|The Padres finished last in the National League in home runs and slugging percentage last year, and that’s a feat they’re unlikely to duplicate after trading two pitching prospects to the White Sox for right fielder Carlos Quentin. Chicago received righthander Simon Castro and lefty Pedro Hernandez, both members of the San Diego 40-man roster who finished the 2011 season in Double-A.
Quentin supplants Will Venable as San Diego’s right fielder and adds to a crowded Padres outfield that also consists of Cameron Maybin in center, presumptive favorite Kyle Blanks in left and Venable, Chris Denorfia and Mark Kotsay as backups. (Blanks, Quentin and Venable have minor league options remaining.) Quentin’s powerful righthanded bat is a natural fit for the Padres, and the only corner outfielders with more home runs since 2008, his breakout 36-homer season, are Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista. A San Diego native, Quentin is a better fit than Venable for Petco Park, which punishes lefty power hitters. Padres general manager Josh Byrnes traded Quentin to the White Sox in the first place, dealing him away in December 2007 when he worked as GM for the Diamondbacks.
Update: Published reports indicate that the Padres view Quentin as the starter in left field, Venable as the starter in right, and Blanks as the odd man out.
The Padres’ highest-profile trade this offseason sent top starter Mat Latos to the Reds, but San Diego’s other trades have worked in reverse, importing veteran talent such as closer Huston Street and catcher John Baker. Even the Latos deal brought back big league-ready talent such as first baseman Yonder Alonso and righthanders Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger. Even as they play to win in 2012, the Padres can blow things up if they play poorly and shop Quentin and Street and the one year remaining on each of their contracts.
The White Sox continue their trend of stockpiling pitching prospects in their recent dealings. GM Ken Williams landed Castro and Hernandez in this Quentin deal; righties Nesto Molina and Zach Stewart from the Blue Jays for, respectively, Sergio Santos and Edwin Jackson; and righty reliever Jhan Marinez from the Marlins for manager Ozzie Guillen.
|White Sox Acquire|
|Simon Castro, rhp
Born: April 9, 1988 in San Jose de los Llanos, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Padres, May 8, 2006.
Owner of the best slider in the Padres system prior to the trade, Castro seemed poised for big things in 2011 as he tackled Triple-A for the first time, but the bubble burst early. Castro landed on the disabled list with a lat injury after six starts for Tucson yielded a 10.17 ERA and 21-18 K-BB ratio. He recovered somewhat after a demotion to San Antonio in June, and he closed out the season on a high note, notching a 35-5 K-BB ratio and 2.53 ERA over his final seven starts. At fault for Castro’s regression: out-of-whack mechanics in which he failed to extend on the front side of his delivery and also recoiled his arm. He’s always pitched with a long arm action, so the Padres traced his troubles back to his starting assignment in the 2010 Futures Game, in which he allowed two runs in one inning. He hasn’t pitched with the same consistency since. Castro’s velocity dipped into the high 80s early in the 2011 season before he recovered to pitch at 92-94 mph and touch 96 with tailing action later in the year. His slider showed trademark late bite and 82-84 mph velocity at times, though just as often it resembled a three-quarters slurve. The changeup could be a fringe-average pitch in the mid-80s with more refinement. If Castro rediscovers his two plus pitches and control he still profiles as a mid-rotation arm or set-up reliever.
|Pedro Hernandez, lhp
Born: April 12, 1989 in Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 210. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Padres, Nov. 1, 2006.
Hernandez always has thrown a quality changeup and shown strong command, but his prospect status began to take hold when his velocity began to creep up halfway through the 2010 season. Signed at age 18 out of Venezuela, Hernandez initially topped out near 87 mph but that has since become the low point for his fastball range. The Padres say the lefty has touched 95 on occasion, but more often he sits in the low 90s and works both sides of the plate with a riding fastball. Batters don’t pick up the ball well against the short and stocky Hernandez, which helps his solid-average, low-80s changeup play up. Hernandez’s mid- to low-80s slider/cutter doesn’t elicit much praise, but it could be a fringe-average offering for him in time. Hernandez may not have a deep enough repertoire to start in the big leagues, but he could grow into a nifty lefty reliever capable of facing both righties and lefties.
|Carlos Quentin, rf
Age: 29. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2012 and eligible for free agency following the season ($5.05 million salary in 2011).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.