Six months ago, outfielder Seth Smith was the San Diego Padres’ best player. As of Wednesday, Smith is now an ex-Padre.
After a wild December of wheeling and dealing that left General Manager A.J. Preller with a glut of outfielders, Preller sent the 32-year-old to the Seattle Mariners late Tuesday for hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Maurer. On Monday, Preller traded minor league right-hander Johnny Barbato to the Yankees for reliever Shawn Kelley.
Smith hit .266 for the Padres with 12 homers after being acquired from the A’s last winter. Brought in as a fourth outfielder and a left-handed bat, Smith turned out to be the team’s best everyday player from Opening Day, when he came off the bench to tie the Dodgers with a pinch-hit homer.
But in the past two weeks Preller has traded for outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and he still has Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, plus youngster Abraham Almonte, on the roster. So look for another outfielder or two to be on the move.
“Seth would be a good fit with any team,” Preller told the media. “He’s a quality, left-handed, professional bat. Some teams were going to be attracted.”
Maurer, 24, went 1-4 for the Mariners last season after spending time at Triple-A Tacoma. In 37.1 innings in relief, Maurer had a 2.17 ERA with 38 strikeouts. Preller said he had coveted the 6-foot-5 power pitcher since last year. “He’s got some weapons, some big pitches,” Preller said. “It’s a chance for us to add a really quality young arm who has a chance to be with us for a while.”
Kelley, 30, was a bust for the Yankees as a starter but seemed to find himself as a reliever. He finished 3-6 with four saves while striking out 67 batters in 51.2 innings.
Barbato, 22, also a right-hander, threw for the Padres’ AA affiliate in San Antonio last season.
In a related move, to make room on the 40-man roster, Preller designated pitcher Keyvius Sampson for assignment. Sampson, 23, was toiling for Triple-A affiliate El Paso. He was the Padres’ fourth-round draft pick in 2009.
For Preller, this continues a pattern of trading prospects for big leaguers — continuing to send the message that the Padres want to win now. It also possibly shows his disinclination to hang onto players the past administrations considered top prospects.
Preller is probably done dealing … this week. But who knows? Rumors continue that he remains interested in Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels. A San Diego native, Hamels and his $23 million salary (four years left on the contract) have been made available for the right package.
Given that the Padres have already taken on Kemp’s $21 million contract for the next five years (with the Dodgers kicking in a nice chunk) and Upton’s $14.5 million, the Padres may already be heading for their first payroll exceeding $100 million.
However, the Dodgers will supposedly fork over $18 million this year toward Kemp’s salary, perhaps freeing up some money for Hamels. The rumor mill also says the Phils would like Myers as part of any trade.