Monday evening during a squall of non-tender news, the San Diego Padres continued to sculpt their 40-man roster during what is likely to be a very active offseason, this time swapping power-hitting “catching” prospect Austin Allen and a player to be named for famous non-tender candidate Jurickson Profar in a deal with Oakland.
From a roster construction standpoint, the deal makes an awful lot of sense for both teams. The Padres had four catchers on their 40-man and were suddenly shallow in the middle infield after they traded Luis Urias to Milwaukee last week. Profar wasn’t as productive as he had been the season before, and Oakland has a tight budget imposed by ownership as well as two young and enigmatic-but-talented infielders coming up in Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto. The club also needed catching reinforcement behind oft-injured prodigy Sean Murphy.
Profar, who agreed to a one-year, $5.7-million deal with San Diego after the trade, is now the favorite to be the Padres’ everyday second baseman next year. While his surface-level 2019 production (.218/.301/.410) was down from the previous year (.254/.335/.458), his peripherals (9% walk rate, 14% strikeout rate) were identical, he golfed out 20 homers again (mostly left-handed, though Profar is a better hitter from the right side), and he offers some amount of defensive versatility (2B/LF last year, all over the place the year before), though he’s not a great glove anywhere. As Craig Edwards noted on Twitter, Profar had a horrendous April before he righted the ship and was a slightly above-average offensive performer for the rest of the year.
For a couple of years now, there have been industry rumblings about Profar’s makeup and effort level dipping, which I find understandable if true considering the way he was handled by Texas. He’s now been traded twice in two years, his run times are sluggish (on par with Josh Bell’s), and he had a .218 BABIP last year, which is perhaps a weak collection of supporting evidence. It’s possible a return to the loving arms of A.J. Preller and Jayce Tingler, both of whom played a role in Profar’s development with Texas, will reawaken something in him if indeed he has been sour. But if not, or if my team sources have been seeing something that’s not there, Profar is still a suitable role player because of his offensive ability.
His departure from Oakland means some combination of Chad Pinder, Barreto, Sheldon Neuse, and Mateo will man second base for the Athletics next year. None of them is a traditional fit there. Mateo is mistake-prone, and the other three aren’t typical infield athletes, but Oakland hasn’t shown any inclination to try Barreto or Mateo in center field, where I think their physical tools fit most traditionally. That foursome is talented enough that one of them should ascend in a relevant way, and I think Barreto is an approach improvement away from doing it, and therefore most likely, but his approach has totally undercut his physical talent to this point.
Allen, who turns 26 in January, is a big, immobile defender with power. Some of his issues might be rendered moot by the eventual use of an electronic strike zone, but for now Allen’s reps need to be limited the way Evan Gattis’ were when he was seeing regular playing time, pairing him with pitchers who work in such a way that Allen’s problems are masked. With 26-man rosters coming, his presence as a third catcher, late-inning lefty bench bat, late-inning catcher when the A’s trail, or occasional DH sub for Khris Davis against righties all make him immediately rosterable. He profiles as a bit player who does this sort of thing rather than an everyday catcher or first baseman.
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