. Towers recently chatted with BP about the future of the team, the new ballpark, and the Brian Giles trade.
A lost season for the Angels has folks in Anaheim scratching their heads. John Smoltz's injury buries Bobby Thigpen's name for another year. The Royals' run evokes memories of George Brett and company. Sandy Alomar...you can probably guess what Chris will write about Sandy Alomar. Witticisms, Kahrlisms and roster schmisms in this edition of Transaction Analysis.
The San Diego Padres were the consensus sleeper pick of 2002, considered by many to be a team on the fast track, maybe even on pace to pattern the recent success of the Oakland A's. General Manager Kevin Towers and manager Bruce Bochy talked about the importance of plate discipline, of finding pitchers who throw strikes, and of improving the defense.
"If you have kids who might [grow up to] be major league baseball players, we're fighting for your kids, possibly. If I work for your newspaper and you're in the union fighting for your equality and rights, sure I would strike, and so would you..."
--Barry Bonds, Giants outfielder
Losing David Justice isn't good news, considering I'm not a big Scott Hatteberg guy, but I am a believer when it comes to Eric Byrnes, so I guess I'm happy. Outfield defense is always going to be an issue for a unit that has Terrence Long in center field and either Justice or Jeremy Giambi in a corner. While I'm not arguing for Byrnes to play every day, he does give the A's a hitter who puts hard-hit balls into play, who can cover an outfield corner well, and basically give the bottom of the lineup someone who can help score some of the other more walk-inclined hitters batting higher up.