Gwynn Comes Home

The Deal
While the Padres reportedly had a deal in place to trade ace righthander Jake Peavy to the White Sox, needing only Peavy’s consent to finalize the transaction (which he ultimately did not give), San Diego was successful Thursday in swinging a trade on smaller scale. They sent Jody Gerut, the club’s primary center fielder, to the Brewers for center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr., a San Diego State product and the son of the franchise icon.

Gerut, 31, had gotten off to a slow start with the Padres this season, one year after re-establishing his career by batting .296/.351/.494 with 14 home runs in 356 plate appearances. Through 120 PAs this season, he was batting just .223/.250/.384 with four home runs—though one of them was the first ever at New York’s Citi Field.

The Young Player
The Brewers removed Gwynn from the 40-man roster, sending him outright to Triple-A Nashville, coming out of spring training. He was out of options, he had missed half of camp with a lingering shoulder injury and the club simply preferred Chris Duffy. Rumors at the time linked Gwynn, the Brewers’ second-round pick in 2003, to the Padres on a potential waiver claim, but it did not come to pass. The 26-year-old proceeded to play well for Nashville, batting .309/.387/.395 through 152 at-bats, with eight doubles and 15 stolen bases in 16 attempts.

Gwynn is an above-average and intelligent runner who excels defensively in center field. While he offers practically nothing in the way of power, the lefthanded batter is a strong contact hitter who had been showing a more patient approach this season, drawing 20 walks in his first 38 games for the Sounds. He’s spent part of the past four seasons with Nashville, batting .291/.351/.369 in those 1,100 at-bats, with a 100-to-173 walk-to-strikeout ratio and 69 steals in 90 attempts (77 percent). If his patient approach persists, he profiles as a decent leadoff batter; if it does not, he would have value as an extra outfielder.

Quick Take
Gerut may be only the first casualty of an organizational shakeup threatened by general manager Kevin Towers. In addition, the club will attempt at some point this season to incorporate prospects from its Triple-A Portland team, players like Kyle Blanks and Will Venable.

Considering that Gerut was picked up off the scrap heap prior to the ’08 season, having missed both the ’06 and ’07 seasons, he provided tremendous value to the Padres. Now he will add depth—and a lefthanded bat—to the Brewers’ bench, which to this point has seen Brad Nelson and Duffy start the year by going 4-for-53. Gerut, though, actually has managed a higher OPS versus lefties in each of the past two seasons.

The trade of Gerut also clears room on the Padres’ 40-man roster. If they so choose, they can wait to see if Gwynn sustains his level of play before calling him to the majors. (Note: The Padres opted not to wait, calling Gwynn up immediately after trading for him.)

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