Padres trade Wade LeBlanc for Marlins catcher John Baker


Newly acquired John Baker gives the Padres a viable bat in the back-up catcher position. (AP photo)

The Padres have reportedly traded swing-man/starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc to the Miami Marlins for catcher John Baker.

Baker, a 30-year-old California native, hasn’t logged many innings since 2009 behind the plate, partly due to injuries. In 2009, Baker was very productive, with a triple-slash of .271/.349/.410 and 9 HR, 25 2B and 50 RBI, while striking out less than 90 times in 373 AB. The year before in 2008, Baker also was productive in a limited role where he batted .299/.392/.447 with 14 2B, 5 HR, 32 RBI in 197 AB.

Defense is not his strong suit. Given the Padres emphasis on offense, pairing Baker with starting catcher Nick Hundley, in hopes of complementing Hundley with a left-handed batter, could bode well given Baker’s overall track record. Baker who had Tommy John surgery in 2010, Ironically on the same day Steven Strasburg did, could look for a bounce back type year in San Diego. The typical healing period for such an injury is usually between 12 to 18 months. Baker can provide some pop and his on-base skills, due to solid pitch selection, will make you think his skill set is right out of “Moneyball.” He fell off the Marlins radar because of his sub-par defensive tools, but his bat should carry his defense, especially as a back-up catcher.

The Padres give up LaBlanc, a pitcher who greatly befitted from pitching in PETCO Park’s extreme pitching confines. Wade was a very good asset to the Padres as a swing-man/starter, who often would be utilized as a pitcher jumping from the minors to the majors due to varies injuries. Now, with the new CBA agreement, adding a player to the roster making the total at 26, he would be a perfect player to come out of the pen or spot start. LeBlanc went 5-6 last year with a 4.53 ERA. At home, he posted a 3.65 ERA in contrast to his underwhelming 5.86 road ERA. He’s a career 4.54 ERA pitcher.

LeBlanc is the perfect example of a PETCO Park-aided pitcher. His home/road splits are staggering. Career 2.97 ERA at home vs. 6.16 ERA on the road. Bottom line, the Padres have pitching depth — and many pitchers are higher on the depth chart and can provide a better shot to win at home and the road.

I like this move for the Pads. Bringing in an offensive-minded catcher with pop and plate discipline (something the Padres need to emphasize more), in hopes of adding more offense pairing with Hundley, gives manager Bud Black more match-up options since Baker is a left-handed bat. Baker is also a hands-down upgrade from Rob Johnson, last year’s incredible disappointment, even as a back up catcher. Having said that, Baker is a much more viable option if Hundley were to hit the DL, which he has to avoid, considering he has somewhat of an injury history. Baker is a career .271/.356/.401 MLB hitter in 661 at bats.

Josh Byrnes’ first trade as Padres GM gets a B- from me. It’s a minimal-risk move when you have the depth the Padres system has, especially since it provides Hundley with a viable back-up catching option.

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  1. Not necessarily as a set up man, but as a Qualls type player-piece for the pen. Also, he had somewhat of a bounce back year in Atlanta posting a 3.64 ERA. Given Petco park, the NL West, and the fact that Linebrink is a fly ball pitcher, would bode well in Petco. Scott Linebrink has a (41.1%) fly-ball ratio.

    There are a few more interesting relievers on the free agent market who have been fly-ball pitchers throughout their careers: Joel Zumaya Ca. Chula Vista (SD) native (46.4%) Takashi Saito (43.8%) Juan Cruz (41.1%).

    Mike Macdougal could be interesting. I would also look at Jon Rouch for a bounce back pitcher ala Qualls last year. Remember, the Padres will need an established closer, if/when Bell signs with another team, or at least one with experience. Even with their minor league depth, the Padres will not counting on Ernesto Frieri, Luke Gregerson or Brad Brach.

  2. I would only look at Linebrink as a setup role.

    Some of those guys should get a  look this year, Quackenbush is a ways away still.

    I wouldn’t mind Moyer taking over LeBlanc’s swing man/starter role. 

  3. I am not sold on Linebrink, but I think Broxton could be very interesting depending on his health.  Having another moderately obese closer would be comforting.

    I wonder if Bracht, Quackenbush or Mikolas get a shot at the pen this year ?  

    The focus has to be on offense, a veteran starter (Moyer?) and a rebound type arm in the pen.

  4. I thought maybe they could deal for a younger relief pitcher with elite stuff. However, I just do not see the Padres emphasizing top relief pitching given their other needs, given how Petco plays and their internal depth. I’m much more inclined to believe they can distribute their money better utilizing it elsewhere, while signing a rebound type relief pitcher pairing with the current options. Bailey is interesting. I’m thinking more like Broxston or Rauch types. Even Scott Linebrink I could see.

  5. I think the haul the Pads would have to give up for Bailey would be insane.  Not sure that is what they need at this point.  Gio Gonzalez??  

    Either one is going to demand a king’s ransom, but another young, controllable arm is always a plus.

  6. I agree Dan. I think they set a high bar and told teams they would demand a haul for Adams in return and received just that. Two pitchers who might be middle of the rotation starters instead of potential Ace’s, but will move up quickly and play well In Petco park and fair well on the road. Especially in The NL West.

  7. Bell is gone. Padres will receive compensation (which I thought they would from the beginning). I still believe he declines and signs with another team. 

    Without Bell, the Padres could hope to still deal one of Bartlett or Hudson. The Padres have decent internal options and could pull a trade or two to be competitive and or continue to build from within. 

    The Padres will likely have a top 5-8 farm in baseball. So, they have recourses to deal and bring in players they want, or to bring up and play until they can add significantly more payroll flexibility.

    My guess is the Padres will do a few things. Add a reliever, a starter and possibly trade for an established outfielder like Quentin. Or maybe a Cam Maybin type trade. Or at least try.

  8. The Padres stole from the Rangers this year. yes, they gave up one of the best relievers in the game, but they got back two starters who are built for Petco Park. Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland are incredible command pitchers who keep the ball in the yard and absolute bulldogs on the mound. Those guys could be something special.

  9. OK, so whats next?  Clear all major contracts with the hopefully imminent departure of Bell, god willing the trade of Hudson and Bartlett, and if you predict correctly the trade of Headly?  A totally rebuilt team?

    Can one team go into the meat of the hot stove with virtually no contracts?

  10. Yes a B- given the pitching depth. It was a very easy low risk move. So, I give Byrnes great execution for making the trade, but it wasn’t a hard trade to make given the internal pitching options. Good bench option and hands down upgrade over Rob Johnson. 

  11. Only a B- ?  Given his offensive upside, LeBlanc not appearing to be in the Pads long term future, I would give it a solid B maybe even a B+ as there is no harm done if it does not work out.

    The Pads are flush with marginal starters, and some high end guys on the near horizon.  This does nothing to hurt the long term plans of the team, does not cost much financially and appears to be a reasonable move given the lack of high end catchers on the farm right now.

  12. Only a B- ?  Given his offensive upside, LeBlanc not appearing to be in the Pads long term future, I would give it a solid B maybe even a B+ as there is no harm done if it does not work out.

    The Pads are flush with marginal starters, and some high end guys on the near horizon.  This does nothing to hurt the long term plans of the team, does not cost much financially and appears to be a reasonable move given the lack of high end catchers on the farm right now.

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