2015 Fantasy Baseball: Craig Kimbrel Dealt to the Padres
The beginning of April is an exciting time for baseball fans as it is. When you add in the spectre of a blockbuster trade (hours before the first game of the season) you get some real excitement. The San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves pulled off their second blockbuster this year when the Braves traded Melvin Upton (formerly B.J. Upton) and Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.
Why did the Padres make this move?
This one is easy. In the immediate aftermath, they are the clear winners of this trade. They were able to jettison two players that had no future with them (Quentin and Maybin) and were able to get a dominant closer in the meantime. The only downside was having to take on Upton’s contract. This moves Joaquin Benoit back to a setup role where he has already shown he can succeed with flying colors.
Kimbrel and Upton are both signed through the 2017 seasons, so this deal gives them an extended window to compete for a division championship out west. If Upton can come anywhere close to replicating what he did in Tampa, he will become a valuable piece that can play all three outfield positions. At the very worst, he gives them some leverage to help re-sign Justin Upton after the season.
It remains to be seen how all the pieces will work together in San Diego. A.J. Preller has done a masterful job of completely retooling the roster, but sometimes this many moving parts doesn’t quite gel like you would hope. However, Justin Upton is the only one due to be a free agent after the season, so they have a few years to get this thing right. If Upton does leave, then his brother can slide into center with Wil Myers shifting to left field. If Myers struggles again this season, then they have insurance in the elder Upton.
Why did the Braves make this move?
In my mind, this is the first move the Braves have made that makes any sense. In the offseason, they dealt Justin Upton away (okay, that made sense, too), dealt Jason Heyward away for Shelby Miller and recently brought in Trevor Cahill as well. Management has mentioned going through a rebuild, but the addition of these pitchers and outfielder Nick Markakis says otherwise. These moves all point towards a team that is retooling in some fashion. Up until this deal was made, no one was quite sure what the Braves were doing.
If your team is rebuilding, having an elite closer makes about as much sense as installing a Bose stereo in a 1974 Chevy Chevelle. Kimbrel might be the 2010s version of Mariano Rivera. Whatever you may think of the Braves, they are not likely to compete for the playoffs this season. They didn’t need Kimbrel and likely wouldn’t need him for the life of the contract, so they also didn’t need his contract. Finding a taker for Upton’s contract was just icing on the cake.
In the short term, they are taking on nearly as much money as is going out, but Quentin is only under contract for 2015, so his money will fly off the books. Maybin’s deal only goes through 2016, so when the Braves are ready to make another run in 2017, both players will be off the books. All told, this deal will save Atlanta quite a bit of cash.
Then, you throw in the two prospects and the draft pick and you see this deal really wasn’t a bad one for the Braves. Wisler ranks as high as 34th among prospects according to Baseball America (69th on MLB.com and 53rd according to Baseball Prospectus) and had a nice record in AAA last season. He likely needs more seasoning there (5.02 ERA), but he could be a factor by the end of the season for the Braves. Paroubeck is not ranked by any publication and only played at the rookie ball level last season. He put up decent enough numbers, but he is more of a wild card at this point. We also should not ignore the value of the sandwich pick. Those players usually end up being top 100 type prospects if everything breaks right.
The biggest fantasy impact definitely comes on the Braves side of the equation. Quentin is expected to be desiganted for assignment, but there might be something there with Maybin. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar this season, but if he is healthy he should get regular playing time in Atlanta. He has shown he can produce some impressive numbers in the past when healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy in recent years. That is one of the many reasons why the Padres went in a different direction in the outfield in the first place.
The deal also opens up the closer’s role in Atlanta for an open competition. Jason Grilli has the experience and will get the first crack at the job. Jim Johnson was a top-flight closer in Baltimore for a couple of seasons, too, so watch out for him as well. Usually, a few guys will get cracks at saves when a bullpen looks like this. Keep the Braves in the back of your mind when you are looking for cheap saves on the waiver wire. But for now, Grilli is probably the guy to add.